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Showing posts from 2008

In Memoriam: Harold Pinter

posted by Lesley Gibson, A.C.T. Blog Editor

On December 24, Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter died in London at the age of 78. A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff—a longtime friend and collaborator of the playwright—reflected on the life and work of a man who revolutionized modern theater in yesterday’s issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.

A.C.T. deeply mourns the passing of this great artist. Our best to all of you in the New Year.

Separation Anxiety

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posted by Josh Roberts, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program Class of 2011

I have always seen a lot of myself in the title characters of comic strip classic Calvin & Hobbes, but I admit it’s been a long time since I had Calvin’s allergy to school. Trapped by cartoon magic perpetually in first grade, Calvin would agonize over every last second before the bell’s ring released him from his Sisyphean misery. Not me. I am much more Susie Derkins, Calvin’s nerdy nemesis: always cut short mid-thought by the same bell, reading during recess, arriving early, and staying late. It’s an illness.

It is because I am sick that I find myself, as I write this from Morning Due Café on Church Street, a little shell-shocked to be at the end of my first semester as an M.F.A. student at A.C.T.

What am I supposed to do for three weeks? I am having separation anxiety.

I am sure this would not have happened if our immersion in this training were not so complete. If the atmosphere in the building were not so …

The Yule Blog: A Christmas Caroler’s Holiday Ruminations

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posted by Nicholas Pelczar, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program Class of 2009

Monday, the day off from the show, the theater is dark and we don’t have class. Phew. It’s a day to recover from a nine-show opening week that ended with four shows in two days. It’s also our last day off until Christmas Day. We’re about to embark on a nine-day, thirteen-show stretch that has us all secretly wondering if our bodies can hold up. It’s hard to embody the Christmas spirit so many times in so few days! Also, I don’t think any of us M.F.A. students has ever had such a concentrated stretch of shows. For the first two years in the M.F.A. Program, our projects usually got about four final performances. In our third-year Zeum shows we get about five shows a week for three weeks. So moving up to eight or nine shows a week with A Christmas Carol is quite an adjustment, and we’re all learning what it takes to keep our performances consistent and alive.

Thankfully, it is a Christmas show and it’s hard not t…

Waiting to Exhale

posted by Meryl Lind Shaw, A.C.T. Casting Director

Wednesday, November 26, the day before Thanksgiving 2008, 3 p.m.
A group of us are gathered around Carly Cioffi’s desk on the sixth floor at 30 Grant, just outside Carey’s office. Greg, Carly, Vinny, Deborah, Caresa, Heather, Carey, Tom, and me. We’ve just popped open a bottle of Prosecco Vinny has provided, clinked glasses, and toasted to completing the casting for Rich and Famous. A festive moment, wouldn’t you say? Little would the casual observer appreciate the first deep breaths I’m inhaling in days. We have just received a “yes” from the last actor to join what is a fabulous cast, which is a wonderful moment. The excitement comes from the fact that the show in question starts rehearsal a mere 12 days from this moment.

Winding back the clock, here’s how the casting for this show evolved. The first cast member, A.C.T. company member Gregory Wallace, was signed on from the moment we read the script and chose to produce the play. John…

Rockin’ Boston

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posted by Jud Williford, A.C.T. Associate Artist and core acting company member

After finishing their run in San Francisco, the company of Rock ’n’ Roll, a coproduction of A.C.T. and the Huntington Theatre Company, took to Boston, where they are performing at the Huntington through December 13. A.C.T.’s Jud Williford, who primarily plays Ferdinand, took over the role of Jan for Manoel Felciano for two nights in November to enable Mano to make a quick trip back to the Bay Area. Jud sends an update from the road.

It has been a wild and crazy first week of performances. The crew here at the Huntington Theatre has been tremendous. Warm and hospitable. I’m finally through the performances where I had to go on as Jan (Mano) and am thrilled that I can now enjoy this city!

The audience here is different from the one in SF. Sometimes I feel that they watch me and Mano as if they were watching the “debating cavemen” on The History Channel. But overall they have responded enthusiastically to the…

When You Don’t Miss Time Shifting

posted by Rusty Rueff, A.C.T. Trustee

It was not that long ago that we didn’t even know the term time shifting. Had someone told you that you could do so, you would have thought of time travel and science fiction. And then along came the TIVO Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and all of a sudden we were able to take control of what and when we watched television. There was no more reason to be home on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. if we wanted to see The West Wing. And then we figured out that watching TV when you could skip through the advertisements was even better than waiting through the commercial breaks. The DVR and time shifting has been a great advancement for managing entertainment. But not all entertainment forms need a DVR. The live theater is one such medium that can’t be captured and shifted, and really why would you want to do so? The live theater is about unique moments that are different from performance to performance. An inflection, an audience reaction, and a delivery of a …

"Tragedy Tomorrow, Economic Woes Tonight"

posted by Lesley Gibson, A.C.T. Blog Editor

An article about the bleak financial future of American theaters popped up in yesterday’s New York Times. Recently, A.C.T.’s own trustee Rusty Rueff blogged about the importance of investing in the arts, and the importance of the arts to our very existence. As the recession worsens I anticipate a new stream of dialogue will emerge on this issue, both within our organization and in the media.

