Meet Rebekah Brockman, who plays Thomasina Coverly in Arcadia

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Name: Rebekah Brockman
Role: Thomasina Coverly

Rebekah Brockman
Arcadia runs through June 16.
Learn more about the production and order tickets.
What are your preshow/postshow rituals?
Preshow: I never step foot onstage without a splash of my mum's perfume (it reminds me of home), but this show I am wearing a perfume Allegra Edwards [who plays Chloƫ Coverly] gave me since it is our last show together.
Postshow: A nice cold drink . . . lately it has been a Black & Tan.

What is your favorite thing about San Francisco?
When I am able to go home and watch the sun set and hear the fog horns from the ships coming in.

If you could live during a different cultural period, what period would it be and why?
I think I would choose sometime in the distant future. I am curious to see what is built upon the foundation we are creating today.

What was your favorite discovery during the rehearsal process for Arcadia?
Honestly, my favorite discoveries come from being with the audience. Each audience is unique and the beauty of live theater is that we are all in the moments together and communicating with each other. They are just as much a part of the storytelling as the actors.

Rebekah Brockman (Thomasina Coverly) and Jack Cutmore-Scott (Septimus Hodge) in A.C.T.’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, directed by Carey Perloff. Photo by Kevin Berne.
What is the most difficult aspect of speaking with an accent? Do you use any fun tricks?
Jack Cutmore-Scott [who plays Septimus Hodge] is a blessing to have as a scene partner because I can go to him when I have a question about a sound, and he comes to me with words that stand out to his ear.

What is your favorite part of working on a Stoppard play?
By far it is the passion in each character and how that passion manifests in each character.

Meet Gretchen Egolf, who plays Hannah Jarvis in Arcadia, and learn her tips for speaking with a British accent

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Name: Gretchen Egolf
Role: Hannah Jarvis

Gretchen Egolf
Arcadia runs through June 16.
Learn more about the production and order tickets.
What are your preshow/postshow rituals? 
I warm up, have a cup of tea, and brush my teeth. And when possible, I really like to stand where I can hear the audience and listen to them a bit before the show. Or even peep out and look at them when possible! It helps me identify more specifically who I'm doing this for and who will be sharing in this with me.

What is your favorite thing about San Francisco? 
I don't know yet! Now that the show has opened I'll actually get to see more of it. So far my favorite thing is this theater.
If you could live during a different cultural period, what period would it be and why?
In the Western world, I think the turn of the (last) century was a fascinating time. In psychology, society, art . . . huge changes.
What was your favorite discovery  during the rehearsal process for Arcadia?
My favorite discovery has been in the previews, actually, when I realized that people really do understand everything in the play. So much of the play went over my head before I researched it. But thankfully A.C.T. audiences are much smarter than me.
Adam O’Byrne (Valentine Coverly), and Gretchen Egolf (Hannah Jarvis) in A.C.T.’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, directed by Carey Perloff. Photo by Kevin Berne.
What is the most difficult aspect of speaking with an accent? Do you use any fun tricks?
The most difficult aspect of speaking with an accent is that it's something you have to think about instead of totally focusing on the other bits of acting. BUT it also provides important insight into and help with unlocking the character. And once you get it down, hopefully you won't have to think about it anymore anyway.

Helpful tips for the British accent: Everything is more forward in the mouth than it is in American speech. So this is a good exercise: "A Hottentot tot taught a Hottentot tot to talk ere the tot could totter. Ought the Hottentot tot be taught to say aught? Or what ought to be taught her?" It makes you have fish lips, which is what you're going for.

What is your favorite part of working on a Stoppard play?
All the new things we get to learn about. And there are some good laughs, so that always feels nice!

Successfully Letting the Weird Out: An Interview with Downtown High School Student Joseph Givens

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Posted by Selena Chau, Web Development Fellow

Joseph Givens graduates from Downtown High School at the end of May.
Since the fall of 2011, as part of its ACTsmart arts education programs, A.C.T. has hosted an intensive Downtown Continuation High School (DHS), a project-based learning school that serves San Francisco youth who have not experienced success in conventional public schools. Participants in DHS’s Acting for Critical Thought project attend weekly acting classes in A.C.T.’s studios, are encouraged to attend all A.C.T. mainstage and conservatory productions, and write their own original monologues and short plays, which they perform in exhibitions for their school and families in A.C.T.’s Hastings Studio Theater each December and May. (This spring’s exhibition—entitled Borderline Freedom—will take place on Thursday, May 23.) The Mission-based 826 Valencia literacy initiative provides tutors to guide students in their writing and last June published their dramatic work in the anthology Arrive, Breathe, and Be Still.
year-long residency program with

