San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee officially opens A.C.T.'s new performance space - The Costume Shop

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) opened its new performance space, The Costume Shop recently. San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee, who helped usher in the momentous occasion, was surrounded by A.C.T.’s family of artists and supporters as well as representatives from the numerous arts organizations around the Bay Area.

A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee,
and A.C.T. Executive Director Ellen Richard. Photo by Orange Photography.

The new space at 1117 Market Street (at 7th Street) is in the heart of San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood in the space below A.C.T.'s longtime costume shop.

The venue is a 49-seat space dedicated to an eclectic lineup of professional and A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program productions. Solidifying A.C.T.’s presence in the rapidly developing and artistically vibrant Mid-Market neighborhood, the Costume Shop will enable A.C.T. to partner with exciting local artists and performing arts companies, propelling the creation of transformative new work for years to come.

The Costume Shop lobby during the opening celebration. Photo by Orange Photography.

"A.C.T.'s new Costume Shop performance space is a wonderful example of the spirit that has taken hold on Central Market to transform and infuse the area with art, performance, and gathering spaces," said Mayor Ed Lee. "I commend A.C.T. for creatively repurposing this space and creating local jobs, and I look forward to supporting their continued efforts to develop a larger presence on Central Market." A.C.T. General Manager Don-Scott Cooper added: "The launch of the new Costume Shop space has been a huge success for A.C.T. We've wanted for years to have a stronger presence in the Mid-Market neighborhood and to create a storefront theater space that allows us to be a part of that community will pay back in dividends for our artists and conservatory students. We are thrilled to be side by side with all of the amazing arts organizations that call this burgeoning neighborhood their home."

Check out the gallery from the opening night: The Costume Shop Press photos

Lunch with stars Annette Bening and Elizabeth Banks

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Announcing the first-ever A.C.T. Conservatory Awards Luncheon on January 24! Celebrated alumni Annette Bening and Elizabeth Banks are among this year’s recipients. Join us for this star-studded event honoring A.C.T. alumni and donors who provide scholarship support.

Go online at Conservatory Awards Luncheon for details and ticket information.

'A Christmas Carol' signals festive season - get your tickets now

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Omoze preparing for her stint as The Ghost of Christmas Present for A Christmas Carol. Photo by Randy Taradash.

Ban the humbugs and get into the festive season with the timeless production 'A Christmas Carol'. Sparkling lights on trees, cheerful music in department stores, love this time of year or not, Christmas is fast approaching and A.C.T. is playing its part to usher in the holiday season with A Christmas Carol. The inimitable Ghost of Christmas Present, A.C.T. core acting company member and M.F.A. Program alumna Omozé Idehenre, is getting ready to take Scrooge on the ride of his life. Recently she served as emcee for the grand opening ceremonies in the Safeway Ice Rink at Union Square. Here she welcomes the enthusiastic crowd to the ice rink.

Check out the buzz and get your tickets now: here.

Too Much Transparency?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

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

Did you know that A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff has been blogging for the Huffington Post about issues pertaining to the national theater scene? She recently wrote about the controversy surrounding Arena Stage’s decision not to allow journalists and the general public into their new plays forum, asking some interesting questions about what it means for artists and arts administrators to be transparent about their processes.

You can read her latest post here.

Race, Gender, Jury Selection, and David Mamet

Monday, November 7, 2011

Posted by David Newdorf, Business Litigator for Newdorf Legal

Effective lawyers understand the limits of juror fairness and their ability to put aside preconceived notions. David Mamet’s play Race, which I saw this week in San Francisco, is a perceptive look at how trial lawyers navigate the unspoken value systems of juries. The play unfolds in a law firm conference room as three criminal defense lawyers brainstorm how to defend their wealthy, white client against charges that he raped a young black woman.

Juries are generally good at deciding simple facts: whether a light was red or green, whether a promise was made or broken, whether a statement was misleading. Other cases have hidden landmines for the lawyers. Cases involving issues of race, religion, gender, power, or wealth are traps for the unwary. White cops versus black suspect. White male executive versus young female subordinate. Corporate manager versus Muslim employee. In such cases, the jury deliberations can easily get away from the evidence, arguments, and law—unless the lawyers provide an easy guide through the thicket.

When it comes to hot-button issues, jurors will bring to the deliberations not only their preconceived notions, but also an awareness of societal norms. For example, white jurors agree that racism is bad and may be persuaded to render a verdict that avoids tagging the juror as a racist. Most of these issues won’t be addressed directly at trial and may not even be discussed in the jury room. But these notions—some deeply ingrained even if never spoken aloud—will have an effect on the verdict that may be more profound than what transpired in the courtroom.

Lawyers can use these preconceptions to advantage or attempt to counter them. However, they ignore the hot-button issues at their peril. In an era in which a black man is president, some like to think society has transcended racism. In the words of jury consultant Doug Keene (from his blog The Jury Room):
The bottom line is this: do not assume race doesn’t matter in your case. Race always matters. The question is how and in what direction. Don’t go to trial without knowing.
In his book White Guilt, author Shelby Steele (who is a friend of David Mamet) provides an interesting explanation of the O.J. Simpson verdict that is on point:
In the O.J. Simpson murder trial, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran used the fact that Detective Mark Fuhrman lied on the witness stand about having ever used the N word to assert that the entire mountain of evidence pointing to Simpson’s guilt was likely contaminated with racism. . . .
Cochran succeeded in making the trial a contest between the empirical evidence and global racism, between fact and the reputation of racism for distorting and manipulating fact.
As the cynical senior lawyer of the play explains, it’s not about factual guilt or innocence. It’s about competing fictions put forth by the prosecution and defense. It’s not necessarily which story explains the facts better, but which one affirms a juror’s sense of justice. Hence, a jury exonerated O.J. Simpson (despite the forensic evidence linking him to the crime) because 50 years ago, a black man facing similar charges would have been convicted. Rough justice was done.

Race is smart and engaging. It tackles issues of race and gender bias without being preachy. And it has the pacing of a good legal thriller. Lawyers in the audience will appreciate the realism. It may not qualify for CLE credit, but it’s time well spent for students of jury behavior and trial strategy.

Photo by Shoey Sindel.

"Why Theater?": A Look into Theater of War

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

posted by Tyler Pugliese, A.C.T. Marketing Fellow

A poignant examination of the impact of war upon warriors, Theater of War has riveted audiences across the country. On November 13 and 14, A.C.T. will participate in this incredible event, which includes a dramatic reading of Sophocles’ tragedy Ajax, followed by a town hall discussion featuring a panel of local military community members, including a mental health professional. Admission is free, and reservations are recommended. Click here for details.

