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Rites of Passage: Catch MFA Actors in Their Final Show

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By Claire L. Wong

Would you choose your friends over your country? It’s a question the third-year MFA students in the class of 2020 grapple with in Passage, directed by Victor Malana Maog and written by Obie Award–winning local playwright Christopher Chen. Drawing on E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Chen explores biases, blurred lines, and bigotry—issues affecting communities right here in the Bay Area and across the globe—and asks if friendships can survive in this imbalanced world.

A.C.T.'s MFA class of 2020. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Passage received a five-star review in Time Out New York, calling it “an extraordinary new play . . . unashamedly political yet deeply humane . . . dares to raise questions that make the audience profoundly uncomfortable, but simultaneously creates a welcoming space to which everyone is invited.”
“It’s a fantastical examination of colonialism and xenophobia,” says Associate Producer Ken Savage, “and it’s in conversation with TestmatchPassage looks a…

Director Eric Ting on Gloria (Part Two)

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By Claire L. Wong

A champion of new works, Eric Ting has directed such world-premiere productions as Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation... (2012; Obie Award) to Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap (2018) and The 1491s’ Between Two Knees (2019). This passion for new works is evident in Ting’s continued collaboration with his longtime friend and Gloria playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Ting previously directed two works by Jacobs-Jenkins, Appropriate (2015), a drama about an American family with contentious secrets, and An Octoroon (2017), a Brechtian critique of the portrayal of race in theater.

In Gloria, as in An Octoroon and Appropriate, there are layers to be uncovered in the subject matter of Jacobs-Jenkins’s plays and the bold way that the playwright confronts his audience. “Are these stories trying to shock us or make sense of shock?” asks the director. Ting’s excellence in unraveling his friend’s stories at each layer has made him a trusted interpreter of J…

Director Eric Ting on Gloria (Part One)

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By Claire L. Wong 
“Think of the Greek gods,” says director Eric Ting. “Stories arise from our need to make sense of our world, to understand trauma and disaster.” Ting has been called a magician by the New Yorker, and his work “powerfully and ultimately sublime” by Variety. It’s no wonder he’s received critical respect nationwide, from TBA Awards here in the Bay Area to an Obie Award in New York. We spoke with him about his work on A.C.T.’s production of Gloria, written by his longtime friend and Gloria playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Movement Coach Danyon Davis, Stage Manager Christina Hogan, Director Eric Ting, Voice and Dialect Coach Lisa Anne Porter, and actor Martha Brigham work on A.C.T.’s 2020 production of Gloria. Photo by Simon Hodgson.

What draws you to Branden’s plays?
There are these moments where, through the experience of a certain character, you recognize a sense of grace living in the heart of his plays. As much as they are often a collective reckoning, I like to thi…

Student Actors Partner with Pulitzer-Nominated Playwright to Create New Work

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By Claire L. Wong
Audiences stepping into the Geary Theater for Wakey, Wakey will also experience the never-before-seen play The Substitution preceding it. Pulitzer Prize–nominated playwright Will Eno wrote this short play specifically for A.C.T.’s MFA Program students. When thinking about the content of The Substitution with Eno, director Anne Kauffman says, “One thing that we were interested in was the woman who appears for a brief moment of time in Wakey, Wakey. She appears at an important place in the piece, and so it felt important that we meet her in a different context. From there, we developed this idea into the first part of the show.”

MFA Program actors in the class of 2020 were in the room with Eno and Kauffman as they rehearsed The Substitution for the first time. “It was incredibly fun and helpful to get together with Anne and Kathryn [Smith-McGlynn] and the MFA students,” says Eno. “It’s a really important part of the playwriting process to hear things alive and in time,…

Playwright Will Eno on Wakey, Wakey

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By Joy Meads

There is a strange alchemy in Will Eno’s plays that draws us away from the anxious, racing world outside and into a quiet communion with one another and those solid, undeniable realities that connect us. Almost imperceptibly, he makes us more conscious of the world and more connected to those around us. Eno’s play The Realistic Joneses was performed at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater in 2016, and now his work is back at the Geary with Wakey, Wakey. We are grateful we have the opportunity to share this play with you. 
Wakey, Wakey playwright Will Eno. Photo courtesy Will Eno. 
What is it about the Geary that makes it the right home for this piece?
The play, I hope, makes spaces for us to have a human connection, to come together as a group of humans and sit with one another in the experience of larger, maybe scary or sad things. I love the potential ramifications of an audience using that entire space. I love the frank connection that Guy has with the audience, and the idea of actor …

Director Anne Kauffman on Wakey, Wakey

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By Hannah Clague
“The world is a complicated place,” says Anne Kauffman, “and directing theater is my way of facing that.” In two decades working in the American theater, the New York–based director has been unafraid to tackle weighty subjects. In addition to her work on and off Broadway, the Obie Award–winning Kauffman directed Hundred Days at Z Space in 2014, a musical that also tackles universal explorations of humanity. Kauffman returns to A.C.T., where she led an MFA Program production of Steve Gooch’s uncompromising drama Female Transport in 2005.

What excites you about Wakey, Wakey?
Growing up in the theater, we’re all taught the Aristotelian way of looking at plays: there’s a beginning, middle, and end. It’s this beautiful arc and all the moments of the play add up to one thing. Each scene is built to take us one step in the direction of the final conclusion. Real life is not shaped that way, and neither is Wakey, Wakey. It’s messing with the arc.

It’s so different from other p…