Over the past year, 19-year-old Joseph Givens has been a dedicated student in the Acting for Critical Thought project, extending his theatrical classroom training into weekends and summers by also taking courses in A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory. He has experienced incredible growth and success in his theatrical ventures. One of his monologues (“Big Problems in Small Packages”) won a literary award last spring; it was published, along with one of his short plays, in Arrive, Breathe, and Be Still. He performed his original monologue “Kids These Days” on The Geary stage for a special event this past January; more recently he was honored with a Dramatic Scripts Literary Award at the SFUSD 2013 Arts Festival.

Through A.C.T.’s educational programs, Givens has received instruction in acting and writing, but it is his unique perspective on the world and his wealth of natural talent that fuels his work. Recently I interviewed Givens and learned about his love for the dramatic craft.

Gender Portraits and New Opportunities: An Interview with Cloud 9 Director Mark Rucker

Monday, May 13, 2013

Posted by Adrian Gebhart, A.C.T. Education Department Volunteer

Glenn Stott, Elyse Price, and Lisa Kitchens wait on the set of #Cloud9 while lights are focused on them at tech rehearsal.

Don’t miss A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program production of Cloud 9! (Limited run, May 15–18, in Hastings Studio Theater)
Since joining the company in 2009, A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker has directed productions of Maple and Vine, Higher, Once in a Lifetime, and Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet. He has also tackled several Master of Fine Arts Program productions, including last season’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this past winter’s raucous The Wild Party in The Costume Shop. He has also worked with such Bay Area companies as the Magic, Cal Shakes, Berkeley Rep, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and SF Playhouse. He is an associate artist at South Coast Rep, where he has directed more than 20 productions, and other regional credits include work at Yale Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage, Intiman Theatre, and The Old Globe.

Rucker recently sat down with us to talk about directing the M.F.A. Program production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9, playing in Hastings Studio Theater May 15–18.

Why did you decide to direct Cloud 9?
I’ve always admired the play. I’m curious about the issues of gender and sexuality that are in it: Why is Betty played by a man in the first act? How is that different from a man playing a little girl in the second act? It’s asking all these questions about cross dressing, gender in general, and, specifically, the gender portrait of 1880 and then 1980. I think what Churchill’s getting at is that as fluid as things are in 1980, in terms of feminism and sexuality, there are still issues. Like Edward wanting to be in a traditional same-sex relationship, and his partner not. Those become new issues.

Are there any other particular themes you’ll be focusing on in your production?
There’s a thread in the play that has to do with British politics and colonialism. The first act is set in colonial Africa, and so as members of a British family, these characters have basically invaded. There’s a lot of subtle references to all the people that they’ve had to murder to be there—to conquer. There’s also an ongoing sense that the natives are starting to come and fight them. And in the second act, there’s a bit about Ireland.

How do you address the gender issues Cloud 9 explores?
I’m going to start by asking the man to really play a woman—and not in a campy way. I think there’s a lot going on with Betty. I want to be able to go on her journey, and by asking a man to play her, there’s an opportunity for us to think about her in a new way. Edward being played by a woman is also a chance to bring femininity and masculinity into question with a little boy who is struggling with the sex role that he’s being assigned. He keeps wanting to play with a doll and the family keeps taking it away from him.

For me, this is a play about finding yourself. So I’m really moved by Betty in the second act, who has left her husband behind. That’s of course the primary image of the play at the very end, and it’s very beautiful to me.

Ladies from Hell

Posted by Dan Rubin, Publications Manager

Advancing in skirmish order against the enemy

Black Watch performs at the Armory Community Center
through June 16.
“Dan: My favorite sobriquet for the Black Watch is ‘Ladies from Hell;’ so named by the Germans in WWI, when they would come charging out of their trenches, bagpipes blaring. Assume it’s true . . . ,” A.C.T. Library Cataloger Roy Ortopan wrote me in a note after reading Words on Plays. In my research, I had not come across that name applied to the Black Watch, but, sure enough, in his autobiographical account of the Great War entitled “Ladies from Hell” R. Doublas Pinkerton (who fought with the London Scottish Regiment) writes a beautifully haunting passage about the tragic advance of the Black Watch—or “‘Ladies from Hell,’ as the Germans call the Scottishers.”—in May 1915.