Marketing Fellow Tyler Pugliese had the opportunity to attend a Theater of War performance in Philadelphia before he started work at A.C.T.

“Why theater?” The question echoed in my mind. I wondered how theater could sincerely display the horror and depravation of war. What could theater accomplish that countless other mediums have not? Theater is often illuminated with human connection, while war is fueled by a lack of emotion and inner turmoil. I have participated in theater and have been obsessed with military history since I was a small boy, yet this combination perplexed me. I looked at the scratchy, chaotic font of the flyer. Theater of War stared back at my skepticism.

I first saw Theater of War performed in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I walked into the auditorium not knowing what to expect from a reading of a play and a town hall discussion. The play was Ajax, by Sophocles, a Greek tale of the decade-long Trojan War, in which the formidable warrior Ajax faces mental and physical challenges. The audience consisted of veterans, theater enthusiasts, families of soldiers, and dissenters of the current wars. David Strathairn (an Academy Award nominee who will step onto the A.C.T. mainstage in Scorched later this season) masterfully played the parts of Ajax and Agamemnon, and he was supported by other actors from local playhouses. The reading was voiced in a multitude of experienced and powerful vocalizations.

Bryan Doerries, a writer and director who founded Theater of War, led the postshow discussion, enthusiastically pacing the stage like a televangelist. He was as fervent as he was eloquent, and he carefully facilitated an enlightening dialogue between the panelists and the audience. There were opinions contributed from military personnel, the actors themselves, and engaged audience members. The talk was not about the justification of existing conflicts, but rather about the mental vulnerability of those who fight wars. We focused on the shared empathy between a community and its protectors. Although most of us were strangers, we all shared compassion for those with splintered honor and forgotten strength.

One line in particular resonated with me, spoken by Ajax:

“In his madness he took pleasure in the evil that possessed him, all the while afflicting those of us nearby. But now that the fever has broken, all of his pleasure has turned to pain, and we are still afflicted, just as before.”

This discussion could just have easily happened after any struggle, and in any place. The fact that the play was written over two thousand years ago held little sway. If anything, it demonstrated that a warrior’s suffering transcends both time and culture and must be acknowledged before it can be healed. The dialogue could have even transpired in an ancient amphitheater in Greece.

I am enormously proud and excited that A.C.T. is producing this event and bringing it to the Bay Area. The beauty of Theater of War is that it deftly ignores any moral debate on conflict and instead focuses on the combatants and their humanity. It is more than just a dramatic reading or a talk on a tense subject, it is the social embrace of a topic that has always been ingrained in society. It is shocking and cathartic, a perfect exhibit of the power of theater to transform a person, a warrior, and a community.

Interview with Christina Lorenn Elmore

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This fall, the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program classes of 2012 and 2013 are facing an entirely new challenge: taking on roles in two plays that will be performed in repertory October 19–November 5 at Hastings Studio Theater. This means they have been simultaneously rehearsing roles for two very different productions: Aphra Behn’s rollicking 17th-century comedy The Rover; or The Banish’d Cavaliers and Arthur Miller’s haunting Depression-era saga The American Clock: A Vaudeville. You can find more information about the shows at

Conservatory Project Manager Sharon Rietkerk recently sat down with Christina Lorenn Elmore, member of the M.F.A. Program class of 2012, to chat about her experiences performing double duty.

Christina Lorenn Elmore (right) and Courtney Thomas rehearse The Rover. Photo by Dan Rubin.

Sharon: What was your initial reaction to doing two plays at once?

Christina: My initial reaction was, “Great! Let’s do it!” True repertory theater is not done at a lot of theaters anymore . . . except at some summer stock companies. I thought, if I am not going to have a lot of opportunity to do this in the professional world, why not try it now?!

S: Or you get thrown into it without any previous experience . . .

C: Exactly. Or I am in three shows at once and have no idea how to juggle all the balls.

S: How do you juggle the balls?

C: You know, I find that you need to be in the room that you are in at the time. I feel that when I am rehearsing The Rover, I am in The Rover, and whether things from The American Clock are informing that or not, you choose to be in the room that you are currently rehearsing. It’s the same thing if you’re rehearsing one show: on this night I am here, and it just so happens that on the next night I am in a completely different show. But if I decide to not let them bleed and leak into one another, it’s better.

S: Do you find that these two shows do inform each other? I mean, they are completely different styles, two totally different time periods. [The American Clock is set in the Great Depression; The Rover, in the 17th century.]

C: I think because they are so vastly different there isn’t anything that I am conscious of, except for maybe the way we use the space [in A.C.T.’s Hastings Studio Theater]. That’s the same, working with a very deep thrust.

S: It is a very particular space.

C: Yes! Being on an angle is the best . . . and being okay with having your back to someone. Even though that is a rule we never break, you have to say, “Okay, here it’s fine.” Otherwise, I am not sure that there are things from the shows that are deeply informing anything else.

S: How many characters are you creating/portraying at this moment?

C: Four and half.

S: And a half?!

C: I am a lounge singer at one point [in The American Clock], so I figure since I don’t say anything, that is a half. I have three [speaking] characters in The American Clock and one character in The Rover.

S: You’re pulling a pretty heavy load in The Rover, right?

C: Yeah, but it is very much an ensemble-based show. My character spins a lot of things on her head, but it’s not like I am onstage all the time. . . Everybody has a lot in that show. I feel like Matt [Bradley, another member of the class of 2012] is pulling a heavy load in both shows. I wonder how he is doing . . . [Laughter.] In Clock, I come in during the last three scenes. All of my characters enter back-to-back-to-back, so that is a strange and unique thing for me.

S: So, you wait and wait and wait and then go, go, go! until the end.

C: Yep, I sing my song, and then wait, and then never leave the stage at the end.

S: And you’re balancing it okay?

C: Yeah, it’s fine. It’s fun, I like both plays. They’re very different, and not just the show, but the style: the way they’re being directed is dramatically different. Manoel [Felciano, who directs The American Clock] and Nancy [Benjamin, who directs The Rover] are unique and both great, in their own ways.

S: What is the most interesting and/or unexpected thing you’ve learned thus far in the process? You still have, what, two more weeks until opening?

C: A week of rehearsal and then a week of tech. But that is deceptive, because you really only have one week per show. You think, “Oh, we have two weeks per show,” but no, you don’t! You take a night off from one of the pieces every other night!

