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Showing posts from November, 2009

The Reality of Theater

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

One night last month, Thursday, October 17, San Francisco was marking just another night of theater being performed on stages throughout the city and the Bay Area.

On that night the American Conservatory Theater was in an extended run of full houses for the Kneehigh Theatre production of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter. This fusion piece set in England during World War II told us of unfulfilled love and escape in a tumultuous time. Next door at the Curran Theatre, the touring company of Rent, with Anthony Rapp (original Mark) and Adam Pascal (original Roger), was sold out, with a raucous crowd watching the La Bohème story, told through Jonathon Larson’s characters, about poor, HIV/AIDS–infected, starving artists in New York City. They sang of the hope of dying in dignity with others caring about their plight. Across town another sold-out war-themed show was turning away people who wanted to see the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific—anoth…

A Winter Ritual

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posted by Michael Paller, A.C.T. Dramaturg and Director of Humanities
I miss the seasons in San Francisco. Growing up in the Midwest and then living for over two decades in New York City, the seasons were markers of time: a return to either school or work accompanied by falling leaves in autumn; holidays marked by singing and an abundance of lights and genuine good cheer all over the city, followed by what seemed like endless cold and snow in the winter that made arriving at one’s final destination all the more rewarding; warmth and greenery in the spring; hot days and long vacations in the summer. Each season heralded something both new and familiar. You could count on these things; there was comfort in the cyclical nature of the world and in the annual rituals we create to mark them.

As far as I can tell, there are no seasons in San Francisco. People tell me that they exist, but I don’t believe them, unless fog is a season, in which case there’s one. Eight leaves on the ground in f…

Inspired By Turkeys

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posted by Manoel Felciano, A.C.T. Core Acting Company member
When I learned I was going to play "A Representative of the National Association of Turkey and Turkey By-Products Manufacturers," I was a bit baffled at first. Who is this mysterious, bespectacled, mustachioed man with a few anger management issues? In David Mamet's play November, this hapless fellow has earned the great privilege of introducing the president of the United States to the two turkeys that ceremonially get pardoned every Thanksgiving. I imagined this was one of the highest honors that a "Turkey Guy" could get, and he's been preparing for this moment for months, if not years, and can't wait to shake hands and get a picture with the POTUS himself. Unfortunately for our intrepid hero, he can't even get his first words out before he is cut off, and things go rapidly downhill for him throughout the rest of the evening.

So how to find this character? I looked in the dictionary und…

A Unique Collaboration

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posted by Gillian Confair, stage manager of The Soldier’s Tale 
A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Marisa Duchowny performs with the New Music Ensemble of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Four members of the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2011 are in rehearsal for Stravinsky’s groundbreaking theatrical piece The Soldier’s Tale, produced in A.C.T.’s first-ever collaboration with the New Music Ensemble of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. A.C.T. Associate Artist Giles Havergal and New Music Ensemble Artistic Director Nicole Paiement lead the unique joint venture. Stage manager Gillian Confair—who recently completed a year-long internship at A.C.T.—describes the unique experience of working on this unusual multidisciplinary project.

I find myself in the rare and difficult position of having to stage-manage a show that is not, by its basic definition, a show at all. If you were to call this piece anything, perhaps a “concert” would be the word to descri…

Who Wants to Be a Psychoanalyst?

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posted by Linda Lagemann, Ph.D., Wendy Stern, D.M.H., and A.C.T. Group Sales Manager Edward Budworth

The fifth season of the wildly successful Theater on the Couch program at A.C.T. started off running after the performance of Brief Encounter on Friday, September 18. Dr. Linda Lagemann and Dr. Wendy Stern of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis were the panelists. Cast member Joseph Alessi joined in and brought many insights into the characters he portrays.

In this production, boundaries were broken. As cast members appeared in the audience and live characters entered movie scenes, the production created in us the feelings that the two protagonists, Laura and Alec, have as they breach boundaries. Fantasy and reality were also blended—aspects of the play were structured like a dream. The visual images projected on the back wall and the music expressed the unconscious feelings of the characters bubbling up. A perfect vehicle for a lively discussion!

From a psychoanalytic standp…