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Rhinos 101

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By Annie Sears

As the title would suggest, Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros—playing through June 23 at The Geary—features some lumbering pachyderms. The play isn’t really about rhinos, but they’re a constant onstage presence. Characters are always talking about rhinos, gawking at rhinos, or in some cases, transforming into rhinos. Our marketing department visited the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens to learn some fast facts about these mysterious creatures.

1. A group of rhinos is called a crash. Does that make the Rhinoceros cast a crash? A crashing cast? A casting crash?

2. Their horns are made of keratin—the same protein that makes up human fingernails!


3. Some rhinos have one horn. Others have two. Gene and Berenger have a disagreement about this in Rhinoceros, so let’s break it down: There are five different species of rhinos. Two of those species, the black rhino and the white rhino, are African rhinos. The other three—Javan rhinos, Sumatran rhinos, and greater one-horned rhinos—are…

Catching Rhinoceritis

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By Annie Sears

Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, playing at The Geary through June 23, presents a series of challenges to theater-makers. How do you fill a stage with stampeding rhinos, wreaking havoc on a French provincial town? And how does one portray a rhino convincingly? Actor Matt DeCaro has figured out how to take the audience on “an imaginary ride,” says DeCaro. “I want it to be fun to watch.”


For many actors, the first consideration when stepping into a physical role is where the character’s energy emanates from and which part of the body initiates motion. To discover a rhino’s primary impetus, DeCaro took a trip to the zoo. “I looked at rhinoceroses for a while to try and see how they move,” says DeCaro. “Well, they didn’t move much, but I noticed a lot of it is from the shoulders.” So DeCaro leads with his shoulders, sometimes moving unilaterally—using only one side of his body—and sometimes bilaterally, using both sides simultaneously. No matter which way he’s moving, DeCaro si…

On to the Next Stage of Life

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By Annie Sears

The end of a schoolyear often brings a medley of emotions, a peculiar blend of nostalgia and the energizing promise of what’s to come. This is certainly true for the A.C.T. community as we say goodbye to the 13 members of our M.F.A. class of 2019. For the last three years, these citizen artists have enriched Bay Area theater with their desire to learn and their joy in the creative process. So where are these recent graduates headed?


Göran Norquist isn’t leaving—at least for a month. He’s on A.C.T.’s mainstage as Marcel in Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, playing through June 23 at The Geary. Several other classmates are also staying in the Bay. Caleb Lewis is getting married here next week. He’s a twin, and his fraternal twin is also getting married this summer. “But to be clear,” joked Lewis, “I asked my fiancé first, and we’re getting married first too!” Jerrie R. Johnson will star in her one-woman show A Crooked Room as part of the 22nd Annual National Queer Arts Festival…

Join the Crash, Embrace the Herd

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By Elspeth Sweatman


Like it or not, humans are herd animals. From the moment we are born, we crave interaction, communication, affection. To achieve these needs, we accept rules and traditions that help us to fit in, get along, and stay safe. Yet, we also know how dangerous going along with the group can be. Our news reels and Netflix queues are full of examples of innocent bystanders being duped, injured, or killed because they followed others. How can herd mentality be both the bedrock of our civilization and its undoing?

There are two types of herding: self-interested (when we copy the motivations and actions of others for our own gain) and collective (when we imitate others for the advantage of the entire group). When we go to a Giants baseball game at Oracle Park and follow the crowd to the entrance, that’s self-interested herding; we assume people know where they are going. When we stand on the right-hand side of escalators to let others pass on the left, that is collective her…

Rhinos Roaming Through Our Psychological Savannas

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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

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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…