I think the most interesting thing is . . . I just had no idea how they got down in the Restoration [when The Rover is set].

S: [Laughter.]

C: You think we live in a “sex, sex, sex” culture? The Rover is chock full of innuendo, and not just innuendo, but blatant innuendo. I mean, the show is about people trying to get laid. What I do like about my character, Hellena, is that she is a lot of talk—she does want it—but she has clear parameters about the way she wants it, which are surprisingly traditional.

Christina Lorenn Elmore and Raymond Castelán rehearse a scene in The American Clock. Photo by Dan Rubin.

A.C.T.'s Secret Cabaret Space

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Did you know that the majestic American Conservatory Theater also houses intimate cabaret performances throughout the season? Tucked away on the fifth floor, the Garret is a vibrant performance space, artfully bordered by exposed brick walls and dotted with colorful posters of past A.C.T. productions.

Last weekend, the Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2012 took over the Garret to present three performances of their lively cabaret (with a tongue-and-cheek title), The Sublime and The Ridiculous, created by director Craig Slaight and music director Robert Rutt.

Below are some photos of the third-year class, all dressed up and performing their hearts out as they delivered an eclectic mix of songs, from Jackson Browne to Stephen Sondheim.

If you missed this performance, don’t despair—A.C.T.’s cabaret season is just beginning! Next up: Young Conservatory students bring their talents to the Garret right before Halloween for a cabaret performance October 28–30. Check back on our performances page for details.

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Jason Frank

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Christina Lorenn Elmore

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Matt Bradley

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Jessica Kitchens

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Maggie Rastetter

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Alexander Crowther

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Courtney Thomas

A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Ben Kahre

All photos by Alessandra Mello.

A Summer of Firsts in the A.C.T. Young Conservatory

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

posted by Craig Slaight, Young Conservatory Director

School may have been out all summer for many, but here at the A.C.T. Young Conservatory (YC), the joint was jumpin’! The summer of 2011 was one of the most exciting in years. It all began in June with the opening of Homefront, the first-ever completely original musical to be commissioned, developed, and produced by the YC. After years of developing our musical theater program and creating new musicals from existing music, the YC commissioned a new musical score from New York composer Creighton Irons. After a year working together (with me on board as playwright), Homefront was born this summer, featuring a cast of 19 (including two members of the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program).

Within a week of Homefront’s opening at Zeum Theater, our four-week session of YC classes began at 30 Grant Avenue, filling the studios with eager and talented young actors, many of whom can only study with us during the summer because of the distance they live from San Francisco or because of the rigors of their school-year schedules. We love our summer students because they are so focused on their acting work, making it their singular daily effort.

While our exciting four-week classes got underway, rehearsals began for a new production of Korczak’s Children, Jeffrey Hatchers’s harrowing play about real-life pediatrician Janus Korczak, who championed the care and nurturing of the orphans in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The 26-member cast ranged in age from 8 to 18 and also featured two of our M.F.A. Program students as Dr. Korczak and his steadfast helper, Steffa. This astonishing production, directed by the incomparable Domenique Lozano, enjoyed a completely sold-out run.

Without taking a breath, in mid-July we began our fast and furious two-week and one-week YC intensives. These series of courses bring acting and musical theater students together for a full day, five days a week, for either a one- or two-week journey, culminating in the presentation of a unique project created by each group. The building swelled to bursting as we saw our largest group of students ever take part in these intensives at one time.

And as if that wasn’t enough drama, in August we produced the very first Shakespeare ever in the YC! Director/adapter Amelia Stewart led a remarkable group of middle school actors in a magical rendering of one of the Bard’s most winning plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

All told, more than 60 young actors appeared onstage this summer in A.C.T. productions and more than 500 young actors attended classes. It was truly one of our most dazzling summers ever in the YC.

Now on to fall!

The cast of Korczak’s Children at Hastings Studio Theater. Photo by Alessandra Mello.

Tosca 2.0

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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

Cocreated by Carey Perloff and Val Caniparoli, A.C.T.’s world premiere production of
The Tosca Project played to sold-out houses in 2010. Now it’s on its way to a second life at Theatre Calgary in Canada, where it was been renamed Tosca Cafe. Performances begin September 13 at Theatre Calgary, followed by an engagement at Vancouver Playhouse in October.

Now busily working with Caniparoli to remount and reimagine the show for its Canadian run, Perloff took a quick break to share her thoughts on the show’s journey.

It is a gift to be able to revisit a production a year after its premiere—and amazing the clarity that can emerge after some time away. Val Caniparoli and I have been collaborating on The Tosca Project for over four years. It began as an experiment to see what would happen if we put five ballet dancers and five actors in a room and tried to create something together, and culminated with a world premiere on the A.C.T. mainstage in spring 2010. Over the years, the artists involved in the project became deeply entwined in each other’s work and lives, and all of us began to develop a vocabulary for storytelling that was neither ballet nor theater, but something in between.

Now we are at it again, in Calgary, Alberta, creating the next version of what is now called Tosca Cafe. The challenge of this production has always been what structure to hang the journey on: the piece has always been full of gorgeous dance (like the lovers’ wartime duet to Rosemary Clooney singing “What’ll I Do?”) and hilarious comic moments (like the Businessman, played by über-clown Peter Anderson falling in love with Sabina Allemann’s wacky Ballerina), but the narrative tissue initially eluded us. The first public showing of the piece (a workshop at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2009) involved a huge amount of audio “oral history” as we let bar doyenne Jeanette Etheridge (proprietor of the real-life Tosca Cafe, which inspired the piece) and other North Beach denizens tell the story of their neighborhood on tape. While the research and audio material were hugely invaluable, its use onstage ultimately felt theatrically inert, like a PBS documentary rather than a theater piece. The inspiration for the next version was the opera Tosca itself (we began using the arias as key emotional storytelling points) and an extraordinary San Francisco Museum of Modern Art show of the work of William Kentridge, whose gorgeous videos of a heavyset middle- aged mute man (Kentridge himself) longing for the “ghost” of a woman whose footsteps and fingerprints kept haunting him, became the inspiration for a story about a Bartender and his lost love, the Woman in the Red Dress.

It was this story, which ended with a moving “broom duet” between the Bartender and his love set to Puccini’s “Vissi d’Arte,” that the audience was most gripped by as we traveled through the decades of dance and discovery that was The Tosca Project in 2010. But his companions, a black fugitive played by Gregory Wallace and a Russian woman played by Rachel Ticotin, were still oblique. We had tried to stay as true as possible to the actual life of Tosca bar owner Etheridge, but since she only bought the bar in the late ’70s, we were stuck with what to do with earlier decades of the piece, and how to set up a complex relationship between our three central characters that would pay off at the end.

