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Showing posts from October, 2015

A Lens on Small Town America: An Interview with Scenic Designer Ralph Funicello

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By Cecilia Padilla
Despite its title, Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! does not take place in the wild outdoors. Instead, it depicts the home of a tight-knit Connecticut family. Bringing the world of small town America to San Francisco audiences is scenic designer Ralph Funicello, a longtime designer of A.C.T. productions. This will be Funicello’s second time working on Ah, Wilderness! with A.C.T.— he also designed the set in the 1978 production. Then, Funicello’s designs adhered to O’Neill’s textual specifications, exhibiting realistic styles and period-appropriate architecture. This time, he’s approaching the play through a new lens. “O’Neill literally dreamt up Ah, Wilderness!,” he says, “so I want the audience to fall into the dream with him.” 


What research has contributed to your scenic design? I still have some of the books that I bought when researching the 1978 A.C.T. production, one of which is A New England Town in Early Photographs. More recently, my wife was performing in …

Your College Play Will Change the Face of American Theater in These Ten Steps

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by Peter Friedrich

1. Three weeks before opening night, go to your college cafeteria. Eat.

2. Go back to the line and introduce yourself to any staff member. Give your first and last name, and ask for the same from them. Then ask if they like going to plays. If they say no, keep asking others until someone says yes. Let them know you have complimentary Champagne VIP seats for all cafeteria staff, friends, and family. Make sure you have 50 hard copies of tickets in your pocket at all times. They should look and feel exactly like Broadway theater tickets.

3. Go back to the cafeteria every day and build your VIP audience. Get your cast and crew to do the same—ask them at the end of each rehearsal for the names of who they talked to.

4. On your way to the cafeteria each day before opening, be on the lookout for groundskeeping and janitorial staff. Introduce yourself. Ask their name. Pull out tickets.

5. Recruit your server staff. They can be actors not in the show, or students who need ex…

An Interview with Ah, Wilderness! Director Casey Stangl

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By Allie Moss 

Director Casey Stangl returns to A.C.T. to stage Eugene O’Neill’s American classic Ah, Wilderness! She approaches Ah, Wilderness! with a fearlessness toward this play’s particular challenges and an appetite for unearthing truths. “I want there to be a sense of immediacy,” Stangl says. “The characters confront first love, parent-child relationships, and the difficulty of finding love and companionship as they get into their older years. These situations are so universal and are very much with us today.” We spoke to Stangl recently about her directorial vision for A.C.T.’s production of Ah, Wilderness!

O’Neill is generally known for his tragic works, but Ah, Wilderness! is a comedy. How does that inform your understanding of the play? 
I think that the comedy actually derives from the great depth of feeling that is in the play. These characters are real people in real situations with real consequences. But even though the consequences and the circumstances are deep, there…

Growing Up: A Universal Journey

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Coming-of-Age Stories over Time 
By Allie Moss

Coming-of-age stories have been told practically since the start of civilization, but they did not receive a name until 1819, when German university lecturer Karl Morgenstern dubbed them the Bildungsroman. This German word translates literally as “education novel,” but its definition has expanded to encompass the entire coming-of-age genre.

Although coming-of-age stories share some commonalities that transcend their publication dates, they are also intrinsically tied to what “coming of age” meant at the time they were written. Near the turn of the twentieth century (when Ah, Wilderness! is set), life for teenagers was changing, but slowly. Post–Industrial Revolution society enjoyed an increase in leisure time, so children and teenagers had more hours to spend with their friends than in the past—but they were still very integrated into family life. The modern concept of “teenage culture” did not exist.

In the early 1900s, teenagers were ex…