Rhinos Roaming Through Our Psychological Savannas

By Annie Sears

At the first rehearsal for Rhinoceros, director Frank Galati reminded the cast, crew, and A.C.T. staff that during the 1930s and ’40s, playwright Eugène Ionesco watched his friends succumb to popular political beliefs. In his memoir, Ionesco recalls chatting with his friends—university professors, students, journalists, critics, and other intellectuals—to dismantle fascist propaganda. All but three of those friends eventually changed their allegiance, even those who had claimed to be fascism's firmest opponents. To Ionesco, these friends were “pseudo-intellectuals” because they didn’t truly think; instead, they regurgitated predominant systems of thought. “They were caught in the mechanism,” wrote Ionesco. “They accepted everything. They became rhinoceroses.”

Absurdist theater artists such as Ionesco believed that fascist ideologies were propelled primarily by language, which could be manipulated into propaganda. Those who spouted fascist slogans would do so …

Young Actors, Brave Activists

By Annie Sears

Who are we? What do we believe in? And how will we stand up for those beliefs?

These are big questions best explored through a big medium—a medium like theater. Our 2018–19 Fellows' cohort believes that theater is powerful because it’s not passive. Theater engages the full person: physical, emotional, intellectual, and relational. Theater is entertainment, and it's also immersive education, which is why we partnered with Bay Area nonprofit 826 Valencia to explore these big questions through theater.

826 Valencia is dedicated to supporting under-resourced students with their creative and expository writing skills through individualized attention. They kindly invited us to lead two workshops on writing and self-advocacy for 24 of their sixth-grade students, working on becoming actors and activists.

Students first identified their core values. Then, they created poems speaking their truths, detailing ways they’d previously stood up for those truths, and imaginin…

The Birth of a Play: New Work and the New Strands Festival

By Ariana Johnson 

75 artists. 6 projects. 11 performances. 1 week.

The New Strands Festival is a thrilling time. All our studios are packed with innovative new plays, brilliant artists are mingling, and there is plenty of good music, food, and discussion throughout. It’s a chance for audiences to see the wizard behind the curtain and be a part of the growth of new pieces of theater.

This is my first New Strands Festival, but as one of A.C.T.’s 2018–19 Artistic Fellows, I’ve been a part of three new play workshops at A.C.T. For one, I was tasked with constructing a giant timeline across the wall of the studio so the team could test permutations of scenes. For another, I stashed copies of the script (and reading glasses) all around the rehearsal room so a performer could improvise a dance and then pick their dialogue back up no matter where they ended up in the room.

That’s the key part of new play development: you support the artists, adapting the process to whatever best serves th…

M.F.A. Alums Return to Their Theatrical Home

By Emma Penny

“Welcome to Vanity Fair!” The cast of Kate Hamill’s Vanity Fair has slammed into The Geary, bringing some familiar faces. A.C.T. is thrilled to welcome back two alums of our Master of Fine Arts Program: Rebekah Brockman (class of 2013) and Vincent Randazzo (class of 2018). Before these actors made their way across the country, we chatted about their triumphant homecoming to the Geary stage.

As a co-production with Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, Vanity Fair first ran in STC’s Lansburgh Theatre. Did knowing that the show would end up at The Geary influence any of your acting choices in the rehearsal room?
Brockman: It didn’t influence the choices, but it will influence how I play those choices. The Geary is a very steep house, so it’s important to play things up and out so what you are doing reads to the entire audience.

Randazzo: I’m sure we’ll adjust accordingly in The Geary—playing “up to the gods,” as Carey Perloff said about that giant dome. But c…

Nobody Puts Medea or the Dashwood Sisters in a Corner

By Aaron Higareda

What could Euripides’s Greek tragedy Medea and Jane Austen’s 18th-century Sense and Sensibility possibly have in common? At first glance, not much. But our M.F.A. artists have made the connections, and they’ll present these shows in repertory beginning May 8.

Medea, which director Peter J. Kuo has set against the backdrop of 1930s New Orleans, features an immigrant with no means of returning home after leaving everything behind for her unfaithful husband Jason. Her only option? Vengeance. Sense and Sensibility, directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh, is set in 1790s England, where the Dashwood sisters are left penniless, homeless, and vulnerable to gossip after their father’s death. Their only option? Set aside their differences and learn to rely on one another.

Despite their differences, both plays have strong female characters at their heart, and both are adapted—Medea by Robinson Jeffers and Sense and Sensibility by Kate Hamill (Vanity Fair)—to resonate with 2019 audien…

Seven Things You Didn't Know about the Kilbanes

By Annie Sears

Bay Area rock band the Kilbanes are creating imaginative work that leans into the “experimental” of “experimental theater.” They combine their indie sound with rock-concert lights and projections to create engaging, immersive spectacles focused on communicating timely, moving stories. Weightless is one of their most acclaimed rock operas. The premiere at Z Space last year was such a hit that it’s back by popular demand, this time in A.C.T.’s Strand Theater.

You’ll see the Kilbanes performing their own work next week on the Rembe stage, but here are some offstage details you won’t get from the show.

1. The two members of the Kilbanes—Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses—are married. In 2003, they met at a pizza joint in Brooklyn. “Kate was in line ahead of me,” says Dan. “She was looking overwhelmed at the slice selections, and I, a frequent solicitor of the establishment, offered some unsolicited advice about which slice I thought was best. Kate then invited me to sit down and …