Showing posts from December, 2016

Commedia Class at A.C.T.

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

It’s 9:30 a.m., a cold December morning, and in one of A.C.T.'s 8th floor studios at 30 Grant, the second-year Master of Fine Arts Program actors are preparing to show off what they’ve learned in this semester’s Physical Theater class. The Commedia dell’arte masks are lined up on the table. The actors check their props. Upbeat music blares from the speakers. And seated in the front row are two dozen M.F.A. Program actors.

As the second years don the visages of old men, young lovers, and dithering servants, their fellow student actors cheer loudly and eagerly provide whatever the improvisations need: encouragement, audience response, even coffee cups.

It is moments like this that show how closely knit the Master of Fine Arts Program actors are. No matter how many rehearsals, fittings, readings, and performances they have, they are always there for each other.

This close-knit family is a facet of the M.F.A. Program from day one. At the beginning of De…

A Stripped-Down Christmas: The Skivvies @TheStrand

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

The winter holidays are traditionally a time to dress up warm. But for Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley of The Skivvies, it’s a time to strip down. In their latest show, The Skivvies: Holiday Roadkill, this award-winning comedy-pop duo literally strip down to their underwear and perform musical mash-ups of all your favorites, like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” So grab your eggnog and holiday sweaters and join us at The Strand!

The Skivvies: Holiday Roadkill will be at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street, on December 22 and 23. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.

The Evolution of a Holiday Classic: A Christmas Carol at A.C.T. Part Two

By Michael Paller

By 2004, A Christmas Carol was 28 years old, and the sets were showing their age. A significant investment would be required to refurbish them, which set Artistic Director Carey Perloff to thinking. Carol had more than served its purpose since 1976. Every year but 1994 and 1995, when the production was put on hiatus until The Geary reopened, many young Bay Area children—and parents—had their first theater experience watching Bill Paterson, Sydney Walker, Raye Birk, or Ken Ruta awake on Christmas morning a changed man. Now, however, Perloff wanted Carol to serve an additional purpose, featuring parts for students in the Young Conservatory, and roles for actors in M.F.A. Program who could add the mainstage experience toward earning their Actors’ Equity union card.

Perloff went in search of an existing Carol that told the story well while accommodating a full class of young actors. But after failing to find one, like Williamson 28 years earlier, she wrote a new adaptati…

The Evolution of a Holiday Classic: A Christmas Carol at A.C.T. Part One

By Michael Paller

In the mid-1970s, regional theaters around the country discovered that audiences wanted a Christmas story at Christmastime, and none more so than Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Adaptations began appearing, starting with the Guthrie (1974) and the Actors Theater of Louisville (1976). Artistic Director Bill Ball asked Company Director Laird Williamson to look at the handful of existing adaptations and choose one to direct. Williamson found them sentimental and clichéd. They were “sugar-coated Dickens,” he said. “Tiny Tim is not the leading character. Scrooge is the real story.”

Williamson was drawn to the tale’s psychological and social realism, to its “comment on poverty and the inequality of the classes.” He suggested that he and Dennis Powers, the company’s literary jack-of-all-trades, do their own version. Ball agreed. Determined not to produce an animated Christmas card, their version would hew to the story’s dark aspect, its “brutal, painful realities.” “Unless t…

Dressing Scrooge: An Interview with Costume Director Jessie Amoroso Part Two

By Elspeth Sweatman

Ever wondered how A.C.T.’s costume and wardrobe departments maintain over 200 costumes during the course of A Christmas Carol? We met up with Costume Director Jessie Amoroso for an inside look into the life of a Carol costume.

