ZHAO BUSINESS: THE ORPHAN DIARIES OF BD WONG FIRST DAY IN THE THEATER - PART 1

Friday, June 13, 2014

ZHAO BUSINESS: THE ORPHAN DIARIES OF BD WONG
FIRST DAY IN THE THEATER (FRIDAY, MAY 30) PART 1
REMEMBERING THE BEGINNING

L to R: JULYANA SOELISTYO and BD WONG
Photo by Julius Ahn
We’ve enjoyed an intense and productive rehearsal process: first, two weeks in the A.C.T. rehearsal spaces on Grant Avenue, with a modified uni-level rehearsal version of our multi-level set designed by Dan Ostling, and then for the better part of the third week rehearsing on the actual scenery in the A.C.T. scene shop in the Mission District. The rehearsal room on Grant Avenue that had a ceiling high enough to accommodate this particular set was recently relinquished due to a rent hike, and of course our director, Artistic Director Carey Perloff, misses that space with great nostalgic frustration—it compromises the comfort of her company, but I have no doubt that she will either get it back or acquire something even better, as she is quite the force of nature.

The actors were surprised when Ms. Perloff moved right from the first read-thru of the play to immediately staging the show, forgoing the traditionally observed process of “table work,” in which detailed discussions about the material are often held before putting anything “on its feet.” When pressed, Carey offered that such discussion could occur once the play was staged (which is turning out to be somewhat true). I find such reassurances crucial to understanding the path that we as actors are going on with the director to manage one’s expectations and plan one’s own personal progress. Just knowing what the director is thinking about how things will unfold is extremely helpful in being able to proceed calmly about how one’s creative needs/questions will be met/answered. I’ve taken it upon myself to act as a casual conduit to the rest of the company and create somewhat of a bridge of communication.

Brian Rivera, Daisuke Tsuji, Cindy Im, Stan Egi,
Orville Mendoza, Marie-France Arcilla, Paolo Montalban,
and Phil Estrera (below)
Photo BD WONG
The acting company of 12 is a wonderfully good-natured and spirited group from many different backgrounds and with a wide range of professional experiences. Four of us—Sab Shimono, Orville Mendoza, Paolo Montalban, and I— worked together on the Broadway revival of Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures in 2004, and I recall quite vividly the unique, strong bond that occurs when Asian-American actors perform together. There is shorthand and a common experience that is undeniable; we all have similar experiences and relationships to show business (for better or for worse) and that really informs our sense of family. Some of us are very fine actors who are Bay Area and/or A.C.T. locals; one, Phil Estrera, is an enthusiastic pup fresh out of A.C.T.’s impressive M.F.A. program (A.C.T. is one of a handful of American regional theaters that is also a school, and both wings of this house are world class). Phil’s commitment and lack of hesitation when approaching any task is emblematic of the A.C.T. spirit. The rest of the company is rounded out with several actors from Los Angeles and New York. Everyone is generally enthusiastic, committed, and what I would call “game” (a quality that really draws me to people). I think there is a general consensus that the play holds tremendous potential, and that the various elements of the production with Carey at the helm are exciting and promising—and not in a “wishful thinking” kind of way, either.

To learn more about A.C.T.'s production of The Orphan of Zhao and to buy tickets visit act-sf.org/orphan.
 
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