posted by Dan Rubin, A.C.T. Publications & Literary Associate
Our Master of Fine Arts Program students are back at school, and we could not be more excited. Find out below what the class of 2011 did the summer before they entered their second year at A.C.T.
A note of pride: all 12 second-year students were eager to share their experiences with you and submitted posts—if you have ever tried to wrangle an entire group of students to do anything outside of class, you know that this is saying quite a bit. As one student said when we celebrated their responsiveness: “Honestly not surprised, we are overachievers.”
Stefannie Azoroh: “As soon as school was out I asked a few friends to do me this HUGE favor. I asked them to do a show for me in the apartment I share with Tobie [Windham]. I directed David Mamet’s American Buffalo in our apartment with a slightly different twist; let’s say I ‘renovated’ the play. I decided to make the two older figures, Teach (Tobie Windham) and Don (Richard Prioleau), black males, while the younger boy, Bobby (David Jacobs), remained white. Tobie and I renovated our spacious studio into a 1970s junkshop and made magic. The story was the same; however, you saw the story through the black experience. We all agreed upon this project because we wanted to do something rather than wait on something to happen for us. We gained a great level of trust, appreciation, and collaboration, and we enjoyed the RISK. Have you ever invited strangers into your home? Literally, we had a full house each night! It had the magic and immediacy that initially drew me to theater. It was FANTASTIC. Nothing was the same night after night, and we were terrified. That to me was beautiful and the best way to start my summer and end my first year.
“Immediately after the show, I departed to go to my hometown, Huntsville, AL, full of barbeque and the blues (music), family and friends, and nice sunny weather. First year began to settle beautifully throughout my body. I read and wrote a lot during the summer. It was a very peaceful summer and I am back with a larger appetite.”
Dan Clegg: “I spent my summer working in San Francisco and in Maine. I played the roles of teacher, bartender, babysitter, and gardener—each with varying degrees of success. It seems I spent the first half of the summer filling out a lot of forms and standing in a number of lines with different pieces of identification . . . and the second half trying to rid the first from my memory: I partied in West Hollywood, went fishing in the Penobscot Bay, and played croquet in Connecticut. I shot a couple of short films, spent time with my two brothers, and tried to camp under the stars as often as I could.”
Stephanie DeMott began the summer with a vacation in Poipu, Kauai, where a surfing incident involving a really mean coral reef and her left foot meant she was poisoned and limping for about a month. Point to note: when poisoned in Kauai, if a hot surfer offers to pee on your foot, it’s not a come on, it’s a remedy. Back on the mainland, she spent a few days (and way too much money) wandering around New York City before taking the train upstate for a cousin’s wedding. To try something new, she got a job as a server and bartender at this really nice Mexican restaurant. Much to her delight, she found that interacting with people in this way—serving them food, making them drinks—is a lot like performing, and therefore something that comes very naturally to her. All in all, it was a summer of reading, working, spending a lot of hours at the gym, and, if she’s being honest, a lot of wine.
Marisa Duchowny: “I moved back home to L.A. for the summer. I got to eat a lot of great meals with family, spend good quality time with best friends, and explore my old city with a new, more independent self. I worked at Nordstrom and practiced Bikram yoga, which is essentially hot yoga in a 100-degree heated room! And, I got to catch up on a lot of great reading, including Positively Fourth Street, a history of the folk scene in the 1960s with biographies of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, and Turning the Mind into an Ally, about meditation and peaceful abiding. But, in all honesty, the best part of my summer was beginning to write and create my first show/piece. I am very excited about this new endeavor and look forward to all of the possibilities ahead!”
Brian Jansen traveled cross-country this summer with recent M.F.A. Program graduate Allison Brennan and spent most of the summer working in Hollywood. Look for Brian in the upcoming Bruce Willis movie The Surrogates, in which he plays an evil cyborg bent on murdering the leading lady.
Jenna Johnson: “When the first day of summer hits, my first thought is, ‘FREE TIME!!’ Followed quickly by, ‘What do I do with all this “free time?”’ Desperately in search of an income, I applied for every job that popped up on Craigslist. Somehow I ended up with three jobs, which I managed to balance with some success and a lot of caffeine. With only a month left of summer, I took August off to head down to L.A. I woke up to fresh mimosas every morning and finished each evening with an episode of True Blood. A week later, I was jetting off to Seattle. I am not the best flier, but two Valium and a complimentary glass of wine from the crew and I was feeling no pain. I hung out with my brother and saw how the other half lives (he works at Microsoft). Tired but happy, I returned home to move into my brand-new downtown apartment (my first in SF). I am looking forward to the start of my second year at A.C.T. and all the magic it will bring.”
Richardson “Rob” Jones is very excited to start his second year after spending a fantastic summer with his boyfriend, Jeff. Most of his time was spent working at a hip San Francisco restaurant called Lime. He was also able to do some traveling between the two coasts, because two of his best friends back home got married and another great friend just moved to L.A. He and Jeff are most excited about their new apartment on Castro Street. They moved in with an amazing family with two adorable kids: Serafina is six and just started first grade, and Toby is four. In the last couple of weeks before school started, he finished his summer reading and dramaturgy work for Vieux Carré, one of the first second-year projects, directed by Michael Paller, A.C.T.’s dramaturg and director of humanities.
Patrick Lane: “I had a very enriching summer in a couple of different ways. Before school was even out, I started working on Romeo and Juliet at Cal Shakes. It was about a three-and-a-half-week rehearsal process, and the show ran for a month. Working on that show was a really valuable learning process. Working with such incredible actors, including three other A.C.T.-ers (Jud Williford, Nick Childress, Ashley Wickett), and such a passionate director, Jonathan Moscone, was truly inspiring. After the show closed in late June, I flew back home to Louisville, KY, where I replenished my starving-artist fund by working in a bank. I recommend that every out-of-work actor work at a bank. The pay is great, and when business is slow, you have ample time to read plays . . . that’s how I finished the summer reading list.”
Richard Prioleau appeared in The Renovation Theatre’s American Buffalo and served on the faculty of Northwestern University’s National High School Institute (Cherubs), where he taught acting and directed Naomi Iizuka’s Anon(ymous).
Joshua Roberts spent the summer rehearsing and performing supporting roles in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Gooper) and The Wedding Singer (Glen Guglia) and a lead role in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park (Paul) in rotation at the Summer Repertory Theatre in Santa Rosa, California. He also spent some time by the pool; tried (and failed) to get a decent tan; worked his way through all five seasons of HBO’s The Wire (again); took yoga and Pilates classes for the first time ever; enjoyed Pixar’s Up; traveled to New York City (his former hometown) and saw The Public Theater’s incredible revival of Hair and watched Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly perform Sam Shepard’s True West on an archived recording at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; visited the Harbin Hot Springs; and took third place in a mac-and-cheese cook-off. Next year he will win.
Max Rozenak: “I traveled to Massachusetts and took part in a workshop with Double Edge Theater in Ashfield, MA, then went to New York for a week, came back to SF for a week, and then flew to Baltimore, MD, and spent the rest of my summer teaching at the Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, MD. Over the five weeks of the program, I helped my students create an original piece of theater based on T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men.”
Ashley Wickett: “This past summer I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work on Romeo and Juliet, directed by Jonathan Moscone, at Cal Shakes in Orinda, CA. I played an ensemble member, as well as understudied the role of Juliet. It was great to work with A.C.T. alumni, as well as current students, and to meet several new professionals in the Bay Area. I spent the second half of the summer in Bloomfield Hills, MI—my home town—working and spending time with my family. I can’t wait to get my second year started!”