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Showing posts from February, 2009

The Fun in Dysfunctional

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posted by Britannie Bond, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2009

As I am writing this, I am finalizing a mix tape for Jack Willis. Who knew we had eerily similar music tastes? Yesterday, Sharon Lockwood brought all the girls in the cast homemade scones individually wrapped in foil accompanied by lemon curd and butter. And Bob Ernst can usually be caught practicing tai chi in costume and always has a good story or joke for the dressing room.

Philistines is a play full of philosophies, failures, hopes, loneliness, rebellion, suicide attempts, and samovars. Every moment in the play is activated by some sort of argument—most often familial and tense—leading toward someone or something’s destruction. But throughout the rehearsal process and currently backstage during Philistines we’ve learned how to put the fun in dysfunctional.

A cast mate has analogized changing in our dressing room at Zeum to having seven people change in a phone booth simultaneously. But the lack of a proper gr…

The Mysterious and the Sublime: Getting to Know Florence Foster Jenkins

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posted by Lesley Gibson, Publications & Literary Intern

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins opened earlier this week. It’s a lovely show, and audiences are going absolutely mad for it. It features Judy Kaye as Florence Foster Jenkins, a tone-deaf Manhattan society dame who, in the 1930s and ’40s, genuinely fancied herself a great coloratura soprano. The play chronicles the trajectory of her 12-year “career” through the eyes of her simultaneously wise, protective, and horrified accompanist, Cosme McMoon (played by Donald Corren), and culminates in a theatrical re-enactment of the infamous, sold-out recital Mme Jenkins gave at Carnegie Hall, in which Judy Kaye miraculously works her way through a series of awe-inspiring costumes in a matter of minutes, including this number. What’s not to like?

I saw the opening night performance on Wednesday, which was fun but a little surreal for me personally, not because of anything that actually happened in the performanc…

What Would Freud Say?

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posted by Edward Budworth, A.C.T. Group Sales
and Linda Lagemann, Ph.D.

“Sweeney Todd has revenge issues.”
“Hedda Gabler suffers from an Electra complex.”
“Maggie the Cat is in heavy denial.”

Since Sigmund is no longer around to comment on the characters in dramatic literature, A.C.T. started a program called Theater on the Couch to explore the inherent neuroses, psychoses, and downright insanity that afflict some of our favorite icons of the stage.

The idea for Theater on the Couch came to us when representatives of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis (then known as the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute & Society) attended a performance of Eve Ensler’s The Good Body at A.C.T. in the spring of 2004. We hit it off immediately and began thinking of ways our two institutions could collaborate. A.C.T. regularly offers audience discussions with actors, playwrights, directors, designers, etc., so why not, we figured, add psychoanalysts to the mix and have a discussion about the…

Playing Teaches Us the Game

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posted by Mark Jackson

When Beth Wilmurt and I were in Germany a couple of years ago, she had an idea for a show about the question as to what extent an individual’s survival and identity are dependent on one another and other people.

The show would explore this question through a kind of abstracted vaudeville world. There would be a washed-up solo Headliner endlessly repeating his long-since-perfected act, and a Duo struggling to create their perfect act. We played with the idea for a couple of weeks at Mime Centrum Berlin, where we were in residence. Now we’re exploring it further here at A.C.T. in a two-week workshop with M.F.A. Program students, A.C.T. Associate Artist Jud Williford, and sound designer Jake Rodriguez.

The goal of the two weeks was to solidify the question, anchor, and structure of the piece. Precisely what about identity and survival is the piece asking? Are the Headliner and the Duo indeed the right anchor for the piece, or should there be more characters? How muc…

Love the One You’re With

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posted by Mary Birdsong, Rich and Famous cast member

Let’s face it—we live in a time in which one of the most prized possessions can be an autograph, preferably of someone rich and/or famous. Want an autographed football with the signatures of the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team? No problem. It’ll run you about $3,000 on eBay. But if you don’t have that kind of money lying around, and want something a bit . . . sexier, how about a Tomb Raider movie card with Angelina Jolie’s autograph? That’ll run you a mere $389.99. (Do you think Miss Jolie feels insecure when she sees that she can barely fetch 10% of what the Steelers can? Don’t feel bad, Angie. Even Chuck Heston only grabs $50.00 for his autographed movie card, and he played Moses for criminy’s sake! He parted the Red Sea!!! What seas have YOU ever parted, Angie? Hmm? What about a lake? Ever parted a lake? No? All right then, how about a fjord? Hmmm? No? No. I didn’t think so. So stop your belly-achin’.)
If the thrill of obtaining an…

Thirty Pages of Hamlet?

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posted by Tobie Windham, Master of Fine Arts Program Class of 2010

Risk. Fail. Risk again. I have tried to live by these words for about four years now, but as time goes by the struggle to keep the second word gets increasingly difficult. Fail. When acting, I have discovered that I am a person who likes to risk everything, but when it comes to failing, I want to cushion the blow. Or: I will jump off the cliff, but when I see how far I might fall, I try to reverse the jump. I think this has held me back from truly achieving my goals.

I had to face this idea of risking and failing when my M.F.A. Program class [2010] recently completed a workshop of Hamlet with A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff. Carey came into rehearsal the first day with an energy that infected us all. If we did not like Hamlet before we started this process, we sure do respect it now. The plan was to follow the main story arc of Hamlet by performing only eleven scenes. The casting was rotated for each scene, and w…