Playwright August Wilson on Seven Guitars

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

August Wilson. Photo by David Cooper.

Don’t miss A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program production of Seven Guitars, which performs a limited run May 16–19 in Hastings Studio Theater.
In Sister Mary Eldephonse's seventh grade class, history was at the top of my list of favorite subjects. I was intrigued merely by the record of events that had happened prior to 1957, as it would be years later before I would come to understand that the events had meanings that were connected and played out on a larger playing field of politics and culture.

In my reading of history, seldom if ever was the black experience in American given any historical weight, any meaning or purpose beyond that provided by a culture and politic that had enslaved and still in 1957 refused to accept the equality of its black citizens. As a black American artist, I have sought in all my work to restore the experience to a primary role, to create in essence a world in which the black American is the spiritual center, thus giving the events of history a different perspective. It is one thing to be the owner of a plantation, and another to be a slave. Both have equally valid perspectives. Both share the same physical space, and in the irreversible sweep of history, the same intertwining of national will and purpose, yet there can be no doubt that they lived very different lives.

Despite my interest in history, I have always been more concerned with culture, and while my plays have an overall historical feel, their settings are fictions, and they are peopled with invented characters whose personal histories fit within the historical context in which they live.

I have tried to extract some measure of truth from their lives as they struggle to remain whole in the face of so many things that threaten to pull them asunder. I am not a historian. I happen to think that the content of my mother's life—her myths, her superstitions, her prayers, the contents of her pantry, the smell of her kitchen, the song that escaped from her sometimes parched lips, her thoughtful repose and pregnant laughter—are all worthy of art.

Hence, Seven Guitars.

The Accents in Black Watch

Posted by Cait Robinson, Publications Fellow

Black Watch performs at the Armory Community Center now through June 16.
Scottish accents are among the most difficult for American English speakers to understand and imitate—even Apple’s famous Siri application is unable to make out Scottish users. Scottish dialects are heavily influenced by Gaelic, Norse, Scots (a Germanic language still spoken in parts of the Scottish Lowlands and Ulster, Ireland), Old English, and German and are divided into five regional subsets.

Most Scots pronounce consonants just as speakers of standard British or American English do. Exceptions are r, which is rolled, and ch, which, at the end of a syllable, takes on a guttural German sound, as in “loch.” This guttural sound also surfaces in words like “daughter” or “night.” As in spoken American English, Scottish English often drops the final g on verbs: walkin’ instead of “walking.” Adjectives ending in “ed” are pronounced with an “it,” as in spottit (“spotted”).

The real trouble begins with glottal stops, the trademark speech pattern of the Scottish. A non-vocal sound made by obstructing airflow in the back of the throat, the glottal stop is also common in American English: it is often used in place of a crisply articulated t in the middle of a word. (Say the words “curtain” or “important” quickly, and you will automatically make a glottal stop.) Scottish people, however, use glottal stops where Americans do not. A glottal stop can replace a k or p that is surrounded by vowels, as in “taken” (ta’en) or “paper” (pa’er). In many cases, it also replaces consonants at the end of a sentence when they are preceded by a vowel, as in “root” (roo’) or “call” (ca’).

Scottish English also interprets vowels differently from American and standard British English—with few consistent rules. For example, the words “bone” and “stone” are pronounced been and steen in eastern Angus, but become bane and stane an hour’s drive south. The Scottish also do not distinguish between oo (as in “pool” and “fool”) and u (as in “pull” and “full”): they are homophones with regional variations.

Watch the video for an overview of a basic Scottish accent and try it out for yourself:

A special Student Matinee at A.C.T.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Posted by Liana Winternitz, Marketing Fellow

Bessie Carmichael Elementary School students 
perform three original songs before a student matinee performance of Stuck Elevator.
A.C.T.’s final mainstage Student Matinee (SMAT) performance of the 2012–13 season was on Stuck Elevator, the world premiere musical inspired by the true story of a Chinese immigrant trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours.
Thursday, April 18. On that sunny afternoon, 857 students and their teachers made their way to A.C.T.’s Geary Theater to see a performance of

A.C.T.’s SMAT Program began in 1968 and has since welcomed over half a million students from schools all over California. In a single season, A.C.T. hosts approximately 15 SMATs for mainstage and conservatory shows (depending on the appropriateness of the show and placement in the school year), exposing around 7,000 students to the wonders of theater, many for the first time. Recent popular Conservatory SMAT performances include Tartuffe and The Odyssey, performed by our Master of Fine Arts Program students.
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