So when Dennis Garnhum, artistic director of Theatre Calgary, came to Tosca’s opening night, fell in love with the project, and invited us to bring it to Canada, we had a fabulous opportunity to free ourselves from literal history and make up a new storyline in which an audience could really immerse themselves. Since Rachel had booked a TV series in the interim, I invited actress Annie Purcell, with whom I had done Elektra at the Getty Villa last summer, to take on the role of the woman who took over the bar. Based on Annie’s own physicality, I borrowed from Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid to create a story about a scrappy young vagrant who, dressed as a boy, flees into the bar and is given sanctuary by the Bartender. The Kid becomes his pal, his helpmate, his mascot—and then gets dragged off by Social Services and returns in an emotional reunion as a young woman ten years later. She learns to be a girl during the war by dancing with the War Brides (“Kiss Me Once”) and comes of age in the ’50s dancing the Madison with the Musician and the hipsters. She breaks with the Bartender over a violent, intoxicated argument about her own independence, and only returns to the bar after the ’60s, when he has spiraled into alcoholism and despair (“Tre Sbirri” from Tosca scores this dramatic section). Thus, when she takes over the bar with the Musician and makes it her own, we have already had a long history with this character—the cap she wore as a street kid hangs over the bar beside the photograph of the Bartender’s mysterious love, and becomes a touchstone for all the lost souls who find their way to Tosca Cafe.

The new cast of Tosca Cafe in rehearsal at Theatre Calgary.

Annie Purcell is an astonishingly inventive, imaginative actress who is completely at home in the world of “devised” work: she dares to walk into a room with no text and no structure and creates magic. We have paired her with a remarkable Canadian named Dean Paul Gibson (replacing Bartender Jack Willis, who is in Ashland at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this summer), whom I had first seen in The Overcoat and who has worked many times with Peter Anderson, one of our key collaborators on Tosca Cafe. So every day for a week in Calgary, Val and I have turned up at rehearsal with our wild eclectic company of Americans and Canadians, dancers and actors, first-timers and long-time collaborators, to peel away the layers and deepen the story of this piece. Replacing beloved SF Ballet dancers Lorena Feijoo and Pascal Molat are two equally compelling but very different Canadians, Cindy Marie Small and Rex Harrington, who are bringing their own unique sensibilities to the dances Val has created. Favorite sections like the “rave” surrounding a dramatic reading of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “I Am Waiting” or the visceral “Agression Duet” danced to Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” have taken on entirely new weight and meaning in the context of the new story about the trio of misfits (Bartender, Musician, Orphan) who struggle to make this bar a home.

It is a surreal experience to walk to rehearsals through the streets of this Canadian oil town and then enter a room set up exactly like the bar we know and love on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco. And it’s an incredible joy to be able to trust the material that we know really works, while feeling free to create whole new sections that stitch it all together. It’s a very free and alive room, in which ideas are ricocheting across the space like wildfire and a lot of crazy images are being pursued with joy and abandon. We hope the story we are telling is rich and sexy and universal enough to appeal to people who have never set foot in our foggy town, but who know what it feels like to walk into a bar full of longing, and to imagine . . .

The Leap: Diving into the New School Year

Monday, August 29, 2011

posted by Rebekah Brockman, member of the A.C.T. M.F.A. Program class of 2013

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would ever see Conservatory Director Melissa Smith sprawled out under a white blanket in a dirty alleyway, or Head of Voice Jeff Crockett lying motionless on a street grate outside a loading dock at Macy’s.

No, I am not describing the results of a fatal accident, but one of the products of this year’s “Leap,” an artistic immersion to kick off the 2011–12 year. For two days the A.C.T. community—including artistic staff, faculty, and M.F.A. students—gathered together for this creative powwow.

By far, the Leap is one of the most unconventional ways to “get to know each other” without any of the typical name-games and awkward introductions. Our mornings started off with group warm-ups and workshops designed to take us out of our element. We explored alternative ways to approach the work, which no one was sure of, but all were willing to investigate. Then, in the afternoon, we were charged with the task of performing a story with very few guidelines. It may sound simple; however, given that we had limited resources and time, there were challenges. Questions arose, and the collaboration began:

“How do we tell the story?”
“What theme do we highlight?”
“How do we cast it?”
“What space do we use?”
“Oh, NO! We only have 30 minutes left to do this! GO!”

The group I was part of took our piece to a nearby alley, where we suddenly became children again. We played in the street, used props and fake blood, and fully committed to the story we were telling. It was through this commitment to the work that we formed our bond. The connection didn’t end with each other; security guards, workers, and passersby were curious about our project as well. We brought the art out into the community, and the community took interest. We had an audience! I came to realize that when you have a group of artists who are hungry for the work, they find a way to tell the story and, somehow, everything falls into place.

The process became rich by being open with each other. Each person had an idea and was free to voice it. Everyone took risks, and it became less about what we were doing, and more about how we were doing it. There was no right or wrong, no leaders and followers. We were all peers, teaching each other and learning from each other. Don’t get me wrong, it was not always magical, and there were creative differences and roadblocks. (There was even a race between two groups, to see who could get to the ninth floor and claim it as their space . . . quite intense). But by confronting the challenges together, and always with a sense of play, we were able to build the trust that is crucial for the start of the year.

The end result was incredibly inspirational. Each day we were challenged to be innovative, and the process generated a massive amount of imagination and resourcefulness. The Leap was demanding and posed many questions about how to approach the work. Lucky for us, this was just the beginning, and we now have all year to continue the exploration!

A.C.T. Costume Shop: Mid-Market’s Hidden Secret

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Did you know that the A.C.T. Costume Shop is located smack in the heart of the mid-Market neighborhood? It might not look like much from the outside, but our warehouse at 7th and Market streets holds more than 20,000 costumes (and counting) and is an amazing resource for local theater companies, arts students, and anyone searching for a fantastic Halloween costume.

The San Francisco Arts Commission recently created a video that includes a peek inside the costume-lined walls of this A.C.T. treasure, along with a fascinating interview with Callie Floor, A.C.T.’s diligent (and very friendly) costume rentals supervisor.

Watch the video, then visit the Costume Shop’s online gallery to check out our incredible array of sartorial finery.

