Adapted by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen
From the novel by Sinclair Lewis
Sound design and music by Paul James Prendergast
Directed by Lisa Peterson

Starring Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn


In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here, a novel that imagines the rise of fascism in America and reads like it was ripped out of today’s headlines. Shortly after, Lewis wrote a play by the same name for the Federal Theatre Project. Lewis’s ability to imagine what had seemed unimaginable and then suddenly became very real showed a remarkable understanding of the power of the darkest forces in our country.

The audio drama is being offered free to organizations across the country, and Philadelphia Theatre Company will join 100 theatres across the nation (including People’s Light and the Arden Theatre Company) in presenting the Berkeley Rep production for free, as a way to use our theatrical tools and collective reach to get out the vote.

A live Q&A session with the creative team will take place following the broadcast.


Tony Taccone (Adaptor) was the Michael Leibert Artistic Director of Berkeley Rep for over 30 years. During Taccone’s tenure as artistic director of Berkeley Rep, the Tony Award-winning nonprofit earned a reputation as an international leader in innovative theatre. In those years, Berkeley Rep presented more than 70 world, American, and West Coast premieres. Taccone directed Continental Divide and Tiny Kushner, and three that landed on Broadway: Bridge & Tunnel, Wishful Drinking, and Latin History for Morons. Prior to working at Berkeley Rep, Taccone served as artistic director of Eureka Theatre. While at the Eureka, Taccone commissioned Tony Kushner’s legendary Angels in America and co-directed its world premiere. He has collaborated with Kushner on eight plays at Berkeley Rep. Taccone’s regional credits include Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Center Theatre Group, the Eureka Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, the Huntington Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater, and Seattle Repertory Theatre.

As a playwright, he debuted Ghost Light, Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, Game On, written with Dan Hoyle, and It Can’t Happen Here, written with Bennett S. Cohen. In 2012, Taccone received the Margo Jones Award for “demonstrating a significant impact, understanding, and affirmation of playwriting, with a commitment to the living theatre.” In 2018 he directed the revival of Angels in America at Berkeley Rep. In 2019 he directed and co-wrote (with John Leguizamo) the world premiere of Kiss My Aztec! at Berkeley Rep.

Lisa Peterson (Director), formerly Berkeley Rep’s associate director, returns to the Theatre, where she directed Culture Clash (Still) in America, The Good Book ( co-written with Denis O’Hare), Office Hour, Watch on the Rhine, It Can’t Happen Here, An Iliad (also co-written with Denis O’Hare), Mother Courage, and Antony & Cleopatra. She directed Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap at American Conservatory Theater last year. At Center Theatre Group, she recently directed Lynn Nottage’s Sweat as well as Culture Clash’s Chavez Ravine (2015 Ovation Award, Best Production), and Water and Power, among other plays. She co-wrote and directed An Iliad with Denis O’Hare (Broad Stage, New York Theatre Workshop, Obie and Lucille Lortel awards).

A two-time Obie Award-winner, she has directed world premieres by Tony Kushner, Beth Henley, Naomi Wallace, Chay Yew, Luis Alfaro, Fernanda Coppel, David Henry Hwang, Jose Rivera, Ellen McLaughlin, Lisa Ramirez, John Belluso, Caryl Churchill, Janusz Glowacki, Cheryl West, and many others.

She was associate director at La Jolla Playhouse for three years and resident director at Mark Taper Forum for 10 years. She is currently working on a new version of her musical adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, music by David Bucknam and Adam Gwon (premiered at NYTW 1990 and New York Stage and Film 2018); The Song of Rome with Denis O’Hare, commission for the McCarter Theater; and The Idea of Order with composer Todd Almond, commissioned by Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, and Seattle Rep.


Bennett S. Cohen (Adaptor) is a graduate of Yale University’s School of Drama and UC Berkeley. Cohen has worked in theatre, film, and television. His play American Music was chosen to be part of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and has had numerous productions. His play Tequila was originally produced by the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco and has been published in West Coast Plays #8. Cohen has written extensively for film and television, working with such companies as Showtime, Paramount Television, Universal Television, and Fox International Productions, among others. He has adapted two novels for the screen, Jack Higgins’ WWII-era thriller Night of the Fox and Roderick Thorpe’s police drama Rainbow Drive. Most recently, Cohen wrote the feature film The Last Voyage of Zheng He.

Paul James Prendergast (Sound Designer) was the composer and sound designer on the 2016 production of It Can’t Happen Here and Roe at Berkeley Rep. His Broadway credits include All the Way and The Great Society. His regional credits include the Guthrie Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (25 productions), Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, American Repertory Theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Hartford Stage, Great Lakes Theater Festival, Geffen Playhouse, Long Wharf Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Kennedy Center, Alley Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and American Conservatory Theater. He has also designed for theme parks, including Universal Studios, Disney, and Knott’s Berry Farm, and museums, including J. Paul Getty, Geffen Contemporary, and Autry Museum of Western Heritage. His dance credits include Diavolo Dance Theater, Momix, and Parsons Dance. Paul’s work as a singer/songwriter has appeared in films, on recordings, and in music venues nationwide.


The full cast for It Can’t Happen Here, in alphabetical order, includes:

  • Elijah Alexander (General Edgeways/Bishop Prang/Lee Sarason)
  • Danforth Comins (Philip Jessup)
  • Scott Coopwood (Shad Ledue)
  • William Thomas Hodgson (Dr. Fowler Greenhill)
  • Anna Ishida (Mary Jessup Greenhill)
  • David Kelly (Buzz Windrip) 
  • Sharon Lockwood (Emma Jessup/Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch)
  • Eddie Lopez (David Greenhill/Mr. Dimick)
  • Alex Lydon (Julian Falck)
  • Tom Nelis (Buck Titus)
  • Greta Oglesby (Lorinda Pike)
  • Charles Shaw Robinson (Frank Tasbrough/Effingham Swan)
  • Gerardo Rodriguez (Karl Pascal)
  • Carolina Sanchez (Sissy Jessup)
  • Mark Kenneth Smaltz (R.C. Crowley/John Pollikop)
  • David Strathairn (Doremus Jessup)

Citizens, campaigners, soldiers, workers, radio voices, prisoners, and many others all played by members of the company and Sound Designer Paul James Prendergast.