A 'Tosca' Diary

posted by Beatrice Basso, Dramaturg and A.C.T. Artistic Consultant

This week at A.C.T. we’re holding a workshop to continue developing The Tosca Project, a theater/dance fusion piece created by A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff and San Francisco Ballet choreographer Val Caniparoli. Featuring a remarkable cast of actors and dancers, The Tosca Project celebrates a century of San Francisco history in North Beach’s famed Tosca Café. Beatrice Basso, who serves as the production’s dramaturg, writes to us from the workshop room about the process of shaping—and reshaping—this unique original work.

DAY ONE: Layers and Anticipation

We are sitting around in the rehearsal room. I don’t know if the picture shows it, but it’s right at that moment before a new process begins, when the air is filled with plans and chatter and unspoiled anticipation—still one of my favorite moments in theater. Even as these moments accumulate, each one seems to carry its own brand of specialness.

In this case, I am surrounded by some of the best dancers and actors in San Francisco, co-creators of a piece that has this very city as its backdrop.

We are talking about the Tosca Café as a large and layered storage of memories. The bar has been around since the 1920s and has seen Italian founders, opera divas, beatniks, painters, famous dancers, and masses of regular people pass through it and leave their more or less visible mark. Carey just mentioned that this place is similar to an archeological site that we should be excavating.

This is the third time I find myself on a “first Tosca day,” and there have been several “first days” before I even started working on the production, serving as a sort of idea generator/resonator. (Also, I am Italian, which can come in handy when working on a piece that has “Tosca” in the title.) This rehearsal room is filled with books, DVDs of previous workshops, pages and pages of old scenarios and dramaturgical research, collages of images on the walls . . . Even this is starting to feel like an archeological site. We are about to delve in.

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