Evocation, Inspiration, and Ignition—A.C.T.’s Blood Wedding Brings the Spirit of Duende to Life

by A.C.T. Publications StaffThe spirit of duende, the Spanish term for passion and inspiration, is central to the works of Federico García Lorca. For A.C.T.'s production of Lorca's Blood Wedding, director Christine Adaire and actor Hernán Angulo share their interpretation of duende, and how it influenced their production.
Federico García Lorca was obsessed by the spirit of Duende. Duende is one of the most elusive words in the Spanish language. Literally, it means “ghost” or “goblin.” In art, particularly drama, dance, and the music of Flamenco, it refers to the powerful energy emitted by a performer to captivate the audience. Lorca gave a lecture in Buenos Aires in 1933 in which he described duende as “a force, not a labor, a struggle, not a thought,” “the mystery, the roots that cling to the mire we all know,” and “a creature who sweep[s] the earth with its wings of rusty knives.” It is not based in reason or the intellect, it “surges up from the soles of the feet.” Blood Wed…

The Evolution of a Holiday Classic: A Christmas Carol at A.C.T. Part Two

By Michael Paller*This article originally appeared on Inside A.C.T. in 2016. 
By 2004, A Christmas Carol was 28 years old, and the sets were showing their age. A significant investment would be required to refurbish them, which set Artistic Director Carey Perloff to thinking. Carol had more than served its purpose since 1976. Every year but 1994 and 1995, when the production was put on hiatus until The Geary reopened, many young Bay Area children—and parents—had their first theater experience watching Bill Paterson, Sydney Walker, Raye Birk, or Ken Ruta awake on Christmas morning a changed man. Now, however, Perloff wanted Carol to serve an additional purpose, featuring parts for students in the Young Conservatory, and roles for actors in M.F.A. Program who could add the mainstage experience toward earning their Actors’ Equity union card.

Perloff went in search of an existing Carol that told the story well while accommodating a full class of young actors. But after failing to find one, …

The Evolution of a Holiday Classic: A Christmas Carol at A.C.T. Part One

By Michael Paller *This article originally appeared on Inside A.C.T. in 2016. 
In the mid-1970s, regional theaters around the country discovered that audiences wanted a Christmas story at Christmastime, and none more so than Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Adaptations began appearing, starting with the Guthrie (1974) and the Actors Theater of Louisville (1976). Artistic Director Bill Ball asked Company Director Laird Williamson to look at the handful of existing adaptations and choose one to direct. Williamson found them sentimental and clichéd. They were “sugar-coated Dickens,” he said. “Tiny Tim is not the leading character. Scrooge is the real story.” 

Williamson was drawn to the tale’s psychological and social realism, to its “comment on poverty and the inequality of the classes.” He suggested that he and Dennis Powers, the company’s literary jack-of-all-trades, do their own version. Ball agreed. Determined not to produce an animated Christmas card, their version would hew to the story…

The Prepared Mind: An Interview with Emma Van Lare

By Claire L. Wong and Alejandra Maria Rivas
Emma Van Lare grew up in Spring, Texas, 22 miles from Houston. Her parents immigrated from the Republic of Ghana in West Africa. “I’m first-generation Ghanaian American,” Van Lare says, “so I think I’m of two places, actually.” When planning out her career, Van Lare sat her parents down and told them, “Look. I am not going to business school. I want to be an actor.” Her mom said, “Okay, but you have to treat it like a business. It can’t be a hobby.”

Emma Van Lare. Photo by Deborah Lopez. 
“I appreciated that,” Van Lare says, “because my mom’s a doctor, my dad’s an insurance business guy. Their background was, [dramatic voice] ‘Education is the way! The truth and the light!’ I appreciated them telling me that, because it showed that they were not rigid, they were very supportive. In creative work, you have to be your own engine and treat it like a business even if you’re not making money from it. It’s the only way you’ll survive.” Van Lare rec…

Uncovering a New Dimension: Director Peter J. Kuo on the Making of In Love and Warcraft (Part Two)

By Allie Moss
Click here to read Part One of this profile. 
Originally, In Love and Warcraft was conceived as an in-person production to take place with A.C.T.’s MFA students in May 2020. But in the midst of the pandemic, A.C.T.’s Conservatory was forced to “pivot” and mount the show online instead. The May production did much more than fulfill the curricular need for student performance; it inspired a remount co-production from A.C.T. and Perseverance Theater, and it birthed a new medium that Kuo calls “live video theater.” 
“Live video theater” is exactly what it sounds like: theater, happening on video, streaming live. And that live element is key; it’s what makes this form distinct from recorded videos of past theater productions. “When you’re watching something live versus recorded, the brain activates in a way that goes, ‘okay, something can happen,’” Kuo says. “That’s what I think liveness does; it allows us to be more forgiving, and lean into theatrical convention.” To facilitate…

Uncovering a New Dimension: Director Peter J. Kuo on the Making of In Love and Warcraft (Part One)

By Allie Moss

Madhuri Shekar’s In Love and Warcraft is a play for our times. While there’s no mention of a pandemic, it expertly draws out questions of intimacy and relationship-building in virtual space. The play centers on Evie, a college senior who is navigating a budding in-person romance alongside an online relationship with her long-distance gamer boyfriend, with whom she plays World of Warcraft. By rehearsing and presenting the production on Zoom, life mirrors art as six of A.C.T.’s MFA actors are tasked with reaching through the screen to create deep connections. Peter J. Kuo, the production’s director, is profoundly aware of this overlap. “It’s not just that [the show] translates well into the online medium,” he says. “It actually shows that internet relationships have meaning and are palpable.” 

This play resonates for Kuo in part because he has personal experience building relationships over the internet. “My main introduction to the internet was through an online game,” Kuo…