The Offstage Presented Onstage

By Annie Sears

Thirteen actors. Two theater companies. One ambitious production. A.C.T. and Crowded Fire Theater co-commissioned playwright Susan Soon He Stanton to craft a piece specifically for our M.F.A. class of 2019, and beginning February 21, their collaborative work will be presented in The Rueff at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater.

Directed by Crowded Fire’s artistic director Mina Morita, Both Your Houses puts the backstage world of a regional theater center stage. Luis is trying to come out as gay, but what if he loses his family? Nate is producing his own film, but what if it doesn’t succeed? Emma wants to start a romance with Reggie, but what will happen when the run concludes? And the primary conflict: the artistic director has questionable relationships with several actresses. But this is the only theater in their area. If they don’t work here, they don’t work anywhere. What will it cost them to speak up, and is it worth it?

Tackling such complex issues has been a grou…

I Am Nigerian. I Am American. I Will Not Choose.

By Elspeth Sweatman

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program alum Mfoniso Udofia is taking the American theater by storm. Her current project is the Ufot Family cycle, a series of nine plays exploring a family of Nigerian immigrants in America. The cycle has been workshopped at leading new-play incubators, including SPACE on Ryder Farm and Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre. Three of the plays—Sojourners, runboyrun, and Her Portmanteau—have been produced at The Playwrights Realm, Magic Theatre, and New York Theatre Workshop. Now, she is back at A.C.T. with Her Portmanteau. After 22 years apart, Nigerian-born Iniabasi Ekpeyong—bearing a worn portmanteau—reunites with her mother and half-sister in Manhattan. This coming together isn’t easy. The women must sort through their literal and figurative baggage as they uncover their personal and familial identities. We chatted with Udofia about the Nigerian American identity and the importance of having Black bodies onstage.

A big theme in…

An Actor's Director: James Carpenter on Collaborating with Pam MacKinnon

By Annie Sears

Edward Albee’s Seascape—playing through February 17 at The Geary—is a story of transition. Nancy and Charlie have recently retired. Energized by the possibility of change, Nancy wants to explore the world, but her husband Charlie is reluctant. As a character, Charlie is fearful of the unfamiliar. The same is not true of the actor playing Charlie.

If you’ve seen a show at A.C.T. in the last 20 years, its likely you’ve caught actor James Carpenter. In addition to 12 years as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Carpenter has performed in A.C.T.’s Heisenberg (2018), Rock ’n’ Roll (2008), Tis Pity She’s a Whore (2008), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2005), A Doll’s House (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2001). Now, he’s back as Charlie in Seascape.

This familiar face is excited to be collaborating with the newest face of A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon is making her A.C.T. directorial debut with Seascape, exploring this story of transition as she transitions into her new leadersh…

Welcome Home: Her Portmanteau Rehearsals Begin

By Aaron Higareda

The coffee is hot, the bagels are warm, and the cast and crew of Her Portmanteau are meeting and greeting inside The Rueff at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater. Every show here at A.C.T. begins with a meet and greet, where designers share their vision for the show and the cast completes an initial read before diving into rehearsals.

To begin a journey, you have to leave home. But what exactly is home? Is it a location? A sensation? A memory? After you’ve left, what is it like to come back? This is a theme explored in Her Portmanteau, and it’s also a theme in the playwright’s life. Mfoniso Udofia, a graduate of A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program (class of 2009), returns home to A.C.T. with Her Portmanteau, an independent chapter from her sweeping nine-part saga about a family of Nigerian immigrants and their American-born children. “It’s about what it means to be an immigrant in America,” said Udofia during the meet and greet. “Specifically, an immigrant who has aspirations of going bac…

The Body as a Template: Seascape Movement Coach Danyon Davis on Lizards

By Annie Sears

For actors Seann Gallagher and Sarah Nina Hayon, getting into character involves more than putting on a costume; it involves putting on the entire physical life of a lizard. Edward Albee’s Seascape—playing through February 17 at The Geary—features two couples. One is human; the other is lizard. Portraying an animal presents unique challenges, which is where A.C.T.’s head of movement Danyon Davis offers his expertise.

Davis comes to A.C.T. after serving as head of movement at Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and he’s a former faculty member at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Circle in the Square Theatre School, and HB Studio’s Hagen Core Training program. Davis also assisted Moni Yakim, founding faculty member and head of movement at the Julliard Drama Division, for many years. We recently sat down with Davis to learn about bypassing one’s human physicality to access something more reptilian.

Where did your process start?
You have to look at the human body as a template. You …

Learning from the Inside Out: Hear from the 2018–19 Fellows

By Annie Sears

Every year, each department here at A.C.T. welcomes a Fellow for the season, providing mentorship to young professionals as they transition into the theater industry. For ten months, we Fellows are immersed in the world of San Francisco’s premier regional theater, learning how a nonprofit runs from the inside out. Some of us are on our feet in the rehearsal room, and others are writing for Words on Plays. Some are working with local youth in classrooms, and others are working with needle and thread in our costume shop. Within our respective fields, we’ve been growing both personally and professionally, acquiring all sorts of random and useful skills. Here’s an authentic peek into what we’re learning here at A.C.T.

Hannah Clague, Education and Community Programs Fellow: I learned when to wear sneakers to work (when you’re rolling around of the floor teaching a group of sixth graders to act), and when to wear heels (when you’re in a board meeting trying to secure fundi…