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Showing posts from January, 2011

Clybourne Park: Behind the Scenes Between the Acts

In Act I of Clybourne Park, the time is 1959 and the place is a charming Chicago bungalow on moving day. In Act II, the time is 2009 and the place is that same bungalow, but you’d hardly know it—the furniture is gone, the windows have been knocked out, and there’s graffiti on the walls. Fifty years of American life and history have passed in the interim. In the theater, though, it’s been 20 minutes.

During the intermission of each performance of Clybourne Park, while theatergoers stretch their legs, use the bathroom, and/or buy drinks, monumental changes take place behind the lowered curtain on the A.C.T. stage. Furniture is removed, rugs rolled up, wallpaper stripped, and wood paneling moved in, all to create the illusion of long-term degradation. The illusion is crucial, and the payoff when the curtain is raised on the second act, priceless. But the transformation itself is fascinating, and something of a show in its own right, so we’ve decided to give you a (literally) behind-the-sc…

Even the Sky Is Not the Limit: The A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program Sky Festival, Part 2

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posted by Dan Rubin, Publications and Literary Associate

Last week, Publications and Literary Associate Dan Rubin introduced us to three of the projects in A.C.T.’s brand-new Sky Festival. During the month of January, an eclectic array of A.C.T. M.F.A. Program students, faculty, and core company actors have been collaborating on passion projects of their choosing, putting together fully realized productions in just two weeks. Midway through the intensive rehearsal process, Dan checks in with three of these extraordinary ventures.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

Day 7 • 10 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.Project:The Wild Goose
Director: Marisa Duchowny (M.F.A. Program Class of 2011)

“I like the messier shirt. The shaggier one,” Marisa tells second-year student Alex Crowther. “I want both men to be in whites and blacks—neutrals—so that she’s the splash of color.” The color comes from first-year Rebekah Brockman’s flamenco skirt, which she’s borrowing from the costume shop. She’s paired it with…

An Actor Reflects: The Intricate Choreography of Colonial Hong Kong

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posted by Anna Ishida, Bay Area actor and Shotgun Players ensemble member 

In December, First Look, A.C.T.’s program for new-play development, hosted celebrated director, choreographer, writer, and multimedia artist Ping Chong for a workshop of Bright Eye of the Moon, a new theater piece commissioned from Chong by A.C.T. A theatrical adaptation of a short story by 20th-century Chinese writer Eileen Chang (also author of the story that inspired the film Lust, Caution), Bright Eye follows Ge Weilong, a teenage schoolgirl in colonial Hong Kong, as she is led by her decadent Aunt Liang into a world of extravagance and vice.

Chong rehearsed his script with a cast of local and out-of-town actors that included A.C.T. core acting company member Jack Willis, Conservatory Director Melissa Smith, and second-year M.F.A. Program student Christina Lorenn Elmore. The cast delved into the intricacies of the script, with Ping revising the text each night based on the day’s work and on discussions with A…

Even the Sky Is Not the Limit: The A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program Sky Festival, Part 1

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posted by Dan Rubin, Publications and Literary Associate 

For most of January, all of our students and faculty are in one place, creatively speaking. This may not seem all that notable (we are a school, after all), but consider: the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program is divided into three years, and each year has its own densely packed, carefully constructed curriculum. Although there is some overlap, for the most part the students in each year take different classes with different teachers, and perform in different shows in different venues. They even have different vacation schedules. And every minute of every day (okay, they’re allowed a few hours to sleep each night) is dedicated to some pedagogical activity intended to make master theater artists out of these young actors, leaving little time for personal creative expression. But this month, the entire A.C.T. faculty and student body are deeply engaged in one theatrical endeavor: the Sky Festival.

The Sky Festival is a logical exte…

The Rings of the City: On Class, Race, and the Urban American Landscape

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Issue-rich plays like Clybourne Park—which deals with such fraught subjects as gentrification, race, and the flimsiness of liberal sentiment—tend to throw the dramaturgy and publications departments at A.C.T. into a gleeful frenzy of research, fact-finding, and heated debate. For the past two months our offices have been littered with maps of Chicago (where Clybourne Park is set), statistics about the racial makeup of the Bay Area, photos of old Chicago bungalows and high-rise housing projects, and YouTube videos showcasing the race-based humor of Dave Chappelle, Dick Gregory, and Richard Pryor (the play is a comedy, after all).

To bring some of that research and debate to our audience, A.C.T. has arranged a new discussion series, Experts Talk Back, during the Clybourne Park run. Five experts in various aspects of urban development will participate in postperformance in-theater conversations about some of the provocative issues raised by the play.

This week, A.C.T. Publications Intern E…

Shades of Laughter

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posted by Beatrice Basso, Dramaturg 

Rehearsal for Bruce Norris’s incendiary comedy Clybourne Park is in full swing at A.C.T., and nervous laughter is already reverberating in the halls. The play, a send-up of white middle-class liberal mores, relies heavily on humor to explore such loaded issues as gentrification, class, and “racial sensitivity,” but, as production dramaturg Beatrice Basso illuminates below, the humor is anything but comforting. As Ben Brantley wrote in his review of last winter’s New York production of Clybourne Park, Norris “sprinkl[es] the theatrical equivalent of itching powder on his characters and on us.” Audiences in New York, Washington, D.C., and London have loved the itch, though, and so does Basso.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate

“Let’s have ‘We are the World’ as the initial song in the play,” jokes Clybourne Park director Jonathan Moscone. In a play that’s all about the persistent conflicts and embarrassments of race relations, a play that’s both a t…

Live from Krakow

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posted by Carly Cioffi, A.C.T. Artistic Associate 

Situated on the banks of the Vistula River in southern Poland, Krakow is one of that country’s, and Eastern Europe’s, cultural centers. Dating from the seventh century, the city wears its history on its opulent sleeve: Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic buildings fill the Old Town; venerable churches and museums abound. With a number of prominent universities, theater companies, and countless festivals, Krakow is an artistic and intellectual haven.

In 2009, San Francisco (another artistic and intellectual haven) and Krakow were named sister cities. Ted Taube, head of Taube Foundation, and Christopher Kerosky, Polish consul in San Francisco, travelled to Krakow on Mayor Gavin Newsom’s behalf to sign an agreement intended to open the road for business, cultural, and civic exchange between the cities. A.C.T.—which already sends two of its M.F.A. Program students to San Miniato, Italy, to train each summer and collaborates with theaters in E…