Overheard at Rehearsal, 2010–11 Season

Monday, July 11, 2011

Posted by Emily Hoffman, Publications and Dramaturgy Associate

Every day after rehearsal is over and the actors have gone home, the stage manager types up a summary of the day’s work. Containing general information about the production’s progress, as well as notes and updates for the design team, the rehearsal reports are divided into categories (costumes, lights, sound, props, etc.) and presented as a list of updates and requests for each design department.

These reports provide glimpses into the production’s evolution—and into the (occasionally) wacky and wild goings-on in the studios. Many times they’ll contain requests that, to anyone not intimately involved in the creation of the production, can seem both puzzling and entertaining. Looking back, it is fascinating to see where the seeds of some our favorite onstage moments were planted in rehearsal. Here are just some of the interesting (and chuckle-inducing) notes from the 2010–11 season.


1. As usual, a few pieces of the magic branch have fallen off in rehearsal. It will need to be spruced up.

2. The pill-popping scene will require some edibles onstage.

3. The “meat pie” served in Act I (if eaten) must be vegan. Tofurky might be a good substitute.

4. ADD: a “Sheep” magazine with a centerfold (not seen by audience currently) for Touchstone in Act II, iv.

5. Thanks to Jane for looking at the sandwich. She put some weight in it and it only rolled a little bit tonight.

6. Please ADD a pitchpipe. The Halloween band needs to be able to get their note prior to playing their kazoos!

7. The C4s are falling off of the suicide bomb. Can we re-glue these back on?

8. Please see separate email about shampoo bottle research.

9. Thank you for the new blindfold—we are finding that it is a bit short this year (or perhaps our heads are bigger?) May we please have a longer one? Last year’s length was 49”.

10. Mr. Willis would like to experiment with white rubbery insects this year for Marley rather than black worms. Perhaps white worms or white maggots? We would love to try something for rehearsal.

11. Do we have two pairs of goggles we could use for a whip practice session?

12. We are ADDING: Bubba teeth and six Renaissance swords.

13. We have had a lot of smoking sessions and have decided that we would like to smoke oregano joints as well as oregano in the bongs.

14. ADD: a small blanket, rat puppet, water puppet, alligator.

(L to R) Courtney Thomas, Jessica Kitchens, and Alex Crowther don’t appear to concerned with the re-glued “suicide bomb” in the M.F.A. Program class of 2012 production of Archangels Don’t Play Pinball.


1. Joey and Ruth have sofa business that works very well with our smooth leather rehearsal sofa. They slide, scoot, and eventually roll off it. Will the fabric on the real sofa support this type of action?

2. Orlando will be dragged across the floor during the wrestling. Will the floor be sanded and sealed?

3. Would it be possible to get a taller stripper pole?

(L to R) Duke Frederick (Brian Clark Jansen) watches on as Charles the wrestler (Richardson Jones) drags Orlando (Max Rosenak) across the floor in the M.F.A. Program class of 2011 production of As You Like It.


1. Ms. Monteleone’s quick change into a St. Bernard is approximately 74 seconds.

2. Solyony and Tusenbach will grow mustaches.

3. We would like Mr. Walden to be in flats or “kitten” heels for II,25 [Ride ‘em Hard] to better match the height of the other hookers.

4. The body cast quick change will be an interesting challenge.

5. Is it possible for Mr. Cusick to gracefully remove his wings during the “Homosexual Convalescent Center” number?

6. Please ADD a sombrero codpiece.

7. Mr. Fusco will remove his overalls for the wedding.

8. The fake beard for Kulygin should look like a German teacher.

9. Thanks for the wings!

Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone has successfully made her 74-second quick change into a St. Bernard in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.

Notes on the Craft: An Excerpt from Marco Barricelli’s 2011 A.C.T. M.F.A. Program Commencement Address

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Posted by Marco Barricelli, Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz and former A.C.T. Core Company member

Let me begin by saying how tremendously honored and pleased I am to be here today to honor you. Thank you Melissa, Conservatory faculty, trustees, and Carey. I am especially pleased, not for myself, but for you, the graduates of this fine theater academy.

I am not saying I am or ever was a great actor, but this is what I now know after 30 years of doing this:

Acting, great acting, allows feelings of vulnerability to inform everything you will do onstage. I hereby require you, as actors, to not cover up or deny those feelings when you work—they are grist for the mill of your craft. And, certainly in terms of the craft of acting, this makes perfect sense because if you try to act starting from a place of “cover” and “denial” of what you really are in that moment, you will be starting from someplace false and then pretending to be something else—which is also, ultimately, not real. If you start from someplace real, what is then produced will have its foundation in honesty and truth. As actors, tell the truth. You can only be you, so be truthful about yourself. Stanislavsky said: “The person you are is a thousand times more interesting than the best actor you could ever hope to be.”

Stay humble: Always search for what to respect in those you work with. When I audition actors, I check on their resume for theaters that have had the actor back for more than one production. This usually means the actor is respectful of others when he/she is working. In the spirit of that, I would argue that we actors are “interpreters,” most of the time, not “creators.” Interpreters. We interpret the words of the playwright, the notes of a director, the reaction of an audience, etc. I say this to urge you to retain some humility, remembering where an actor’s place is in the grand scheme of creating a production. Yes, it is ultimately an exalted place because it is the most direct connection for the audience to the material, but it is still, to my mind, an interpretative role. Remember, yours is only one cog in the complicated wheel that makes a production—an “interpretive” cog. However, as Oscar Wilde said: “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

Keep training: How we “practice” our discipline is, truth be told, very different from the practicing of other art forms. Actors, unlike writers, painters, dancers, singers, and musicians, cannot and do not lock themselves away in a room alone and “act” . . . as these other artists can when they write, or do scales, or barre work at a mirror, or paint. We “practice” in everyday life. We are collaborators. We are “armchair” psychologists. We observe and analyze ourselves and other people in everyday activity, in extreme emotion and in repose. We work at play . . . we do “plays,” after all; our task is to have fun, to free ourselves, to let our instincts have full reign . . . never to judge. Never, ever to judge—neither ourselves nor the characters nor the people we’re working with. Does that sound easy? It’s not. It takes a very special and controlled kind of concentration. And a disciplined concentration is difficult to master. The discipline to free oneself physically and intellectually, and to “live” in the moment spontaneously, is an enormous challenge. As you all know.

Career. What can I possibly tell you about a career? How to be successful? No. As I say, success means different things to different people at different times. No one can tell you how to be successful. Your measure of success will ebb and flow, that you can be sure of—there’ll be times when everything will seem to be going great and other times when everything seems to be disastrous. Be nice to everyone because you never know who will eventually end up in a position to hire you. But more precisely, it’s as important to be a good citizen as it is to be a good actor.

