Time Warp to the Geary!

By Claire L. Wong
There’s a reason San Franciscans identify so closely with The Rocky Horror Show. “It’s a haven for people of all stripes to be their most brilliant, strange, honest, fabulous, and terrifying selves,” says Tony Award–nominated director-choreographer Sam Pinkleton. “It’s been blowing minds and opening hearts in San Francisco and around the world for over 40 years and I am—yes—shivering with antici . . . . pation to assemble a community of Bay Area performers who will take over the Geary in 2020 to collaborate on a musical blowout that could only happen in and for San Francisco.”

For A.C.T.’s mainstage production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show on the Geary stage this spring, we’re holding an open call for local Bay Area actors and performers. Auditions will be held October 31, 2019 from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Auditionees of any ethnicities, body types, gender identifications, and ability levels are welcome.

The all-star creative t…

Fearless and Fierce: The Women of Top Girls

By Simon Hodgson

Who were all these women, anyway? Get a glimpse of these historical and legendary figures’ lives beyond the stage in this breakdown of characters from Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls.

L to R: Top Girls actorsRosie Hallett (Pope Joan),  Summer Brown (Dull Gret), Michelle Beck (Marlene), Monica Lin (Lady Nijo), and Julia McNeal (Isabella Bird). Photo by Kevin Berne.
Isabella Bird  In 19th-century Britain, middle-class women were expected to lead lives filled with crafts, music, and church-related activities. But while Isabella Bird’s life began that way, this curious, intelligent woman chose a different path. When doctors prescribed outdoor activity as a tonic for her fragility, she took a trip to the United States to visit family. Traveling set Bird free—the letters she wrote home were full of quirky details, and she turned them into a travel book. In 1872, she toured Australia, Hawaii, and the Western United States, where she fell for a one-eyed trapper. Traveling in the 19…

Four Bay Area Theaters Present Caryl Churchill Plays

By Claire L. Wong

Abuse of power. Feminism. Sexual politics. Experience some of today’s most pressing issues dramatized for the stage by Caryl Churchill, one of the greatest living English-language playwrights. This season, four Bay Area theaters collaborate in presenting three classic plays and one newer work. With the Caryl Churchill Passport, get one ticket to each show and the best available seats.

Shattering the glass ceiling doesn’t come without a few injuries in Top Girls. In Margaret Thatcher’s divided England, nothing will stand in the way of Marlene’s rise through the corporate ranks. But what of other women? In the race to the top, there’s no time for sisterhood. Top Girls, directed by Tamilla Woodard at A.C.T., is at the Geary through October 13.
Cloud 9 show art courtesy Custom Made Theatre Co.
Cloud 9 explores sexual politics in colonial Africa and modern-day Britain at Custom Made Theatre Co. This seminal work challenges assumptions about gender and sexuality, race, and str…

Doubling Down as Top Girls Begins Previews

By Claire L. Wong
As Tops Girls enters previews this week, Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon discusses double casting and director Tamilla Woodard’s vision.

“With Top Girls, Tamilla Woodard has at her disposal the ability to double cast, meaning one actor plays multiple roles,” says MacKinnon. “Caryl Churchill wrote this play with seven actors, seven women, who played fourteen roles. Tamilla Woodard decided to do it with nine women to play those fourteen roles. She’s changed how some of those doublings have traditionally been done, because she’s pulling out a story.”

Left to right: Top Girls actors Rosie Hallett, Michelle Beck, Julia McNeal, and MFA Program actor Summer Brown (class of 2020). Photo by Beryl Baker.
“The teenage girl Angie isn’t double cast at all,” says MacKinnon. “There is something interesting about doing a play set in the 1980s largely about Angie’s aunt Marlene, a woman in her forties, cracking a glass ceiling. Forty years have passed since then. Angie would now be a …

Director Tamilla Woodard on Top Girls (Part Two)

By Elspeth Sweatman 
A year after bringing the rip-roaring adventure Men on Boats to the Strand, Director Tamilla Woodard is back at A.C.T. with Caryl Churchill’s 1982 play Top Girls.

Director Tamilla Woodard (left) and A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon (right) discuss Top Girls. Photo by Claire L. Wong.
What’s your process as a director? Do you like to do research?
Any play I do, I go as deep as I can. Of course, I think that’s simply part of the job. The more you dig, the more you find and the more you find, the more you need to keep looking. I want to surround myself with as many tools as I can, not out of studiousness but to communicate about the play. First and foremost, I need to satisfy my questions so I go until I run out of time [Laughs] which 99.9 percent of the time is what happens. All of that is fuel for my imagination and decision-making.
One of the things that I do with a play is I sit down and write just pages and pages of the things that are indisputable about the …

Director Tamilla Woodard on Top Girls (Part One)

By Elspeth Sweatman
A year after bringing the rip-roaring adventure Men on Boats to the Strand, Director Tamilla Woodard is back at A.C.T. with Caryl Churchill’s 1982 play Top Girls.

Director Tamilla Woodard describes her vision for Top Girls. Photo by Claire L. Wong.
Men on Boats, which you directed last fall at the Strand, upended stereotypes, and in a way, Top Girls is doing something similar. These are powerful female characters, but they are all still trapped inside the patriarchy. 
They are responding to the invisible presence of men. It’s like there are only women onstage but there’s a big man head hanging above them, looking down at them. [Laughs] Jaclyn [Backhaus] tackled stereotypes in Men on Boats by having no men and no mention of the fact that these female-identified bodies were playing men; men disappeared entirely. Here, no men appear onstage but man-ness is ever present. Masculinity is present. Patriarchy is present. These women are under the weight of that, even if they…