Empowerment and Happiness: An Interview with Teaching Artist Radhika Rao

By Claire L. Wong

The first teacher Radhika Rao encountered was her grandmother, and she saw how far a teacher’s love and influence can reach. “She loved education and her students so much,” says Rao. Growing up in New Delhi, India, Rao remembers being in an elementary school play. But it wasn’t until college that she sought out the drama club. Her first job out of college was teaching theater, and she’s continued acting, directing, and teaching theater ever since.

For the past eight years, Rao has been working as a teaching artist and arts integrator in the Bay Area. She uses theater tools and techniques to further conversations about topics including family, the environment, vaping, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Rao works with people of all ages to engage them creatively, emphasizing empowerment and happiness in their art and daily lives. Her local work has included A.C.T., San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, TheatreWorks, New Conservatory Theatre Center, Stanford University,…

Finding Voices Within: A.C.T. Joins Forces with Community Works

by Livian Yeh

Led by our Community Programs Manager Stephanie Wilborn, A.C.T. has started a brand-new partnership with Community Works, an Oakland-based nonprofit that provides programs for people impacted by incarceration throughout the Bay Area, both in-custody and in the community.

“I’ve always wanted to collaborate with them,” says Wilborn. So when a colleague forwarded an email from the organization, she leapt at the opportunity to connect. The admiration turned out to be mutual. Her counterpart at Community Works, Lynn Aylward, happens to be a longtime A.C.T. fan. The two met for coffee, and Stephanie offered A.C.T.’s support of their theater program.

Rising Voices, the initiative managed by Aylward, is the brainchild of CW Founder and Executive Director Ruth Morgan. It focuses on young women (ages 18 to 25) who are currently or recently incarcerated, and fits within the nonprofit’s broader program for transitional age youth who are at risk of incarceration or in the process of …

Worthy to Be Told: An Interview with Summer Brown

By Claire L. Wong and Alejandra Maria Rivas
Summer Brown comes from a loud family in Richmond, Virginia. “Growing up the youngest of four, it made me a big observer in how people operate,” says Brown. “My family members were definitely my first scene studies.” Brown is a third-year student in A.C.T.’s MFA Program and is nearing graduation. While studying theater at University of Maryland, College Park, one of her professors told her about A.C.T.’s Summer Training Congress, which she completed the summer before her senior year. “I remember during that summer was the first time that I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, I’m gonna be an actor.’” Since she had decided to purse acting as a career, Brown auditioned for graduate schools, and came to A.C.T. after undergrad.

Summer Brown. Photo by Deborah Lopez.
What has your last year in the Program been like? Starting this third year with Top Girls [A.C.T.’s season opener at the Geary Theater], I was figuring out what it is to be in a professional r…

MFA Students on Learning from Home and Maintaining Their Mental Health

By Claire L. Wong
For nearly two months, A.C.T. MFA students have been learning from home, an adjustment that takes mental energy and creativity. The faculty and staff members have been adapting to digital teaching and rehearsing, while maintaining as much normalcy as possible. “It’s meaningful to have structure and to create during this uncertainty,” says A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith. “The need to connect is fundamental to being human and through connection we evolve and become more empathetic.”

The cast and creative team of A.C.T.'s MFA production of Rough Magic, directed by M. Graham Smith, rehearse over Zoom.
Many MFA students have returned home or are living with family while sheltering in place, which poses challenges—and opportunities—to rehearsing. “I moved home to Utah for the quarantine,” says Grace Fojtik. “I’m returning to the place of play where I’d spend hours in my backyard pretending to be a spy or an explorer. Tapping into that kid-like imagination ha…

The Fire Within: An Interview with Sarah Traisman

By Claire L. Wong and Alejandra Maria Rivas
Sarah Traisman (she/they) loves running. She loves its goal-oriented training and its meditative quality. And she loves hosting a dinner party. Traisman, a third-year student in A.C.T.’s MFA Program, is weeks from graduation. She grew up in Chicago and attended undergrad at Vassar College. For two years afterward, Traisman lived in New York, trying the audition circuit. Then she decided she wanted more training under her belt.

One of her best friends was already at A.C.T., and when Traisman learned about A.C.T.’s emphasis on citizen artistry, she was drawn to the MFA Program. “There’s something to be said about a community that is interested in you,” says Traisman. “A.C.T. showed a lot of interest in who I was.” Now, three years later, Traisman has recently performed her senior solo show (over the video conferencing platform Zoom). We spoke with her about her experience in A.C.T.’s MFA Program.

Sarah Traisman. Photo by Deborah Lopez. 
How have…

How Can I Support the Arts Right Now?

By Miranda Ashland

All around the country, arts organizations are struggling after having to shut their doors and cancel upcoming programming due to COVID-19. We’ve compiled a list of ways to support the arts community.
A.C.T.'s Geary Theater. Photo by Marco Lorenzetti.
How to Support an Arts Organization
Many organizations are nonprofit and employ not only artists, but dozens of staff: administrators, customer service, concessions, janitors, ushers, curators, ticketing services, security, and more. These are ways you can support them.
DonationsNo matter how small, monetary donations are instrumental to the survival of most arts companies. If you’ve purchased tickets to an event that’s now canceled, donate your tickets back. If refunds are automatic, turn the refund into a donation.Buy for the FuturePurchase a subscription to the next season or a ticket to a future performance. You’re helping the organization now and giving yourself something to look forward to.Buy a Gift CardIf ther…