As I said, your definition of success or a career will change as you grow in this business. Speaking for myself, by the time I started to understand why I tortured myself every time I worked on a role, it was too late. That torture had diminished my appetite for acting exclusively as a career and I began longing for something more consistent and permanent which would keep me entrenched in the theater but not require the endless banging away at the same show eight times a week, over and over again, for the rest—of—my—life. And so now I find myself here, 30 years on, having acted some great roles, succeeding in some—failing in others—some shows I would consider outstanding productions—others were turds. Now, as AD, my challenges are different and, thankfully, more rewarding to me. I have to say that with all the curtain calls and (deserved or not) standing ovations and big laughs and muffled sobbing I’ve experienced when acting, there is NOTHING more rewarding than what has now become my favorite part of doing theater: standing in the back of a full house, watching an audience watch a play I’ve produced, and realizing that they’re having this very singular experience because I’ve brought this story and these particular artists to them—and they will remember this experience for the rest of their lives. I still, for example, consider my greatest legacy at A.C.T. to be, not the roles I’ve done, but the creation of the exchange I developed with Prima del Teatro, San Miniato, in Italy. I am certain that each student who goes there will remember that experience for the rest of his or her creative life. There is now, at this point in my career, no greater joy than things like that. And this reward has a quiet sweetness that feels better to me than the big Broadway shows, the jobs on the big and small screens, and (almost) better than making a ton of money (but not really)!

The best advice I think I can give you regarding building a career is to just show up. Whatever the occasion, just show up. But what you show up with now, thanks to this training program, is a vocabulary, a recognition of your own integrity, a burgeoning understanding of your own aesthetic, and a basic skill set which will be informed and honed by the hard knocks and great joys of real life. Life, real life, will take over, like it or not. And Melissa and the wonderful faculty at A.C.T. have given you a technique and craft that will allow those great highs and lows of life to inform your work, thereby making your acting more human and, by extension, more relevant. Allowing you to tell the truth.


• You can’t please everyone.
• Don’t expect praise and especially don’t believe anything anyone tells you in your dressing room right after a performance.
• How you start a play is more important than how you finish, because it is then that an audience makes up its mind about you.
• Don’t try to impress people.
• Never explain, simply reveal.
• You can’t worry and think. So do your homework and show up enormously prepared—that way you don’t have to “worry” about not having done it while you’re trying to work.
• The first duty of an actor is to be heard.
• Vowels travel easily, consonants don’t. Vowels carry the heart, consonants the intellect.
• Do your homework; as I said, show up exceptionally well prepared; then, as you start your scene, let it all go and simply open the door and see what happens.
• Always show up every day in a good mood.

“Do not try to push your way through to the front ranks of your profession; do not run after distinctions and rewards; but do your utmost to find an entry into the world of beauty.”
—Konstantin Stanislavisky

Building a City: a behind-the-scenes look at the construction of the Tales of the City set

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

“You can’t escape the beauty of San Francisco,” says Tales scenic designer Douglas W. Schmidt, in a recent interview in Words on Plays. “As a designer, it really infects you. You keep saying, ‘Oh, that vista, we’ve got to have that.’ By the time you’re done with that, you’ve got a whole picture-postcard collection that you’re trying to put onstage. Very early on, we decided that we didn’t want to go that route.”

Instead of trying to pack all of San Francisco into his set, Schmidt drew inspiration from the iconic back staircases of Russian Hill to create a moving, shifting environment where the musical’s mysteries could slowly unfold. The Endup, Halcyon Ad Agency, and of course 28 Barbary Lane: all of these locales are created with quick changes to the same central structure. Check out the video below to see it built from the ground up.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate.

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Patrick Lane

Friday, June 10, 2011

Meet recent M.F.A. Program graduate Patrick Lane, who plays Brian Hawkins. Click here to read his official bio.

Thanks for joining us as we got to know more about the incredible cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical over the last few weeks. Check back next week for more behind-the-scenes tidbits from the show!

NAME Patrick Lane.

CHARACTER Brian Hawkins.

HOMETOWN Louisville, Kentucky.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Well, my father was a preacher and my mother directed the children's choirs, so my first experience performing was as one of the lions in Noah's ark. I suppose constantly performing in church, coupled with my middle-child syndrome, left me completely defenseless against the alluring theater.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE My favorite experience would have to be when I played Horace Robedaux in a college production of 1918. It was my first experience delving into the deeply complex family relationships that are so common in plays by Horton Foote and Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard. It also calls to mind a kind of interesting phenomenon that many actors go through when they find “their playwright” or their “style,” so to speak. Being from Kentucky, and coming from a long tradition of deep rural roots and close family bonds, made it easy and very fulfilling to play Horace. In a way, I suppose coming into contact with that material taught me a lot about who I am and the traditions I come from.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES I actually didn't know much about Tales until I heard A.C.T. was doing it. Being the obnoxiously over-prepared grad student that I am, I immediately went out and got the book and couldn't put it down. I was shocked that I had never encountered it before, and from that moment on I was searching for a possible avenue into this process.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE BRIAN HAWKINS? Brian is a man's man who seems driven by some kind of energy—sometimes sexual—that he cannot control. I grew up playing sports, so I guess that classifies me as a "jock"—and that, paired with the fact that I drink beer and watch football, probably moves me into the man's man category. Like Brian, I've always been very driven by my passions, but I suppose what I hope to bring to the role is an energy that isn't just cro-magnon in its need to satisfy innate desires, but also genuine in the pursuit of digging deeper and discovering what's underneath the strong, cad-like facade.

FAVORITE MUSICAL Always a tough choice, but if I had to choose I think it would have to be Sondheim's A Little Night Music.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING “It's Hard to Speak My Heart” from Parade by Jason Robert Brown.

EDUCATION B.F.A. in theater performance from the University of Evansville; M.F.A. in acting from A.C.T.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Arrive to the theater an hour before curtain, hot tea, warm-up in the Garrett, head up to the stage.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Not one thing I own is ’70s. I know . . . blasphemous.

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Alex Hsu

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Meet Alex Hsu, who plays Lionel. Click here to read his official bio.

Check back tomorrow to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Alex Hsu.


