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Showing posts from February, 2018

Cadence, Rhythm, Flow: An Interview with Vietgone Composer Shammy Dee Part One

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By Elspeth Sweatman

Vietgone composer Shammy Dee began performing at a young age, but it was in junior high school that he discovered his medium: hip-hop and the smooth turntables of the DJ deck. Since releasing his debut album Transcripted Thoughts in 2006, Shammy Dee has produced and performed on many other music projects, such as DJing for top brands including Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, and Burberry, as well as for celebrities including Mary J. Blige, Michael Bublé, and the Kardashians. In anticipation of Vietgone’s hip-hop takeover this Thursday, we sat down with Shammy Dee to chat about his process and the inherent energy of hip-hop. This is Part One.
What’s your favorite thing about Vietgone?

It’s good writing. I love the comedy of it. At first, the premise of the play—a love story based during the Vietnam War—didn’t sound like something I would relate to, but I found myself really caring for these characters and hoping that it would all work out, which obviously it did because Qu…

Breaking Binaries: M.F.A. Third-Year Actors Present The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

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By Taylor Steinbeck
Is mankind inherently good or evil? This long-debated question is at the center of Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis’s dark comedy, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. “In a society plagued by the need to define everything from identity to justice in a binary,” says director David Mendizábal, “it is in the gray area that we will find discovery, change, and progress.” The M.F.A. Program’s third-year actors will be tasked with unpacking this heady idea in their last full-length production as M.F.A. students. To celebrate its opening at The Rueff tonight, we talked to four of the actors—Lily Narbonne (Fabiana Aziza Cunningham), Vincent J. Randazzo (Judge/Caiaphas the Elder), Oliver Shirley (Butch Honeywell/Saint Peter), and Justin Edward Keim (Simon the Zealot/Sigmund Freud/Saint Thomas)—about diving into the gray area and performing as the class of 2018 for the final time.
What has your experience been like acting in this play?

Randazzo: What's be…

The Mischievous Artist: An Interview with Vietgone Playwright Qui Nguyen Part One

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By Michael Paller

Growing up in Arkansas with Vietnamese refugee parents, Qui Nguyen loved hip-hop, action movies, and comic books. So when he began writing plays, he filled them with these passions: martial arts in Begets: Fall of a High School Ronin, superheroes in Men of Steel, and zombies in Alice in Slasherland. Many of these works were written for Nguyen’s Obie Award–winning “geek theater” company, Vampire Cowboys. We caught up with Nguyen to chat about Vietgone, a play that combines his passions with the story of his parents. This is Part One.
We’ve read that you joined your high school drama club to meet cute girls, but since then you’ve written 12 plays and cofounded a theater company. What’s kept you in the theater besides the cute girls?

[Laughs] Right now I’m working in TV and film but I still go back to theater because in theater I know my mission. In TV and film I’m more of a workhorse, but in theater my artistry is specific; I know my voice and the context that I bring t…

In Memoriam: Alan Stein

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By A.C.T. Publications Staff

A.C.T. mourns the loss of Alan Stein, beloved Chair of A.C.T.’s Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1997 and a consummate advocate for and supporter of arts and culture across the Bay Area. A theater-loving Columbia College graduate with a distinguished career in finance, Alan first became involved at A.C.T. in the 1970s, shortly after relocating to San Francisco from New York. In the early days, he worked closely with Artistic Director William Ball to stabilize the company and orient it toward the future.
In 1988, with A.C.T. facing economic challenges, Alan returned to the board, becoming chair months before the Loma Prieta earthquake. In the wake of that disaster, with The Geary in ruins, Alan pointed the way forward with the words, “The show must go on.”

Alan’s energy, persuasiveness, and financial know-how, developed during a career that included leadership roles at Goldman Sachs and Montgomery Securities, was paramount to A.C.T.’s recovery in the 1990s. He …

Held Close and Buried Deep: Vietgone Arrives at A.C.T.

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By Taylor Steinbeck

The Strand Theater is ready to rock. Playwright Qui Nguyen’s hip-hop inspired, action-packed  comedy Vietgone has arrived at A.C.T. At the show’s first rehearsal, director Jaime Castañeda introduced the play to an enthusiastic room of actors, staff members, and donors, calling Vietgone “raw, unbridled theater.” “I'm always amazed when I go to a rock concert and there’s this certain level of excitement in the audience that theater is rarely able to capture,” says Castañeda. “I feel like Vietgone is one of those special stories that has music that feels alive and exciting.”

Vietgone tells the story of how Nguyen’s parents met and fell in love at a refugee camp in Arkansas after fleeing their war-torn country of Vietnam. Made up of an entirely Asian American cast, Vietgone not only brings Asian representation to the stage, but also takes on some close-to-home issues. “The way Qui’s writing debunks and flips stereotypes is hella dope,” says Castañeda. “He executes i…

A.C.T.'s 2018 Sky Festival Moves and Shakes 30 Grant

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By Taylor Steinbeck

Each year, the Master of Fine Arts Program actors bring the studios of 30 Grant to life, with a week full of student-directed, student-written, student-acted performances called Sky Festival. This year’s Sky Festival was no different: everything from dramatic classics (Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) to contemporary comedies (Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Motherfucker with the Hat) to student-devised projects (third-year M.F.A. actor Kadeem Ali Harris’s Black Masculinity)were staged for A.C.T.’s staff and friends to enjoy. Harris’s moving piece featured six black actors—Jared C. Manders, LeRoy Smith Graham, Edward Neville Ewell, Joseph Givens II, and Leonard A. Thomas—including himself, exploring the different facets of black masculinity through movement and monologue. In one of the show’s many powerful moments, the men led all of the black women out of the audience to center stage a…

Fueling the Resistance: The First Annual Every 28 Hours Black Arts Festival

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By Taylor Steinbeck

This past weekend, The Strand Theater opened its doors to the Bay Area, welcoming in community members for a day of free movement workshops, panels, and performances as part of the inaugural Every 28 Hours Black Arts Festival 2018. For Stephanie Wilborn, A.C.T.’s Community Programs Coordinator and the festival’s co-producer, it was an unforgettable day “filled with joy, laughter, tears, and healing.”
For the past two years, A.C.T. has participated with theaters in the surrounding area in a reading of Every 28 Hours, the 72 one-minute plays created in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. This year, the Education & Community Programs team wanted to see the reading evolve into a larger, community-wide event. “We saw this as an opportunity to turn the reading series into a festival where we could celebrate Black arts, Black activism, and Black culture,” says A.C.T. Community Producing Fellow and festival co-producer Nailah Harper-Malveaux.
Throughout the day and into the ni…

A.C.T.’s Every 28 Hours Black Arts Festival to Empower and Heal

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By A.C.T. Publications Staff
Happy Black History Month! Says A.C.T. Community Programs Coordinator Stephanie Wilborn, February “is a time to honor, pay respects to, and take pride in our history that made us and continues to make us the beautiful, strong and resilient community we are today.” In celebration, Wilborn and A.C.T.’s Education & Community Programs team are kicking off the first annualEvery 28 Hours Black Arts Festival showcasing local black art, culture, and activism tomorrow, February 3, from 3 to 10 pm at The Strand Theater.

The theme of this year’s festival is A Healing Experience, which will focus on resilience and joy in the face of the struggle against police brutality and racial oppression. In keeping with this theme, the festival will feature free events that aim to be uplifting and empowering, including a movement workshop that will explore hip-hop as an act of social justice and a meditation workshop inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. Additionally, there will…