'Tosca' Wrap Up: A Thread, The Bartender

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

Last week at A.C.T. we held 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, wrote to us from the workshop studio about the process of shaping—and reshaping—this unique original work.

There’s something that often happens after a presentation: everybody involved has someone they know (and trust) in the audience and ends up collecting their observations—what they loved, what they didn’t understand, what they craved.

The morning after our presentation, we gathered the audience’s thoughts and our own, and found that many echoed one another. The main point of consensus was the need to see this world through the eyes of the bartender (Jack Willis, see picture). This is something we have been moving toward for a while now, but it became crystal clear during and after the presentation.

This über-bartender is the custodian of the Tosca Café and our guide through the decades, and all kinds of journeys, chance encounters, abandonments . . .

He revisits his memory of a lost woman, while letting himself be affected by the history of the bar as it passes by him. But is he an observer from the present time or a participant throughout the decades? What triggers his memories? Is this all happening in one day? What kind of day is it? How is the bartender changed by the events and the people he is remembering, come the end of the day, of his life, of the bar? Does he ever find that woman or does he let her go?

In our last two workshop days together, we worked our way through the decades once again, now concentrating on the Bartender’s emotional arc, trying to find solutions for some of these questions, and letting others linger in the air. Just as they should even a year from now, when the completed Tosca Project hits the A.C.T. mainstage in front of a full audience.

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