HOMETOWN Born in Taipei, Taiwan; grew up in Hayward and Fremont, California.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE My mom took me to see a production of Promises, Promises! at the college where she worked, and I remember being absolutely mesmerized by Turkey Lurkey Time. I can probably trace many aspects of my personality to that experience, such as my love of musical theater, my affinity for mid-century design and fashion, and my appreciation of go-go dancing.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Seeing Les Misérables on Broadway in 1996. I basically wept for three hours. It was absolutely transcendent and spiritual.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Watching the TV miniseries on DVD many years ago.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE LIONEL? We are both second-generation Bay Area Chinese. Well, I imagine that Lionel is second-generation. And I did spend one summer in college delivering frozen yogurt to office ladies who would call me “Yogurt Boy.”

FAVORITE MUSICAL A Chorus Line. A close second would be Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (for personal reasons, of course).

FAVORITE SONG TO SING Right now, it is “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” from the musical Avenue Q.

EDUCATION B.A. in linguistics and anthropology from UCLA. Dance training at Dance Arts Center in San Carlos.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: putting on makeup. Fewer and fewer men seem to wear stage makeup in professional theater, especially when the production is in a realistic style. But I still do it because to me it is part of the transformation into my character. I don’t feel completely present until I go through that. Post: EAT!

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM I owned a pair of rainbow “Mork from Ork” suspenders as a kid. LOVED them. Also any pair of tight bell-bottoms that make my ass look good!

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Manoel Felciano

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meet A.C.T. core acting company member Manoel Felciano, who plays Norman Neal Williams. Click here to read his official bio.

Check back tomorrow to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Manoel Felciano.

CHARACTER Norman Neal Williams.

HOMETOWN San Francisco.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Playing Micaela’s gypsy guide in the San Francisco Opera production of Carmen with Placido Domingo.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Playing George in Sunday in the Park with George.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Being cast in the production.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE NORMAN? Hopefully very little! Though I’ve been known to rock the clip-on tie.

FAVORITE MUSICAL Ooh, tough one . . . right now, Floyd Collins.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING “Use Me,” by Bill Withers.

EDUCATION B.A., Yale University; M.F.A., NYU; and lots of informal teachers along the way.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: vocal, physical warm-ups. Post-: walk the bat-pig, aka our dog.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Probably a giant corduroy goose down–lined winter coat from my dad.

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Mary Birdsong

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meet Mary Birdsong, who plays Mona Ramsey. Click here to read her official bio.

Check back tomorrow to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Mary Birdsong.

CHARACTER Mona Ramsey.

HOMETOWN Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Doing “the bump” while dressed as a turkey leg in a Thanksgiving recital in grade school because Mia Michenzi chickened out.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Accidentally peeing onstage during the tech for my last solo show. I’d love to say I was five years old at the time. I wasn’t.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Being asked to do a cold reading at 10 a.m. at [director] Jason Moore’s house two years ago on my one day off, and saying no because I thought it was for a musical version of A Tale of Two Cities. I hate Dickens. Okay, I don’t really hate Dickens. But still . . . the idea of doing anything involving bonnets just did not appeal to me at the time. Sleep appealed to me.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE MONA? I’m all bark and no bite—a real softie. But hell if I’ll let you see that just so you can use it against me later. ☺

FAVORITE MUSICAL This one. Godspell is a close second.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING In this show: “Seeds and Stems.” Other than that? Probably “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen, or any gut-bucket gospel-type stuff.

EDUCATION It’s overrated. Okay, for reals? Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School. Long Beach Island Grade School. Southern Regional Middle School and Southern Regional High School. Then NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where I got to study with the great Stella Adler. And Gotham City Improv for sketch comedy and improv.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: big cup of hot tea with lots of skim milk and two Sweet’N Lows. One chocolate mint Zone protein bar. Lots of quiet time to get focused. I also try to walk a good distance or run before the show, to get everything moving. Post-: I use my long walk home to sort of act like a martini—to calm me down and help me go to sleep.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Bell-bottom pants are awesome, especially for chicks like me with big booties—they’re very flattering. Big platform heels are also awesome, because I’m short. Oh, and I love those handkerchief shirts. I think that’s what they were called.

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Diane J. Findlay

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Meet Diane J. Findlay, who plays Mother Mucca. Click here to read her official bio.

Check back next week to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Diane J. Findlay.

CHARACTER Mother Mucca.

HOMETOWN Suffern, New York. It’s about 25 miles north of New York City, up the Hudson River.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Hello, Dolly! on Broadway.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE That’s a hard one. There’s been soooooo many. You see, I love what I do and each project brings along something exciting and interesting and new; something to take home with me and remember, hopefully with laughter.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES My first audition for Tales of the City was a wonder. At first I thought perhaps I shouldn’t go to the audition because I felt our director Jason Moore would never buy me as Mother Mucca, and I knew I’d be disappointed, but my agent talked me into it. So I decided to go for broke and have myself a ball, which I did, and look what happened! The entire creative team was wonderful and they made me feel as if couldn’t fail. I felt safe, and that’s rare at an audition. My second audition was even better, because by then I really knew “Ride ’em Hard,” the dirtiest song in show business, and I couldn’t wait to dazzle them with my take on the song. And apparently I did. Lucky me!

HOW ARE YOU LIKE MOTHER MUCCA? Well, Mother Mucca runs a whorehouse, sooo how much am I like my character??? I’m afraid to think. However, and this is true, my apartment in New York, on the Upper West Side, was once a whorehouse for the 79th Street Boat Basin. Isn’t that funny!

FAVORITE MUSICAL A Little Night Music, Mame, The Spitfire Grill, Dear World. I could go on and on and on.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING “If He Walked into My Life.”

EDUCATION High school and then right into the business. I couldn’t wait to step foot on a stage. I’m HOPELESS but HAPPY.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL I start to settle down around 4:00 in the afternoon. Have a bite to eat around 5:00, take a little snooze, exercise, vocalize, and get to the theater an hour before curtain. This has been my routine from day one, and it has always worked for me.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Who can remember?!!! I pass on that one.

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Andrew Samonsky

Friday, May 27, 2011

Meet Andrew Samonsky, who plays Beauchamp Day. Click here to read his official bio.

Check back next week to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Andrew Samonsky.

CHARACTER Beauchamp Day.

HOMETOWN Ventura, California.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE My earliest theater memories are when my parents would take me to see musicals at PCPA Theaterfest’s outdoor theater in Solvang, California. Great memories.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE In Verona, Italy, I got to see Rigoletto in an ancient 35,000-seat coliseum. I can only compare it to a Yankees game. It was the grandest production I’ve ever witnessed, and the voices were unbelievable. Those Italians love their opera.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Honestly, the first time I heard of Tales of the City was when I got an audition for this production. Now, I constantly see Armistead Maupin’s books everywhere!

