The Cast of Small Mouth Sounds Recalls Their First Performances

Friday, December 8, 2017

By Taylor Steinbeck

Though Small Mouth Sounds is closing at The Strand this weekend, over at The Geary Theater, performances of A.C.T.'s annual production of A Christmas Carol are just beginning. In Carol, 29 members of the cast are made up A.C.T.'s Young Conservatory students, with many of these young actors making their professional acting debut. To celebrate its opening tonight, we reached out to some of the Small Mouth Sounds cast to find out about their first memories of performing.

Judy (Cherene Snow) and Joan (Socorro Santiago) share a moment in A.C.T.'s production
 of Small Mouth Sounds. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
Ben Beckley (Ned): There are recordings of me acting out fairy tales with my grandmother when I could barely talk, but my first vivid memory of performing was the exit applause I got in the sixth grade as the Artful Dodger in a straight adaption of Oliver. That, and a mildly disastrous middle school production of Antigone the same year.

Cherene Snow (Judy): My first performance was in kindergarten in Little Red Hen, but only my mother remembers this. After acting in my first film—Cooley High (1975)—I knew I wanted to be a performer for the rest of my life.

Connor Barrett (Jan): In middle school, my class co-wrote a play with our amazing teacher, Mr. James Sylvia and we got to perform it. It was either an homage to Noël Coward, or we just heavily ripped him off.

Edward Chin-Lyn (Rodney): My first memory of performing was as a narrator in an elementary school play. I froze onstage and ran off—I was a shy kid. I later found my way into acting during college after taking an introduction to acting class as my arts elective.

Socorro Santiago (Joan): I was seven years old, performing Abbott and Costello skits on the street with my sister.

Orville Mendoza (Teacher): I started singing in church when I was six or seven. There was a Christian acting troupe that came to our church and they needed a boy to play Isaac in the recreation of Abraham and Isaac. I was chosen. The acting bug bit me!

A.C.T.’s production of Small Mouth Sounds ends this Sunday, December 10, at The Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street. Click here to purchase tickets through our website. Want to learn more about the production? Order a copy of Words on Plays, A.C.T.'s in-depth performance guide series.

Comedian Colin Quinn to Deliver Laughs @TheStrand

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

In need of some laughs to ease the stress of this holiday season? Funnyman Colin Quinn has got you covered. The former Saturday Night Live cast member will be bringing his latest one-man show, One in Every Crowd, to A.C.T.’s Strand Theater for five performances running from December 14–17.

Artwork for Colin Quinn: One in Every Crowd.
Quinn’s appearance at The Strand will be his only West Coast stop during his 2017–18 North American tour, which will have him performing across the US and Canada. The New York native is returning to the road after taking a seven-year break to write and perform comedy shows for Broadway audiences. His most recent show, The New York Story, was directed by Jerry Seinfeld and was released on Netflix in 2016. To get a feel for Quinn’s unique brand of comedy, take a look at the trailer for his Netflix stand-up special below.

Equipped with razor-sharp wit and an eye for observational humor, Quinn’s smart jokes and engaging stories are sure to entertain. This season Quinn isn’t the only acclaimed comedian performing in A.C.T.’s @TheStrand series. Three-time Emmy Award winner Louie Anderson will also be presenting a limited engagement this January. With these two comics coming to The Strand this winter, San Francisco is about to be served up some serious laughs.

Colin Quinn: One in Every Crowd
runs December 14–17 at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.

The Man Behind the Magic: An Interview with Carol Scenic Designer John Arnone

Friday, December 1, 2017

This interview is adapted from the Christmas Carol edition of Words on Plays, A.C.T.’s in-depth performance guide series.

A dazzling treat for the eye, A.C.T.’s annual production of A Christmas Carol has become a Bay Area holiday tradition over its 13-year run. We looked back at our 2010 Q&A with Carol scenic designer John Arnone to find out what inspired the set’s beautiful and haunting visuals.
The concept sketch for the set of A.C.T.'s Christmas Carol. By John Arnone.
How did you approach designing the set?

As a team, we discussed the town and its atmosphere, the context for the piece, which is Dickens’s London. We wanted to convey the feeling of the congestion and the industrialization, as well as the paranoia and fear. Then we discussed the interiors, and the fact that there is only one interior that is real: Scrooge’s bedroom. It’s very claustrophobic, which I think is a metaphor for how dark Scrooge’s life has become.

How did you get the idea for the Ghost of Christmas Future as a puppet?

You never see [Christmas Future] in full detail, so you never really know what you’re looking at. It’s more of a frightening, hovering presence, and it serves as a sort of host for the last part of the production, which is what we call the “nightmare sequence.” Christmas Future became a part of the scenery—it is surreal and otherworldly and larger than life.

The set model looks very colorful, though.

The town does look colorful, but it’s also very dark. We were looking at some artistic techniques, such as watercolor, that could be abstract, dreamlike, and impressionistic—and also somewhat frightening.

Set model for the "nightmare sequence" of A Christmas Carol. By John Arnone.
Can you talk about the “vortex” part of the nightmare sequence?

Yes, the vortex is a painted drop, on which the lighting designer will project a sort of spinning gobo [a thin patterned metal disk placed in a spotlight and projected onto the stage, creating shadow effects], so that the audience’s point of view will become somewhat disoriented. There’s a scenic net of gravestones that match the gravestones on the ground. They will become animated, and the lights will start to strobe, so that it looks like they’re flying through the air. The overall effect is of vertigo and disorientation.

After the nightmare sequence, we have about 20 seconds to set up the town and restore everything onstage for the last scene of the play. The [backstage] crew never stops, not even during intermission. Once they begin, it will be like choreography for the four people who are operating the show. And it is really is up to them to make the show happen every night.

Come celebrate the holidays with us! A.C.T.'s production of A Christmas Carol runs December 1–24 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.
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