Showing posts from 2017

A Sneak Peek at A.C.T. in 2018

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

Happy New Year! Because of patrons and theater fans like you, 2017 was a shining year for A.C.T. This year we celebrated our 50th anniversary, staged the world premiere of the hit new play A Thousand Splendid Suns, welcomed audiences to our second annual New Strands Festival, and kicked off the new season on a high note with Tony Award–nominated actor John Douglas Thompson as the prince of Denmark. As we look ahead to 2018, here is a sneak peek at A.C.T.’s upcoming shows that are sure to dazzle in the new year.

The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter at The Geary Theater, directed by Carey Perloff (January 10–February 4, 2018)

A star-studded cast takes the Geary stage as A.C.T. returns to the mysterious world of Harold Pinter in our first staging of his groundbreaking play The Birthday Party. Tony Award winner Judith Ivey joins Stratford Festival star Scott Wentworth and A.C.T. favorites Marco Barricelli and Firdous Bamji for this darkly comic British drama.


My Walk-On Role at A.C.T.'s A Christmas Carol

By Julia Ludwig
Most years, A.C.T.'s annual gala auctions a behind-the-scenes experience and walk-on role for the production of A Christmas Carol. As a part of my special events fellowship at A.C.T. during the 2016–17 season, I had the chance to chaperone our younger walk-on role participants. It was a fun and engaging experience, and I won't soon forget taking a bow on the Geary stage with the entire Christmas Carol company.

One of my favorite parts of the process was trying on costumes at A.C.T.'s costume shop. With more than 20,000 costumes, there are rows of colorful clothing and accessories from every era you can imagine—it's a dream closet. Once the costume team took my measurements, they picked out some options for me to try on. I loved the shoes I got to wear.
On the day of the performance, I met the two children I would be walking on with at the stage door an hour before the show. We were told that we'd be crossing the stage a few times during the town scen…

Diving into the Past: M.F.A. Actor Lily Narbonne's Carol Experience

By Taylor Steinbeck
Beautiful and haunting, the Ghost of Christmas Past's sweeping entrance across the Geary stage is one of the most memorable moments in A.C.T.'s time-honored classic, A Christmas Carol. The actor who plays the ghost each year is tasked with the unique challenge of being strapped into a swing and hoisted above the audience, all the while maintaining an air of elegance. Third-year Master of Fine Arts Program actor, and self-proclaimed daredevil Lily Narbonne was undaunted by this though. We sat down with Narbonne to chat about defying gravity, embracing the past, and scaring Scrooge.
What can you tell me about Christmas Past’s costume?

She has an ethereal, otherworldly nature about her and the costume reflects that. In Charles Dickens’s original text, he describes her like a light, so in our production, she is supposed to be the embodiment of a flame. What’s amazing about the costume is that it’s one of costume designer Beaver Bauer’s original creations from the…

Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Wardrobe Supervisor Mary Montijo

By Elspeth Sweatman 

A Christmas Carol was the first production Wardrobe Supervisor Mary Montijo worked on when she joined A.C.T. 12 years ago, and it remains one of the most challenging. “It’s an exercise in controlled chaos,” she says. “There are so many actors—usually 50, with more than half of them from the Young Conservatory—and so many costumes: more than 1,000 individual pieces!” Before the “controlled chaos” of this year’s Carol began, we sat down with Montijo to learn more about the life of a wardrobe supervisor.

For someone not in theater, what does a wardrobe supervisor do?

In a nutshell, we make sure every actor is always in the right costume, head-to-toe, at every point throughout the show. There’s a lot more to it than that, though. Here at A.C.T., the wardrobe supervisor acts as a liaison between the costume designer, the costume shop, and the actors.

What does that mean? 

We convey information to the actors for each costume look, and make sure the designer’s vision is f…

Masters of Merry-Making: Returning YC Actors in Carol Part Two

By Elspeth Sweatman
With A Christmas Carol pulling in crowds at the Geary Theater, we reached out to five of our Young Conservatory returning actors—Alejandra Zavala (11 years old), Mattea Fountain (12 years old), Maximilian Wix (12 years old), Pilar Rivas (11 years old), and Seth Weinfield (13 years old)—to ask about their Carol experiences. This is Part Two.
What is your favorite part of the show?
Pilar Rivas: My favorite part of the show is the beginning. Everything is so bright and lively. My favorite part about being in the show is meeting all the wonderful people.

What has been the most challenging part of being in the show?

Mattea Fountain: I live in the East Bay, so it's a solid hour of travel from home to the theater, and then another hour back. Over the course of two months that is hard on me and my family. I usually don't get all eight days of Hanukkah with my family, but I do get to celebrate with my theater family! Each role brings new challenges: learning lines, pro…

The Cast of Small Mouth Sounds Recalls Their First Performances

By Taylor Steinbeck
Though Small Mouth Sounds is closing at The Strand this weekend, over at The Geary Theater, performances of A.C.T.'s annual production of A Christmas Carol are just beginning. In Carol, 29 members of the cast are made up A.C.T.'s Young Conservatory students, with many of these young actors making their professional acting debut. To celebrate its opening tonight, we reached out to some of the Small Mouth Sounds cast to find out about their first memories of performing.
Ben Beckley (Ned): There are recordings of me acting out fairy tales with my grandmother when I could barely talk, but my first vivid memory of performing was the exit applause I got in the sixth grade as the Artful Dodger in a straight adaption of Oliver. That, and a mildly disastrous middle school production of Antigone the same year.