What is the path of a costume like during the run of the show?
Everything is labeled, down to the nth degree: every sock, shoe, glove, and bonnet. Everything is also listed on a dressing list, that shows where every costume should be at any given moment, whether it’s preset, put in a dressing room, taken off onstage, taken off stage right or stage left, or put in a basket to go back to a dressing room or down to be cleaned. It also lists the costumes that are taken off stage right but need to be carried over to stage left so that the actor can put it back on later in the show. The actors who wear the big 1860s hoop skirts change out of them and become a miner or gang member, then change into a pall bearer or poor wife for the Ghost of Chris…

Martin Moran Returns to A.C.T.'s Conservatory

By Elspeth Sweatman

“The more you dare to dive into what is deeply personal,” says OBIE Award winner Martin Moran about creating and performing solo work, “the more you just come out the other side. It’s not you at all. It’s just human. And it’s amazing.”

Moran—a former student in A.C.T.’s Advanced Training Program (the forerunner of the M.F.A. Program)—is currently performing his two one-man shows The Tricky Part and All the Rage in repertory at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater. On a rainy afternoon, he sat down with current M.F.A. Program actors in The Costume Shop to discuss the thrilling—and sometimes nauseating—process of creating, editing, and performing your own material.

“There’s a real loneliness to writing, and there’s a great loneliness to solo work,” says Moran. “But in the form that I’m working with, the direct address, my partner is the audience, and that is incredibly joyous.”

As the Broadway veteran speaks, the student actors lean forward in their chairs. Many of them are in…

Finding Their Voices: DHS Students at A.C.T.

By Stephanie Wilborn 

In The Rueff, students from Downtown High School (DHS) are pacing back and forth, memorizing lines, and putting up lights in the rafters. After months of preparation and hard work, they are putting the finishing touches on their exhibition, A Mask I Do Not Fit, a collection of original works on topics of gender and identity.

Since 2012, A.C.T. has collaborated with DHS to explore educational opportunities through theater. The school’s Acting for Critical Thought project allows the students to learn and discover thought-provoking performances through acting, playwriting, and movement.

At the beginning of the semester, the DHS students came to A.C.T. once a week and studied acting techniques with A.C.T.’s Community and Artistic Director Tyrone Davis. Together, the students and Davis built a trusting relationship through improv and ensemble-based games. They learned theater terminology and were introduced to teaching artists, such as A.C.T.’s Head of Mo…

Martin Moran Wins Over Audiences and Critics Alike

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

A.C.T. audiences have taken Martin Moran to their hearts. The Broadway actor and writer opened his repertory performances of All the Rage and The Tricky Part last week, and theatergoers have risen to celebrate him both during the show and in the lobby afterward.

To give audiences a better opportunity to talk about the ideas and emotions which Moran’s work generates, we’ve added two Audience Exchanges this week. Moran will follow the performance of All the Rage on Wednesday, December 7 with an onstage conversation with A.C.T.’s Artistic Director Carey Perloff and will follow the performance of The Tricky Part on Saturday, December 10 by speaking with Associate Artistic Director Andy Donald.

The two shows have also had critics buzzing. While the San Francisco Chronicle picked out Moran’s “thoughtful and articulate” approach, Theater Dogs said, “You’ll be thinking about [Moran] and feeling his show long after you leave theater.”

While Moran’s charisma earn…

Raucous and Heart-Wrenching: The M.F.A. Program Musical Revue

By Ken Savage and Elspeth Sweatman

This time of year, the airwaves are filled with classic songs like Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” and Vera Lynn's rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” But for Ken Savage, the director of Sing, Sing, Sing—A.C.T.’s Master of Fine Arts Program upcoming music revuethese songs from the 1930s and ’40s are more than just a reminder of the holiday season. They highlight an important shift: in popular music and in the lives of US citizens.

"The music of Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Vera Lynn, Judy Garland: it’s the beginning of really simple but sophisticated storytelling through music," says Savage. "It’s the best music out there. It’s the music I grew up on. I learned how to sing through it.

"The period from 1933 to 1947 that we chose for this musical revue has a specific aesthetic sound, but the changes are remarkable. From the raucous big band and swing mus…