Sharing the Stage & Sharing a Home

By Annie Sears

It’s a big week for the Anderson-Gnapp family. Rod Gnapp is currently performing on The Geary as Stan in Sweat, which closes Sunday. His wife Arwen Anderson will soon grace The Strand as Goodman in Men on Boats, which begins previews tomorrow.

Both Gnapp and Anderson are A.C.T. veterans. You may have seen Anderson most recently in Heisenberg (2018) or Gnapp—a graduate of A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program—in The Realistic Joneses (2016). They met while working on Magic Theatre’s 2009 production of Mauritius, directed by Loretta Greco, who also directed Sweat. Later that year, they were cast in another play at Magic called Mrs. Whitney. Gnapp started flirting with Anderson—who was playing his character’s fifth wife—during that show, and they’ve been together ever since. Last summer, they performed together in Marin Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet as Gertrude and Claudius, and their four-year-old son Rowan was a consistent rehearsal presence, romping through the outdoor amphitheater as…

Performing Their Authentic Selves: Third-Year M.F.A. Students Prepare a Cabaret

By Annie Sears

In crafting this year’s M.F.A. productions, Conservatory Director Melissa Smith promised “a panoply of theater that will challenge and grow our students.” Third-year actors are seeing that promise come to fruition. They recently explored complex, serious characters in Chekhov’s Three Sisters, and next week, they’ll explore a different kind of performance, a performance that doesn’t require a character: musical cabaret.

“Music is so primal,” says Avanthika Srinivasan. “It’s ingrained in our human nature. It’s how we express emotions, communicate, and connect with each other. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking to be emotionally vulnerable, but as actors, we’re always trying to practice being vulnerable.”

“Preparing a cabaret is about coming forward with myself alone,” says Carlos Andrickson. “It’s a very exciting opportunity to show our audiences who I am outside my actor craft.”

Not only will M.F.A. students perform as their authentic selves, but they’ll also perform m…

Everyone Aboard! Embark on the Colorado River with the Cast and Crew of Men on Boats

By Annie Sears

Everyone aboard! We snuck into the first rehearsal for Men on Boats—playing at The Strand from October 17—and got an early look at the cast and creative vision for this subversive and exciting adventure.

Men on Boats follows one-armed, Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell and his team of nine explorers as they traverse the Green and Colorado Rivers, ultimately “discovering” the Grand Canyon. Historically, these expeditioners were white, cisgender [a person whose gender identity is the same as the gender assigned at birth] men. But when the story is mounted on A.C.T.’s Strand stage, the characters will be embodied by a racially diverse cast of female-identifying actors. The script toys with traditional gender conventions, and because the script also contemporizes language and offers opportunities for bold physicality, it does so through comedy.

“You are embarking on bringing to life what I think is a masterful—do we say mistress-ful—play,” said Artistic Director Pam MacKi…

Intro to Reading, Pennsylvania: More Than a Monopoly Property

By Annie Sears

Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play Sweat—playing through October 21 at The Geary—is set in Reading, Pennsylvania. If you’ve played Monopoly, you know the town. It lends its name to one of the game’s most desirable properties: the Reading Railroad Company, which proved an industrial giant throughout Reading’s history. Whether you’ve already seen Sweat or are planning on seeing it in the next few weeks, here’s a little background information on the town Sweat’s characters call home.


Reading is located in the southeastern portion of Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half drive northwest of Philadelphia. Reading sits on the Schuylkill River, which runs all the way to Philadelphia and connects to the Delaware River. Historically, this location proved extremely profitable, as the river made it easy to transport bulk cargo.

1748: Reading is founded by Thomas and Richard Penn, the sons of famous English settler William Penn, as in Pennsylvania. They select th…

Insight Into Sweat: An Interview with Playwright Lynn Nottage

By Simon Hodgson

Playwright Lynn Nottage has always raised up the voices of the forgotten, the unsung, and the marginalized. Years before winning her second Pulitzer Prize for Sweat (her first was for Ruined in 2008), she worked for Amnesty International. We spoke with Nottage about her connection with steelworkers and the months she spent researching Sweat in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Which voices really resonated when you went to Reading?

What stood out in Reading was not the individual stories, but the collective story. These were, by and large, middle-aged white guys who had invested in the American Dream and had assumed they would work in their jobs until they were ready to retire, and have these fabulous pensions and health plans. They were broadsided when they woke up one morning to be told, “The life that you knew is no longer going to exist.” It forced them to rethink their identity and their relationship to the Horatio Alger myth [that hard work leads from rags to riches].


Insight into Sweat: Boom and Bust in the Rust Belt

By Simon Hodgson

Geology was destiny for 19th-century Pennsylvania. In the 1860s, when the process of making steel out of iron ore, coal, and limestone was refined, the state had all of the raw materials necessary for the production of steel at scale. Combining minerals, river transport links, manufacturing experience, and access to Pittsburgh investment, Pennsylvania was poised to create the metal of the future.

As the United States rebuilt infrastructure shattered by the Civil War, steel companies across Pennsylvania grew into major national corporations. The greatest, U.S. Steel, was formed in 1901 by a merger between three companies. Aided by favorable government oversight in the 1920s and fueled by military contracts during World Wars I and II, it became a virtual monopoly. By 1946, America was manufacturing more than half of the world’s steel.

All around the Great Lakes, cities were prospering thanks to the steel industry. The labor was physically demanding and dangerous, but fo…