HOW ARE YOU LIKE BEAUCHAMP? We’ve both lived in San Francisco. That’s all I’ll admit to with Beauchamp Day.


FAVORITE SONG TO SING In the car? Anything on the Stranger album by Billy Joel.

EDUCATION B.A. in music from Cal State Northridge. M.F.A. in acting from UC Irvine.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: a cup of coffee before the show (lots of cream and sugar). Post-: a big bowl of cereal when I get home (currently Frosted Mini-Wheats).

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Do wide collars count?

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Meet Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, who plays DeDe Halcyon-Day. Click here to read her official bio.

Check back tomorrow to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone.


HOMETOWN Portland, Oregon.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Best Christmas Pageant Ever in sixth grade.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Coming home to Portland with the national tour of Legally Blonde. I loved performing for my hometown.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Reading the script for the audition.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE DEDE? I’m married :) and I would also eat donuts at a low point.

FAVORITE MUSICAL Not a musical, but I love August: Osage County.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING Anything country. Country music always makes it seem like its sunny outside.

EDUCATION B.A. in acting with a minor in musical theater from Marymount Manhattan College.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: work out and steam (pretty normal). Post-: depends on the night!

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM I have a bracelet I got at a shop in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I always think, “I would have worn this to Studio 54.”

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Richard Poe

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Meet Richard Poe, who plays Edgar Halcyon. Click here to read his official bio.

Check back tomorrow to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Richard Poe.

CHARACTER Edgar Halcyon.

HOMETOWN Pittsburg, California.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Playing Scrooge in the eighth grade (magnificent!).

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Hard to choose. Journey’s End on Broadway: nine guys in a dark World War I dugout talking for two and a half hours, and everyone dies . . . then winning every available award in New York, including the Easter bonnet competition. 1776 on Broadway: more guys, more talking, more light, same result. Cyrano de Bergerac at A.C.T. in 1973, playing Second Musician/Third Cadet, being a novice in the middle of all that wonderfulness. There’s more. Just ask me.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES I lived in San Francisco until about 1977 (graduated from the University of San Francisco [USF] and started acting at A.C.T.). I had never read the books until this show came up. What a walk down memory lane! I had no money then and was always scrambling for odd jobs, but what a city! It’s really exciting and a little unnerving to come back for a while—like I’ll see my old self passing in the street.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE EDGAR? Though I’m told in the business that I have a patrician quality, I’m pretty far from the manor born. But I like to think I can fake it when need be, and Edgar knows he’s been faking it when he realizes his number’s up and that he’s denied himself so much. I have lots of me that would like to bust loose in new ways. I just hope I don’t suffer Edgar’s plight before I do it.

FAVORITE MUSICAL Sweeney Todd; 1776; The Drowsy Chaperone.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING Whatever’s in my head driving me crazy at the time: “My One and Only Love”; “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)”; “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

EDUCATION B.A. from USF; M.A. candidate at UC Davis. Some acting gurus: Erich Morris, Milton Katselas, Lee Strasberg.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: stretch, vocal warm-up, speaking the entire first scene aloud (don’t ask me why—it’s a habit of 15 years that I can’t break for superstitious reasons). Post-: whatcha got?

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Having witnessed the ’70s, I once owned a pair of shimmering blue velveteen pants. Hell in the rain.

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Josh Breckenridge

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meet Josh Breckenridge, who plays Jon Fielding. Click here to read his official bio.

Check back tomorrow to meet another member of the cast of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City: A New Musical!

NAME Joshua Breckenridge.

CHARACTER Jon Fielding.

HOMETOWN Fallbrook, California.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at Circle Bar B Ranch Theatre in Santa Barbara, California . . . at age 14!

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE The Scottsboro Boys. From our very first reading to our closing night on Broadway . . . what a journey!

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Being cast in the original workshop at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE JON? I’m very focused and career driven, much like Jon . . . oh yeah, and I’m a hopeless romantic.


FAVORITE SONG TO SING “On the Wings of Love” (I sang it for my Tales of the City audition).

EDUCATION B.F.A. in musical theater at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: gym. Post-: food!


Touchstone the Teacher

posted by Anthony Fusco, A.C.T. core acting company member 

As You Like It, currently running at Zeum Theater, offers a rare opportunity to see A.C.T.’s core acting company members sharing the stage with the students of our M.F.A. program. The veteran professionals in our company have served as teachers and advisors to the students throughout their three years of training at A.C.T., and it is a fitting rite of passage for these master apprentices to share the stage with their mentors in their last A.C.T. production before graduating. The transition from teacher to colleague is always complicated, sometimes explosive, and often humbling. A.C.T. core company member Anthony Fusco reflects on the process below.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

So here I am playing Touchstone in As You Like It, with a cast made up mostly of the beautiful and talented members of A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program class of 2011. Having taught these young actors on and off over the last three years, it’s a real pleasure to experience them putting their training to use as they—and I—wrestle with Shakespeare’s deceptively simple-seeming comedy.

As their teacher, I would of course step in and offer advice, criticism, and corrections whenever I wanted to. And I’m afraid I found myself in the early stages of rehearsal being a little too directorial in my new role as colleague and scene partner. More than I would with more seasoned cast mates, I barreled ahead with my own ideas, cavalierly expecting everyone to just follow along.

Which they did.

For a while.

Then little by little I began to notice signs of push-back. Polite, friendly, gentle push-back. But push-back nonetheless.

I asked one cast mate to bring a prop to me when he entered. He replied, “My character wouldn’t do that.” I tried a new piece of staging out with another, certain that it was a vast improvement. She didn’t like it.

Recovering from my own sense of affronted superiority, I realized that they were both right. But, more importantly, I realized that I was in a larger sense wrong. I am no longer their teacher. I am their colleague.

And sometimes their student. Just yesterday, I was onstage with one of them in a two-person scene. I was blathering away, thinking about my timing, my inflections, my gestures, my my my . . . and the young actor opposite me just looked at me. Present, accepting, available, “in the moment”—all those things I try to teach them to be, and all of which I was managing to forget about.

Brought me up short. Reconnected me to the world of the play. The scene went better than ever.

Thus men may grow wiser every day.

A.C.T. core acting company member Anthony Fusco (left) as Touchstone and A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Richardson Jones as Corin. Photo by Alessandra Mello.
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