Journey to the Top: Cast and Creative Team Begin Rehearsals for Top Girls

By Claire L. Wong

“Messy, messy women,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls. As the cast, creative team, and company members gathered at A.C.T. for the first rehearsal, MacKinnon addressed the company. “These are messy, human people. You’re not going to find a hero in this. It’s a messy world.”
Director Tamilla Woodard discusses Top Girls. Photo by Claire L. Wong.
This muck and mire and mess aptly describes the world of Top Girls. In 1980s England, Marlene’s rise through the corporate ranks is hard-won. As her ambition vaults her to the top, she isn’t concerned with bringing other women along with her. The opening scene in the play features historical and legendary women who gather for a dazzling dinner party to celebrate Marlene’s latest promotion. The production examines the generational inheritance of what women, and particularly women of color, experience in the workplace. Director Tamilla Woodard says, “There are a lot of women here and a lot …

Young Conservatory Actors Talk About Into the Woods

By Claire L. Wong

Just as the set, lighting, and costumes conjure the story world of a show, so too do the narrators of Into the Woods immerse audiences in the lives of the characters. Director Ken Savage’s Young Conservatory production emphasizes the act of storytelling in making everyday life magical. The production features three narrators, actors Pablo Gracia, Keira Lally, and Samantha Resser, who guide the audience through the twists and turns in each tale.

LEFT: Pablo Gracia; CENTER: Keira Lally; RIGHT: Samantha Resser.
“I like that every narrator tells a different fairytale and how we respond and react to every story,” Gracia says. “The best part about being the Baker’s narrator is how I reveal his unfortunate life and help tie everything together.” The disparate threads that weave the stories together also reflect Resser’s favorite part of Into the Woods. “I love the details,” Resser says. “It’s a detailed play, and an addition to a line in the opening could almost completely c…

Rage, Spirit, and a Wink: A.C.T.'s 2019–20 Season

By Claire L. Wong

Rules are made to be broken—and interrogated, rewritten, and overcome. The 2019–20 season at American Conservatory Theater features stories that examine the established rules of engagement, their violent and tumultuous histories, and the people chafing against these constraints. “Told with decorum, rage, spirit, and a wink,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon, “this season’s offerings continue A.C.T.’s tradition of telling stories that provoke responses and lead to debates, dreams, and even action.”

Women are pushing back against the rules of oppression in A.C.T.’s first two productions of the 2019–20 season. Tamilla Woodard (Men on Boats) returns to A.C.T. for her Geary Theater debut directing Caryl Churchill’s acclaimed modern classic Top Girls. Audiences may remember returning actors Rosie Hallett, who worked alongside Woodard in Men on Boats (2018), and Michelle Beck, last seen at the Geary in King Charles III (2016). In Margaret Thatcher’s divided Engl…

Into the Woods Without Delay: Five Facts about Sondheim's Beloved Musical

By A.C.T. Publications Team 

Only two more days before we go into the woods! To get you prepared for the journey, here are five fun facts about the musical.

1. Book writer James Lapine wrote a script that interwove several fairy tales—Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood—and sent it to composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, saying “You'll never be able to musicalize this.” Sondheim accepted his challenge.

2. An early draft of the musical featured Rumpelstiltskin and the Three Pigs. In the 2002 revival, the pigs were put back in.

3. Sondheim doesn't like actors to make lyric suggestions, but when original Baker's Wife Joanna Gleason said that she felt like her character was in the wrong story when she meets Cinderella's Prince in Act Two, he made an exception.

4. The musical was (intentionally or unintentionally) quoted by President Barack Obama in an address on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when he said, “You are not alone. No one is alon…

A Summer of Transformation: Two Student Perspectives on A.C.T.'s Summer Training Congress

by Elspeth Sweatman

Week One:

How did you come to learn about A.C.T.’s Summer Training Congress?
Lauren Richardson: An actor friend of mine participated in the STC last summer and told me what she learned here changed her life so I knew I had to apply. And I have learned so much in this past week! Just one of the many transformative things is the importance of maintaining awareness of your breath. When you let the breath in, you are relaxed and are more present within your work.

Drew Olvey: A.C.T.’s Summer Training Congress attracted me with the promise of advanced technical training, personal growth, and a better understanding of my role as an actor within a community. And even in week one, the program is providing me with the acting technique I need to advance my career and the understanding of the power of theater as a tool for social, political, and personal transformation.

What has your STC experience been like so far?
LR: One class, my acting teacher assigned us the same neut…

Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Subscriptions Manager Mark C. Peters

By Annie Sears

Meet Mark Peters, a master of repurposing thrifted fabric, auditioning for the Amazing Race (he’s submitted four video auditions and attended six open calls), and maintaining a morning routine: meditation, followed by yoga, followed by breakfast and a crossword puzzle—which is surprisingly similar to his work here at A.C.T. as our subscriptions manager. We recently sat down with Peters to hear about his 32 years here at A.C.T.

How would you describe your job to someone that doesn’t know anything about it?
It’s a giant puzzle, and I love puzzles. Our subscribers get to choose their seats, and keep those same seats for each show they attend. So when we get new subscribers or have subscribers who want to change their seats—that’s my favorite part. I have to say, “Okay, this person wants to move to Saturday night, so I can get this person into this space. And what if I shift this person here?” I do my best to take care of every subscriber. The biggest puzzles were after th…