Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Flyman Colin Wade

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

By Elspeth Sweatman

Among all the ropes and wires hanging backstage at the Geary Theater are two cords with rubber stoppers on the end. Their purpose: keep flyman and rock climbing enthusiast Colin Wade in shape. On a maintenance day between productions, we sat down with Wade to get a glimpse into the life of a flyman, the person in charge of raising and lowering (known as "flying") the various elements of the set design (curtains, walls, swings, etc).

Flyman Colin Wade. Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.
What’s your favorite thing about being the flyman?
I love being a part of the arts and the whole tech process. It’s nice to have the responsibility of running a crew, calling my own shots, and figuring out the best way to do things. It’s great to watch everything come together and to make it all happen. Flying something in and out is its own kind of art.

One of the things that you fly in and out on a regular basis is the front curtain.
That weighs 800 pounds. And no matter how many times we do it, it’s always a challenge. When you have an audience, there’s a lot of hot air in the house versus the cold air backstage. That can make the curtain blow up.

What has been one of the more complicated shows for you?
A Thousand Splendid Suns (2017) was a little complicated. When you have to time cues with sound—especially really long sound cues—it can be complicated. But it’s also fun because you get to be a little artistic with that kind of thing.

Set model, by scenic designer Andrew Boyce, for
A.C.T.'s 2016 production of The Hard Problem
In terms of complicated load-in [installing a set into a theater space], The Hard Problem (2016) was complicated. The ceiling for that show weighed about 3,000 pounds. We had to hand it in three pieces, two pipes per section. Getting it all balanced and put together was a challenge. We also had to have a bunch of rigging inside the ceiling in order to have walls that would fly out and travel. Getting it all dialed in was the most intense set that I’ve had to deal with.

What is one of the easiest shows for you?
A Christmas Carol is easy because we’ve been doing the same production for so many years. We have so many notes about how we have to breast a pipe [move a pipe] upstage three inches so we don’t hit something else. With every other show, we don’t know that until we do hit something.

What's something that the average theater-goer never gets to see?
See that chair hanging down? Once we have all the lights hung for a show, we need a way to focus the lights. So I bring the chair to the right height and snub [tie] it off so that if it gets added weight it won't go anywhere. Then someone takes a lift up to the chair, clips his or her harness to it, and rolls the chair down the I-Beam, focusing the lights as he or she goes.

The Skivvies Are Back!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

Following their sold-out run this past holiday season with Holiday Roadkill, the Skivvies are bringing their unique brand of sexy and satirical musical performance back to A.C.T.'s Strand Theater for two performances on June 23 and 24. 

The Skivvies—Broadway stars Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley—are an award-winning comedy-pop duo who perform musical mash-ups of all your favorite songs on the ukulele, cello, and an array of quirky instruments . . . while stripped down to their underwear.

For Bay Area audiences looking out for the next generation of musical theater stars, check out the guests who'll be joining the Skivvies on the Strand stage: Broadway up-and-comer Matt Doyle (The Book of Mormon, Spring Awakening), Ray of Light Theatre's Courtney Merrell (The Rocky Horror Show), Marissa Joy Ganz (national tour of High School Musical), and A.C.T. favorite Lauren Hart (The Unfortunates, A Christmas Carol).

“We are thrilled to return to San Francisco,” says Molina. “The best part is that we are all coming together to celebrate Pride.”

Artwork for The Skivvies: Pride Rock.
The Skivvies: Pride Rock runs June 23 and 24 at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.

Strong Women: The Women Who Influenced Janis Joplin Part Two

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

By Allie Moss

During A.C.T.’s 50th-anniversary season, strong women are navigating their way through traditionally male-oriented spaces. In A Night with Janis Joplin, running through July 9 at The Geary Theater, legendary singer Janis Joplin is joined onstage by five women who inspired her iconic voice: Bessie Smith, Odetta, Nina Simone, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin. Here is a look at the lives of James and Franklin.

Etta James.
Courtesy Legacy Recordings.
Etta James’s (1938–2012) influence on America’s musical landscape is clear. Artists such as Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, and Janis Joplin all emulated James’s vocal style: rich, earthy, brassy tones that stretch from delicate high notes to bellowing low ones. James's most famous songs include “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “If I Can't Have You,” “At Last,” “Tell Mama,” and “I'd Rather Go Blind.” James won six Grammy Awards, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

Aretha Franklin.
Courtesy Atlantic Records.
Aretha Franklin (b. 1942), the Queen of Soul, found success around the same time as Janis Joplin. In 1966, Franklin released the hits “Respect,” “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Since You've Been Gone.” Her fresh new sound blended gospel, pop, R & B, and soul, and she could sing musical runs that features smoky low notes, nasal middle tones, and a light, high belt all in the span of a few seconds. Franklin has performed at the inaugurations of both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. In February 2017, she announced her retirement from touring, but not from music.

A Night with Janis Joplin runs through July 9 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website. Want to learn more about these five incredible women? Click here to purchase Words on Plays, A.C.T.’s in-depth performance guide series. 
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