Showing posts from November, 2017

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…

Art Imitating Life: Mindfulness and the Cast of Small Mouth Sounds

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

For the seven actors in Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds, the line between their characters and themselves is easily blurred. “What’s wonderful about Bess’s play is that the actor and the character are charged with the same challenge,” says Brad Heberlee, who played Ned in the 2016 off-Broadway production. “Each character has ostensibly come to the retreat to listen and be present to the lesson of the Teacher, and at the end of the day, the actors [in the production] are there to achieve the same goal.”
That sense of being in the moment is critical to mindfulness in acting. This awareness asks performers to be wholly engrossed in what they are doing in that exact moment. Small Mouth Sounds director Rachel Chavkin echoes this idea. She believes that many actors forget how riveting it can be to just “be” onstage. “Trust the silence and be present,” she says. “That’s compelling.”
A.C.T.’s production of Small Mouth Sounds is the second stop on a seven-month tour …

Transcendental Meditation in the Halls of A.C.T.

By Michael Paller

William Ball, founder and first artistic director of A.C.T., had a metaphysical side and was drawn to techniques of meditation for both spiritual and practical reasons. At the all-company meeting that opened the 1982 season and school year, he spoke about the light inside each student. That light was guarded by fear, which had to be overcome before the light—the source of their individual talent—could shine. “Fear is an illusion,” he said, “it is non-productive, it is non-meaningful to us and since it is . . . not a help to us we supersede it. In overcoming a fear we have to trust that nobody is going to hurt the sensitiveness of that light. . . . We create standards of self-discipline that will cause us to respect that sensitivity.”
Part of that self-discipline was Transcendental Meditation (TM), which had been brought to the West by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1959, and popularized by the Beatles in 1968, just after A.C.T. arrived in San Francisco. Everyone at A.C…

Know Before You Go: A Brief Audio-Visual Look into the World of Refuse the Hour

By Taylor Steinbeck

William Kentridge's multimedia chamber opera, Refuse the Hour is a rush for the eyes and ears. The sounds of African drum beats, vocalists, and giant metronomes play in tandem with dancers, animation, and video, as the man himself muses on theories of time, relativity, and myth through a spoken-word performance. New York Times writer Vivien Schweitzer describes the show as "fascinating and overwhelming." Before experiencing it all for yourself at The Geary Theater this weekend, learn more about the fascinating world of Refuse the Hour below.

This 2016 Bloomberg interview with Kentridge offers insight into the artist's process, biography, and ouevre.

In this bite-size lecture, Peter Galison—Refuse the Hour's dramaturg and renowned Harvard physics professor–discusses Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, which was one of Kentridge's key inspirations.

Featuring a score by Philip Miller, Refuse the Hour is the companion piece to Kentridge&…

M.F.A. Second-Year Actors Stretch Their Skills with The Changeling