Showing posts from November, 2018

Crew, Ensemble, Family: Actor Sarita Ocón Shares Her Men on Boats Experience

By Annie Sears

DUNN: So what should we name that mountain?

SUMNER: You have an idea?

DUNN: I have a few ideas! . . .
- Dunn Mountain
- Mount Dunn
- Craggy Range
- Volcano of Dunn

POWELL: So you want to name it after yourself?

DUNN: No, there’s Craggy Range, that has nothing to do with me.

Men on Boats is full of bold characters, including the strong-willed, recognition-seeking William Dunn, played by Sarita Ocón. “He’s an individual who strategizes, plans, and does his best to execute goals while keeping the greater interests of the group in mind,” says Ocón. “But sometimes his impatient nature gets him in trouble.” Ocón stepped in when another actor had to step out, and though she hopped aboard late, she’s found great joy in joining the crew. We spoke with Ocón to hear more about being a part of an ensemble.

What have been your favorite aspects of the Men on Boats experience?
I never could have imagined the opportunity to tell a Manifest Destiny narrativ…

A Mini King Lear: Actor James Carpenter on Preparing for A Christmas Carol

By Elspeth Sweatman and Annie Sears

The 12 days of Christmas? For actor James Carpenter, it’s more like the 12 years of A Christmas Carol. This will be his 12th year gracing the Geary stage as tightfisted Ebenezer Scrooge. Carpenter has frequented A.C.T. stages for nearly 20 years, from Glengarry Glen Ross (2001) to Rock ’n’ Roll (2008) to Heisenberg (2018), and he’ll be playing Charlie in Edward Albee’s Seascape this coming January. But first, he returns to Scrooge. We recently sat down with Carpenter to hear about his intimate knowledge of this iconic character.

How does it feel stepping back into the role of Scrooge? Does he feel like an old friend?
I don’t know that I’d call Scrooge an old friend. A mutual combatant, perhaps. A role I know I’m going to have to gird my loins for and ready myself to take on. This year, Anthony Fusco is bearing the brunt of the load because I will be in rehearsals for Seascape a bit after we open Carol. I know the kind of stamina and strength—with whi…

Behind the Scenes: Our Costume Shop Crew Prepares for A Christmas Carol

By Annie Sears

Fifty actors, more than 1,000 costume items, and immeasurable excitement. This will be the 42nd year that our Costume Shop crew has crafted the onstage kaleidoscope of colors, patterns, and textures that is A.C.T.'s Christmas Carol, and the process is well underway. Over the last few weeks, each actor has visited our Costume Shop for a personal fitting.

Actors may have begun developing their character psychologically, but with the addition of a costume, they get a sense of how their character feels physically. From dainty earrings to the intricate texture of the Ghost of Christmas Past’s sleeves, our costume shop crew makes sure everything fits perfectly and that the actors have the range of motion needed to portray their character.

The duration of each fitting ranges from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the actor’s number of costume changes. Some actors, such as third-year M.F.A. student Jerrie R. Johnson, will wear four entirely different costumes in a single perfo…

What You Won't See Onstage: A Conversation with Men on Boats Props Designer Jacquelyn Scott

By Annie Sears

Men on Boats is pure fun, asking actors and audience members to pretend, laugh, and play together—from dangling off the edge of a cliff to eating mealy apples around a campfire. Props Designer Jacquelyn Scott leaned into the sense of playfulness, deciding that some props would be physically present onstage while others would be mimed. “The lack of a physical prop really encourages the audience to use their imagination, and jump in on the action,” says Scott. “The swells and rapids on this daring journey down the Grand Canyon are created by both actor and audience member—it's melodramatic and exciting and fun!” We recently sat down with Scott to hear more about how removing something actually adds to the storytelling in Men on Boats.

