Showing posts from 2010

Tiny Tim & Co.

This week, A.C.T. Artistic Fellow Jonathan Carpenter tracked down Christine Plowright, the “performance monitor” (a.k.a. kid wrangler extraordinaire) for A Christmas Carol, to get the inside scoop on life backstage with the brood of young actors that grace the A.C.T. stage each December.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

One of the most exciting things about A.C.T.’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is that it gives us a chance to feature actors from our Young Conservatory on the mainstage. This year, the cast includes 19 young actors, ages 8 to 13, playing almost 50 roles. The kids are incredibly cute, and they provide some of the show’s most memorable moments. While they more than hold their own with the Master of Fine Arts Program and professional actors with whom they share the stage, they’re still kids, and when the full cast of 40 actors is assembled, a little chaos seems inevitable. That’s where Christine Plowright comes in. As the performance monitor for A Christmas …

“You’ve Got to Solve That”

An Interview with A.C.T. Conservatory Director and Head of Acting Melissa Smith 

To begin one’s life as a first-year acting student in the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program is to cultivate the virtue of patience. These young actors, some of whom have already performed professionally, spend their first three months in class, returning to the basics through improvisational exercises and scene study, before they get a chance to work on a play at the end of their first semester. And it’s not until the second semester that they get to perform in front of a public audience.

This week, the class of 2013 will present their work on their first play—a condensed version of American playwright and performer Deb Margolin’s Bringing the Fishermen Home— for an intimate audience of friends and family. Performances are open only to the A.C.T. community, an effort to create something of a protective cocoon in which the students can safely explore and take creative risks while testing their newly reinve…

“I Have an Orchestra!”

A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program Students Discuss Every Good Boy Deserves Favour 

Tom Stoppard and André Previn’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour premiered in London as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s 1977 Silver Jubilee. Stoppard’s political play about government repression of free speech isn’t exactly jubilant, but it does have a certain majesty. EGBDF (the title is a mnemonic device for remembering the notes of the treble clef on a musical staff) calls for an onstage orchestra that is an integral participant in the performance; the original production featured Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, John Wood, and the entire London Symphony Orchestra.

The play’s protagonist, Alexander Ivanov, has published allegations that the Soviet government imprisons its political enemies in mental hospitals; for this, he is “diagnosed” with paranoid delusions and sent to a mental hospital himself. His cellmate, also named Alexander Ivanov, is genuinely ill; he thinks he has his own orchestra, in which he is the trian…

Scrooge on Ice

The holiday season starts early at A.C.T.; we began rehearsing our annual production of A Christmas Carol at the beginning of November. As a sponsor of the Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square, we’re sharing our anticipatory cheer with the city. Below, Scrooge (A.C.T. Associate Artist Anthony Fusco) announces the opening of the rink on Wednesday, November 10. He’s joined by dignitaries, figure skaters, and . . . Mr. Peanut?
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

Photos by Randy Taradash

"The Secret of the Sweets": An Interview with Marcus's Richard Prioleau

Third-year A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program actor Richard Prioleau is a busy man: he’s in rehearsals for A Christmas Carol and going to class in A.C.T.’s studios each day, while playing the title role in Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet on the mainstage each night. Still, last week he found time to sit down with A.C.T. Dramaturgy Fellow Zachary Moull—who worked as assistant director on Marcus—over lunch (salad and noodles) to talk about the urgency of Marcus, the joys and challenges of acting in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, and the musical proclivities of its cast.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

Your lunch looks very healthy. Do you have any routines or strategies for keeping your energy up?
No, I just have to remember to drink lots of water. I stopped going to the gym regularly because of the time constraints. But Marcus is 16, and he shouldn’t look like a football player, anyway. I do have preshow rituals: get there an hour before curtain, make sure I shower and warm up, and…

An Actor Reflects: Living the Brother/Sister Cycle

posted by Jared McNeill, cast member of Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet

Jared McNeill’s role in Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet may not be huge, but his onstage presence is enormous. As Terrell, the obnoxious-but (in McNeill’s hands)-loveable dude who follows Osha and Shaunta Iyun around in the first act, McNeill has the audience in stitches, especially with his bit about white chicks in horror films. This is not McNeill’s first time charming audiences in a Tarell Alvin McCraney drama. In fact, he has appeared in all three of the Brother/Sister Plays. After playing Oshoosi Size in City Theatre’s production of The Brothers Size in Pittsburgh, PA, and Elegba in In the Red and Brown Water at Marin Theatre Company (MTC), McNeill has the unique perspective of having lived and breathed McCraney’s entire cycle. Below, he describes that experience for us.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

The Brothers Size was my first show coming out of Fordham University, and it came after a good deal of ki…

Marcus: The Poster, The Process

posted by Amelia Nardinelli, Senior Graphic Designer at A.C.T.