Cherene Snow (Judy): My first performance was in kindergarten in Little Red Hen, but only my mother remembers this. After acting in my first film—Cooley High (19…

Comedian Colin Quinn to Deliver Laughs @TheStrand

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

In need of some laughs to ease the stress of this holiday season? Funnyman Colin Quinn has got you covered. The former Saturday Night Live cast member will be bringing his latest one-man show, One in Every Crowd, to A.C.T.’s Strand Theater for five performances running from December 14–17.
Quinn’s appearance at The Strand will be his only West Coast stop during his 2017–18 North American tour, which will have him performing across the US and Canada. The New York native is returning to the road after taking a seven-year break to write and perform comedy shows for Broadway audiences. His most recent show, The New York Story, was directed by Jerry Seinfeld and was released on Netflix in 2016. To get a feel for Quinn’s unique brand of comedy, take a look at the trailer for his Netflix stand-up special below.

Equipped with razor-sharp wit and an eye for observational humor, Quinn’s smart jokes and engaging stories are sure to entertain. This season Quinn isn’t t…

The Man Behind the Magic: An Interview with Carol Scenic Designer John Arnone

This interview is adapted from the Christmas Carol edition of Words on Plays, A.C.T.’s in-depth performance guide series.

A dazzling treat for the eye, A.C.T.’s annual production of A Christmas Carol has become a Bay Area holiday tradition over its 13-year run. We looked back at our 2010 Q&A with Carol scenic designer John Arnone to find out what inspired the set’s beautiful and haunting visuals.
How did you approach designing the set?

As a team, we discussed the town and its atmosphere, the context for the piece, which is Dickens’s London. We wanted to convey the feeling of the congestion and the industrialization, as well as the paranoia and fear. Then we discussed the interiors, and the fact that there is only one interior that is real: Scrooge’s bedroom. It’s very claustrophobic, which I think is a metaphor for how dark Scrooge’s life has become.

How did you get the idea for the Ghost of Christmas Future as a puppet?

You never see [Christmas Future] in full detail, so you never rea…

Masters of Merry-Making: Returning YC Actors in Carol Part One

By Elspeth Sweatman

The Christmas Carol cast is filled with veterans of the Geary stage, from Scrooge to Tiny Tim. Every December, A.C.T. stalwarts James Carpenter and Anthony Fusco (our Scrooges), as well as original company member Ken Ruta (Jacob Marley), share the stage with several Young Conservatory actors who are performing in the show for the fourth or fifth time. With performances beginning this Friday at The Geary Theater, we reached out to five of our returners—Alejandra Zavala (11 years old), Mattea Fountain (12 years old), Maximilian Wix (12 years old), Pilar Rivas (11 years old), and Seth Weinfield (13 years old)—to ask about their Carol experiences. This is Part One.

How have you changed as a person throughout your three seasons in A Christmas Carol?

Alejandra Zavala: I am more confident and comfortable because now I feel like I know what I am doing. I am a much more focused person than I was in second grade (when I started acting at A.C.T.). I feel like now I understand w…

Meditation: There's an App for That

By Taylor Steinbeck
In Small Mouth Sounds—now playing at The Strand Theater—six people longing to reconnect with themselves and their surroundings embark on a five-day silent retreat. While there, they practice mindfulness under the guidance of an unseen teacher, who encourages them to embrace stillness. There are many benefits of taking a moment to breathe and recharge, but you don’t have to leave on a retreat to experience this peaceful state. What if we told you that you can have access to your very own meditation guru right from your smart phone? In anticipation of A.C.T.'s Tech Night next week, we put together a list of our top three favorite meditation apps.
Headspace: This user-friendly guided meditation app offers a 10-day beginner’s course that guides its users through the basics of meditation and mindfulness using charming, colorful animations. Small Mouth Sounds actors Orville Mendoza (Teacher), Connor Barrett (Jan), and Ben Beckley (Ned) have all used this app throughout…

A Trip to the Meditation Room

By Taylor Steinbeck

At 8:55 a.m. this morning, I set out to track down one of the few peaceful spots in the hustle and bustle of San Francisco’s Financial District: WITHIN Meditation. WITHIN’s meditation studio offers 30-minute guided meditation sessions focusing on mindfulness—the practice of being conscious of the present moment. Like the characters in Small Mouth Sounds, I had some trouble embracing stillness at first (especially since I had never meditated for more than ten minutes before). 
When I arrived at the meditation room, I slipped out of my shoes and plopped down onto one of the cushions. A group of other meditation newbies filed in. Our teacher, Hannah Knapp (also WITHIN’s co-founder), began the session by asking us to close our eyes and listen to our surroundings. Located on Sansome Street, WITHIN’s cozy studio is tucked between busy alleyways, so whenever a bus passed, the thin walls shook. Initially, I found this off-putting, but Hannah instructed us to welcome the no…

This Is Your Brain on Meditation

By Shannon Stockwell

Meditation is having its heyday in the Western world these days. Many people, from sports figures (Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll) to CEOs (Oprah Winfrey), espouse the benefits of taking a few moments out of each day to breathe, be still, and be in the moment. There are several reasons why people turn to meditation. In fact, mindfulness—the practice of being aware of one’s self and surroundings—has so many supposed benefits, it might seem at first glance to be nothing more than a pseudoscientific fad. But researchers around the world have been studying meditation using scientific methods and have made some surprising and convincing discoveries about its effectiveness, particularly the way that it can cause physical changes in the human brain.
In 2003, a group of scientists led by University of Wisconsin–Madison psychologist Richard J. Davidson performed a study on a group of 25 people who took part in an eight-week mindfulness course. Their brain activity was…