A common topic of conversation these last few weeks has been the fact that, as one political and economic era comes to a close, an entirely new and unknown era is beginning. I can’t help but wonder if our industry, as we’ve known it, won’t be forever altered (for better or for worse), as well? Time will tell.

A Day in the Life of a Dramaturg

posted by Dan Rubin, Publications & Literary Associate

During the last week of October, A.C.T. hosted a closed workshop of Daniel Kramer’s yet-to-be-titled movement piece inspired by Modest Musorgsky’s famous Pictures at an Exhibition and based on the composer’s tumultuous life. Mugorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874 as a tribute to his friend Victor Hartmann, an artist who had died the year before. Daniel’s concept is to attach often-abstract movement to these songs in such a way that, together, they create a picture of Musorgsky’s life. “I don’t want the audience to get it right away,” he told me during one discussion. “I want them to get it three months later.” Next spring, Daniel will be producing this creation at the Young Vic in London after a ten-week rehearsal process. You should all go. Oh, bollocks, it’s not that far!

While here, Daniel got the opportunity to experiment and solidify ideas, and A.C.T.’s fearless third-year M.F.A. students, divided into teams…

Keeping It Fresh

posted by Manoel Felciano, Jan in Rock 'n' Roll at both A.C.T. and the Huntington Theatre Company

The second most common question I get as an actor—after, “How do you memorize all those lines?”—is usually, “How do you keep things fresh, doing the exact same thing night after night?”

[A.C.T. Associate Artist] Jack Willis likes to talk about being a “workman” when it comes to acting, and I appreciate the unsentimental, demystifying instinct in that word. It’s essential to bring what we do down from the lofty aerie of “artist” to a lunch-pail, workmanlike level. We call it “the work” because, well, that’s what it is. Just like anybody working on a construction site, for a nonprofit, or in a huge corporation, we have a job to do, within a larger structure. We have certain skills, both learned and innate. We have coworkers upon whom we depend and who depend on us. We have the same work ethic that you would find on a construction site or in a startup: timeliness, courtesy, respect, …

The Unreasonable Investment

posted by Rusty Rueff, A.C.T. Trustee

In these trying and turbulent financial days, decisions are being made about where one places one’s financial bets. Do we hang in the market, or do we just retreat and bury Mason jars of money in our backyards? My wife, Patti, and I have been having lots of discussions about this broadly, and personally, as we watch the nonprofit organizations that we support suffer under the pull-back of donations due to the economy and the nearly one billion dollars that have been donated for the presidential election. We are the recipients of many requests for donations, and we are doing our best to dig deep, and in some cases double down from prior year donations, to ensure that the nonprofit organizations that we care about do not implode during this difficult time. Some would say that we are being foolish in continuing to fund the arts at the same level or greater than the past. To many, these look like unreasonable investments. But as the writer and playwri…

"The GODS, Enjoy Themselves in an ORGY."

posted by Cat Walleck, Master of Fine Arts Program Class of 2009

These were the first words I read on page 1 of Good Breeding last spring, when we first got our copies of the script that was to be our first third-year M.F.A. project. I have, for the last two and a half years, spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours poring over my body—learning all about the myriad of ways I can use it as my instrument—but it wasn’t until I got to Good Breeding that I truly realized just to what extent I would need to be “available” to my audience.

Melissa Smith, our conservatory director, is famous amongst us for her provocative saying: “Real acting is like standing completely naked in a room full of strangers, and turning around—slowly.” Of course, this intimidating and sexy woman announcing this to a bunch of nervous first-years was shattering enough, and then to imagine oneself having the courage, the generosity, and the killer rear view to pull off such a stunt is potentially debilitating. Or, maybe…

"Where would I find a Plastic Person?"

posted by Carey Perloff, A.C.T. Artistic Director

Of the many wild and unexpected things that occurred during our rehearsals of Rock ’n’ Roll (like Russian tanks rolling into South Ossetia claiming “fraternal assistance” on the day we began rehearsals, an eerie echo of the August 21, 1968, Russian occupation of Prague), none was more surreal than going with the cast to Slim’s at midnight on October 9 to hear The Plastic People of the Universe play. I couldn’t even fathom that they were still together—this was the group of “long-haired weirdo hippies” that by bizarre circumstance triggered the trial that humiliated the Czech Communist Party in 1977, and led to the formation of Charter 77. So what the hell were they doing in San Francisco in 2008?

There’s an incredibly moving moment in Rock ’n’ Roll in which Jan tells Nigel that the Plastics are over—they had been asked to compromise one time too many and finally broke apart. Turns out that 20 years later, in 1997, Václav Havel brought…

Welcome to the A.C.T. Blog

On any given night at the American Conservatory Theater, the role of the audience is played by a distinct and varied group of people. A thousand pairs of eyes, a thousand held breaths, a thousand different reactions that can alter and inform the action that takes place on the stage. The cliché that there would be no theater if there were no audience is in fact true, and as our audience, each of you is a permanent and integral part of the artistic process at A.C.T. But it is also true that if there were not a vast cast of artists, artisans, trustees, staff, faculty, and students to work behind the scenes, there would be no A.C.T. In this forum we hope to pull back the curtain and give you, our audience, the opportunity to look into our shops, stages, studios, and offices and interact with the myriad people who make live theater happen at A.C.T.

Each week, a member of the A.C.T. community will initiate a post about the role he or she plays as a part of this organization. You will have t…