You may not have seen A.C.T.’s production of Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet yet, but odds are that you’ve noticed a certain mysterious, enigmatic image following you around town. In your newspaper, on BART, or in a shop window, a young black man with an otherworldly glow about him and a heart-shaped explosion of water over his chest stares back at you. His eyes are full of something. Maybe his gaze unsettles you. The man is Richard Prioleau, member of the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2011 and star of Marcus, and the poster design is by Amelia Nardinelli, senior graphic designer at A.C.T. The poster has such an iconic presence it takes a moment to remember that it was created by a particular person. But created it was, and below Nardinelli lets us into the world of her process.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

Mythical. Gritty. Sexual. Urban. Southern Gothic. Lyrical. Wet. Humor. Katrina. Raw. Louisiana b…

Imagining Despair

Last month, students in the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program classes of 2011 and 2012 took a dramatic step that would intimidate even the most experienced of actors: they publicly performed Chekhov. In The Three Sisters, Chekhov’s masterpiece about missed opportunities and dreams stifled by stagnation, the Prozorov sisters fervently dream of returning to the Moscow of their youth but somehow cannot manage to walk away from their small village and lives they cannot but see as dreadfully prosaic. Three Sisters director Marco Barricelli, former member of A.C.T.’s core acting company (he played Vershinin in Carey Perloff’s 2003 production) and currently artistic director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, took on the challenge of helping these aspiring young actors—in their second and third years of A.C.T.’s three-year training program, respectively—tackle Chekhov’s iconic turn-of-the-20th-century tale of midlife misery. Below are excerpts from a conversation with Barricelli that took place jus…

A Wild Ride with the YC

posted by Naomi Kunstler, A.C.T. Young Conservatory student 

A.C.T. Young Conservatory students are sharp. We’d heard it from everyone: YC Director Craig Slaight; Karen Hartman, author of Wild Kate (a new play commissioned by the A.C.T. M.F.A. Program and YC); the M.F.A. Program students who’ve worked with them on conservatory coproductions and in A Christmas Carol. So when we knew they were in the building rehearsing Wild Kate, we didn’t want to miss the chance to let them weigh in on young actor training and the dark hilarity of Wild Kate’s nautical adventures. Naomi Kunstler, a junior at Convent of the Sacred Heart high school, pulls us into the nitty gritty of rehearsal as only a true actor could.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

The first day of rehearsal I’m sitting in my chair during our line-through and I can barely stay in my seat I am so excited. The room is packed with the cast, crew, playwright, director, lighting designer, sound designer, choreographer, etc., and I am…

A New Audience for Marcus

posted by Zachary Moull, A.C.T. Dramaturgy Intern

A.C.T.’s dramaturgy intern, Zach Moull, one fourth of A.C.T.’s blog quadrumvirate, has been doing double-duty, serving as the assistant director for Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet in addition to his literary duties. He’s been privy to some of the amazing outreach events that a play like Marcus can facilitate, including a recent presentation to at-risk teens. Enjoy his description of the day, and check out the photos by former A.C.T. Marketing Intern Timothy Faust below!
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

A couple of weekends ago, the cast of Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet welcomed an audience into the rehearsal room for the first time since the production's opening rehearsal, when we welcomed a group of LGBT teens to an early read-through of the play.

Four weeks into the rehearsal process, the play was up on its feet and on its way to the stage. But Marcus is filled with moments that call for the actors to connect directly with t…

Let's Go Giants!!

And welcome home! What better way to celebrate Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet day (as today was proclaimed by the Mayor’s office), than a citywide parade! Here are some photos of the festivities from the roof of our administrative offices/school. Unfortunately, it does not quite catch the uproarious hurrahing or the continuous horn blowing, but still . . .

Marcus opens tonight, and we’re all in quite the festive mood!

An Understudy’s Dream

posted by Richardson Jones, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2011

If you were at the October 2 matinee of Scapin, then you were lucky enough to catch third-year M.F.A. Program student Richardson (aka Rob) Jones performing in the role of Sylvestre, Bill Irwin’s lovable sidekick. If you didn’t catch him: Rob is tall as anything, rail thin, with a deep baritone voice and a killer deadpan. We were dying to know what it was like for an understudy to finally get onstage—and next to Bill Irwin (intern crush!)—so we tracked Rob down and he told us: it was awesome.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

When I heard that Bill Irwin would be casting M.F.A. students in his production of Scapin, I wanted so badly to be a part of it. I’ve loved his work since I was a child and knew that if I could get in the room with him it would be the greatest professional and learning experience of my life. I couldn’t have been more right.

During my first year in the M.F.A. Program, Bill Irwin did a r…

Summer Reminiscences

posted by Carey Perloff, A.C.T. Artistic Director

A.C.T.’s artistic director, Carey Perloff, had the most incredible summer. We are wildly jealous of her, but she was extremely generous in sharing these juicy tidbits from her journeys. A.C.T.’s season may be well underway, but we just couldn’t pass up the chance to share them with you now. Gives an intern something to dream about! And plenty to think about . . .
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

It was an incredibly peripatetic and mind-opening summer that took me from the TCG National Conference in Chicago to the Aspen Ideas Festival on top of Aspen Mountain to The Cape Cod Theatre Project in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and finally to the Getty Villa in Malibu, where I directed a major production of Sophocles’ Elektra. At the same time, we were preparing for the arrival of our new executive director, Ellen Richard, at A.C.T. and continuing discussions about the future of our facilities. Needless to say, a whole host of ideas swirled …

Interns in the House!

posted by Emily, Jonathan, Zach, and Christine—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

It’s fall in San Francisco, the 2010–11 season is steaming ahead, and it’s back-to-blog time for us here at A.C.T. So much is happening that we want to share with you; the building is packed with artists darting in and out of rehearsal rooms, and we want to grab each one of them, plop them down at a computer and say, “Write! People are listening!”

But who is this “we”? Who are the new helmsmen of the A.C.T. blog—the voracious chasers of information, actors, directors, free pastries? Enter the interns: Emily Hoffman, Jonathan Carpenter, Zach Moull, Christine Miller—publications, artistic, dramaturgy, marketing.

This intern quadrumvirate will be your eyes and ears backstage at A.C.T. The people we meet! The things we see! You’ll get it all, and without having to do any of the photocopying or coffee-fetching (just kidding—A.C.T.ers get their own coffee).

Each week, we’ll bring you the voice of someone fro…