How did you decide which props would be present and which would be mimed?
We wanted to find a balance between the set, props, and boats that gave just enough information, but really let the audience stretch their imagination. We introduce…

Rereading the Book, Revisiting the Role: Actor Anthony Fusco on Preparing for A Christmas Carol

By Elspeth Sweatman and Annie Sears

The holiday season is a time of traditions: hot chocolate and candy canes; humming the same tunes and baking the same treats; feasting and exchanging gifts with family and friends. For some—such as actor Anthony Fusco—A.C.T.’s Christmas Carol is a large part of the holiday ritual.

Fusco is an A.C.T. regular, having appeared in over 35 mainstage productions. He’s been involved with A Christmas Carol for the last 17 years, first playing Bob Cratchit in the Dennis Powers and Laird Williamson adaptation. After A.C.T. transitioned to Paul Walsh and Artistic Director Emerita Carey Perloff’s adaptation, James Carpenter assumed the role of Scrooge and Fusco was his understudy. “That first year, I went on when Jim got sick, having never rehearsed the role onstage!” says Fusco. “That was exciting!” The role is demanding, as Scrooge never leaves the stage. So Fusco and Carpenter now share the part. We recently sat down with Fusco to hear about what it’s li…

Invention and Discovery: An Interview with Men on Boats Director Tamilla Woodard

By Simon Hodgson

For Men on Boats Director Tamilla Woodard, the audience’s experience is her benchmark. “When theater is successful,” she says, “we laugh, we cry, we forget where we’ve been. That’s what I’m after.” Woodard is rapidly developing a reputation as a director who really draws audiences into her stories, whether in immersive works staged in hotel rooms or on proscenium stages such as A.C.T.’s Rembe Theater. As Woodard prepared for rehearsals, we spoke with her about the voyage of exploration in Men on Boats.

What makes Men on Boats a show for a Bay Area audience?
The Bay is still a frontier, not only across the physical environment, but also the political and social justice environments. It’s a place of adventure, a place where people find unknown territory, and a place where movements start. It’s the perfect city for this play.

How is Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus shifting the audience’s perspective for adventure tales such as Powell’s?
Often, hero stories have been the terr…

When Truth Is Out of Fashion: Christine Adaire Directs M.F.A. Students in The School for Scandal

By Kayla Minton Kaufman

A world where truth is questioned, lives are manipulated by lies, and virtue is unfashionable—no, this isn’t today’s American society, but the 18th-century London high society of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal. A.C.T.’s Head of Voice Christine Adaire is directing her own steampunk-infused adaptation, which our second-year M.F.A. students will present November 8–17. In this classic comedy, Lady Sneerwell and Joseph Surface spread lies to ensnare their loves, the Teazles fight for power within their marriage, while Sir Oliver uses disguises to reveal truth. But when society is built on a web of lies, can the truth be untangled? We sat down with Director Christine Adaire to hear more.

What drew you to direct The School for Scandal?
I’m very concerned about this moment in time, this post-truth era, with different versions of truth and alternative facts. A lot of this play is about gossip, rumors, and people who spread lies for entertainment and …

Reimagining Ourselves: A.C.T.’s Director of Dramaturgy and New Works Talks Men on Boats

By Joy Meads 

On the first day of rehearsal for Men on Boats, sound designer Kate Marvin played a sample of the music she was creating for the show. She had vividly captured the iconic sound of western adventure familiar from a thousand movies and television shows. The stirring rhythms and soaring strains called up memories I didn’t know I still held inside me: tales of audacity, strength, courage, and the heroic acts of rugged men. These stories helped shape my earliest ideas of leadership, tenacity, and the indomitable American spirit. I suspect many of you can relate.

The heroes of these stories were, of course, inevitably male and relentlessly white, and I later came to understand the narrow and contorted view of reality they offered. With a few, notable exceptions, people of color were erased, flattened, or vilified, and rigid, binary gender roles were scrupulously maintained. On the first page of the script for Men on Boats, playwright Jaclyn Backhaus challenges us to reimagine…