Showing posts from March, 2018

In Search of Alex and Georgie: A Psychologist Explores Heisenberg’s Two Characters

By Taylor Steinbeck
“The meeting of two personalities,” wrote Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in Modern Man in Search of a Soul, “is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” This is what happens when the seemingly incompatible characters of Georgie Burns and Alex Priest collide in Simon Stephens’s Heisenberg. To find out what makes these characters tick, we reached out to Dr. Mason Turner, the director of outpatient mental health and addiction medicine at The Permanente Medical Group in Oakland, and the host of A.C.T.’s Theater on the Couch—an interactive discussion that follows one Friday-night performance of each mainstage production. After reading the play, Dr. Turner offered some psychological insights into the behaviors of Georgie, Alex, and human beings in general.
Simon Stephens explores how people can surprise us, no matter how well we think we know them. To what extent is human behavior predictable?

MT: Human beings continue to …

M.F.A. Program Alumni Update: Kemiyondo Coutinho (Class of ’15)

By A.C.T. Publications Staff 

Congratulations to M.F.A. Program alumna Kemiyondo Coutinho (Class of 2015), whose first short film, Kyenvu, has just won the Grand Jury Prize at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and has been selected for the Women's International Film Festival in New York.

Coutinho wrote, directed, and stars in Kyenvu, the story of an independent young African woman who is struggling to find her footing in modern Uganda, where a controversial law banning miniskirts was passed in 2014 as part of a directive for “dressing decently." But as she lives through the taunts of others on public transport, she finds love in a bittersweet moment.

When asked what inspired her to create this film in a recent interview with We Are Moving Stories, Coutinho said, “I was tired of other people telling our own stories. I was also tired of complaining about it so I decided to do something about it.” Do something she did, traveling to Uganda and putting together a team …

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

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. We sat down with Shammy Dee to chat about his process and the inherent energy of hip-hop. This is Part Two.
What makes hip-hop a good medium for telling a story about immigrants?
That’s where hip-hop came from. When hip-hop culture was birthed back in the day, it was a subculture of primarily Black and Latino people in New York. It wasn’t on a mass stage. It was something akin to punk when it came around; it was very underground. Hip-hop contained this raw energy that the mainstream culture didn’t unde…

A Universe Between Two People: An Interview with Heisenberg Director Hal Brooks

By Elspeth Sweatman

It was while he was studying acting in A.C.T.’s Advanced Training Program (the precursor to the M.F.A. Program) in the early 1990s that Hal Brooks discovered he wanted to be a director. After getting his feet wet creating and directing in the Conservatory’s student cabaret, Brooks returned to New York, where he directed Don DeLillo’s Valparaiso and Will Eno’s Thom Pain (based on nothing), among other plays. Soon, he found himself not only directing off Broadway at The Public Theater, Second Stage Theater, and Manhattan Theatre Club, but also at regional theaters across the US. Now, Brooks is back where it all started, directing Simon Stephens’s Heisenberg for the Geary stage. We sat down with him to discover his love of Stephens’s work and two-person plays.
What drew you to Heisenberg?

I’ve always been interested in the relationship of two people onstage, and how they interact with each other. Oftentimes, they’re saved by a third character, and a fourth, and a fifth,…

Why Simon Stephens Titled His Play Heisenberg

By Elspeth Sweatman
In February 1927, German physicist Werner Heisenberg felt he was on the verge of discovering something revolutionary. He didn’t have the math yet to back it up, but deep down, he knew he was right. Heisenberg could see a new theory emerging, one that would shake the foundations of Western physics.
In simple terms, Heisenberg’s theory—the uncertainty principle—states that if you know the momentum of an object (such as an electron circling a nucleus), you will not be able to accurately measure its location. The same is true in reverse: you can know the position of the electron, but not its momentum. This is because an electron acts as both a particle (a defined entity) and a wave (something that is harder to pin down accurately because, like the ripples in a pond, it has no set position), and because the very act of measuring the momentum and position affects the results.

Heisenberg’s discovery was a bombshell. For centuries, the world had been governed by Newtonian p…

The History Behind Vietgone: The Fall of Saigon

By Allie Moss and Simon Hodgson
On April 29, 1975, Vietnamese residents of Saigon heard Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” on US Armed Forces radio. What they didn’t know was that it was a coded message for the Americans remaining that meant “Evacuate immediately.” As the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) moved southward towards Saigon, the US Army began Operation Frequent Wind, a plan to evacuate from the country American and international civilians as well as Vietnamese deemed at risk from Communist forces. But American planners failed to predict the speed of the NVA thrust southward. As they drew up lists of the people who would be airlifted to safety, they thought they had weeks. By the time Communist shells started landing on Tan Son Nhut Air Base to the north of Saigon, they barely had hours. The evacuation of the city was frantic. Huge crowds formed at the US embassy as American helicopters came to rescue US citizens; although they saved some Vietnamese civilians as well, most were lef…

Creativity and Chaos: An Interview with Heisenberg Playwright Simon Stephens

By Simon Hodgson
Simon Stephens grew up in Stockport, a provincial British town that the playwright once described as a place “on the edge of things.” Today, however, Stephens is a name known worldwide. His 30-plus plays—including On the Shore of the Wide World (2006 Olivier Award) and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2015 Tony Award for Best Play)—have been staged all over the English-speaking world. But while the playwright continues to travel widely for productions of his works, his imagination is still sparked by the red-brick streets where he grew up. In between Stephens’s trips to New York and Melbourne, we talked with him about inspiration, science, and the human condition.
Where did the idea for Heisenberg come from? How did you come up with these two characters?
I read a story about a woman in my hometown who came to befriend and then deceive—to a quite criminal degree—an old man whom I knew as a child. I became fascinated by what was involved in friendship and…

Two Molecules in Space: Heisenberg Arrives at A.C.T.


Welcoming Humor: An Interview with Vietgone Director Jaime Castañeda

By Taylor Steinbeck
When theater-makers Jaime Castañeda and Qui Nguyen were both living in New York, they’d seek out each other’s work. Castañeda was the artistic associate at Atlantic Theater Company, while Nguyen was writing for his downtown theater company, Vampire Cowboys. “Qui and I were always plotting to hatch a project together,” says Castañeda. “We have similar tastes and we’re both hip-hop theater nerds.” Their similarities run deeper than music. Like Nguyen, Castañeda is a first-generation American—raised in Texas by parents who emigrated from Mexico. “A lot of Qui’s story relates to my own experiences,” he says. “It really has me thinking about my parents and how their history informs me as a person.” In celebration of Vietgone’s opening night this week, we talked to Castañeda about his direction for this hilarious and heartbreaking play.
Vietgone is a funny show set in a not-so-funny time. How do you plan on navigating these tone shifts?
One of the best ways to cope with so…