Showing posts from December, 2018

Old Friends, New Friends: Actor Sharon Lockwood on Returning to A Christmas Carol

By Elspeth Sweatman and Annie Sears

Christmas may have passed, but the holiday spirit is still thriving here at A.C.T. Many members of the A Christmas Carol cast and crew have made this performance an integral part of their holiday tradition, including actor Sharon Lockwood, who plays Mrs. Dilber and Mrs. Fezziwig. Lockwood has performed at A.C.T. for nearly 30 years, including 14 seasons of A Christmas Carol. We sat down with Lockwood to hear more about what it’s like to integrate a familiar role into an ever-changing cast.

How does it feel to return to the same role every year? Like getting in touch with an old friend? 
Old friends? Yes! It's so nifty to play two wildly different characters back and forth in the course of a show, even changing make-up in between. Dominique [Lozano], our director, is always coming up with ways to fine-tune and tell the story as if for the first time. With that, the show always feels vital. It's a life-affirming place to be for the holiday seas…

Bringing the Ghost of Christmas Past into the Present

By Mads Leigh-Faire

From the grid of The Geary descends a mirage in white—the Ghost of Christmas Past. Perched on a trapeze swing, this spirit almost appears to glow. What the audience in The Geary won't know is that, like the varying adaptations of Dickens's classic novella, the costume for this ghost continues to evolve for a new generation.

When A.C.T. mounted this adaptation in 2005, designing the costume for the Ghost of Christmas Past posed an unusual challenge. In the original book, says A.C.T. Costume Director Jesse Amoroso, the Ghost is described in an ethereal but contradictory way: old and young, worn-down and sprightly. The Ghost is depicted as androgynous, says Amoroso, and like a candle in constant flux. Their garb is described as wintry and yet light.

Costume Designer Beaver Bauer's vision for the character featured a Ghost in white and pale gray, wrapped in soft spring vines adorned with fresh flower bulbs. Atop their head sat a tall crown made of lights, …

Inspired by the Arts: Meet A.C.T. Prospero Society Member Anthony Alfidi

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

A call to action, to most magazine readers and television watchers, is a familiar sales technique—inspiring people to take the next step toward supporting a cause or campaign. But for 45-year-old US Army Reserve officer Anthony Alfidi, the call to action was literal.

It came in early 2009, when Alfidi was called up by the US Army for action in Iraq. Before being mobilized for nine months in the Middle East in a military logistics unit, the army officer put his affairs in order. The process prompted him to consider the organizations he valued most, including A.C.T.

Alfidi wrote A.C.T. into his will, becoming a member of the Prospero Society—a special group of theater-lovers whose members have committed to support A.C.T. either through a bequest or a living trust. “I’d like my estate to benefit as many people as possible,” he says.

For arts lover Alfidi, adding A.C.T. to his planning was natural. Born and raised in Sacramento, he was inspired by the perfo…

A Good Old Coat: Actor Cindy Goldfield on Returning to A Christmas Carol

By Elspeth Sweatman and Annie Sears

A Christmas Carol is a classic story, one many of us know well. But actor Cindy Goldfield may know it best. She's played or understudied all the adult female roles in A.C.T.’s adaptations—from Mrs. Fezziwig to Mrs. Cratchit to the Ghost of Christmas Present. She most often plays Charitable #1, a role she loves because of its dynamic story arc. As Goldfield prepared to return to this cherished character, she shared about how the often-told story retains its sense of newness.

How does it feel to return to the same role year after year?
It feels like a good old coat. It’s the same role, but it's magical how different it feels year to year. The sets, text, costumes, lighting, sound, people, and director may be close to exactly the same, but somehow it always feels fresh. Partly, it’s because this story is as relevant today as it was 150 years ago. The world is as polarized and troubled as it was in Dickens’s time. It also feels fresh because D…

How the Christmas Carol Team Create Indoor Snow

By Mads Leigh-Faire

If you find yourself in The Geary Theater anytime during the run of A.C.T.’s A Christmas Carol, you may find yourself in an Arctic flurry (though you won’t need to bundle up to deal with this snow).

A.C.T. is lucky to host a version of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol where snow falls from the theater’s rafters. Do we cut a hole in the ceiling of The Geary and let actual snow fall on the audience? Do we hire Jack Frost?

As impressive as that would be, the real answer is even more magical. Four years ago, A.C.T.’s backstage crew took on a huge challenge for Carol: making snow fall onstage. The snow could not be made out of anything water-based, as it would make the stage slippery for actors and could damage costumes, set pieces, or lighting and sound equipment. Painting snow in a set would work but does not create the 3-D effect of real snowfall.

After researching how other theaters in the past had approached their blizzard of a problem, A.C.T’s scene shop found th…

We Broke Many Oars and Most of the Ten Commandments: The Famous 1869 Expedition Staged in Men on Boats

By Elspeth Sweatman

Four boats. Ten men. Ninety-nine days. One thousand miles. John Wesley Powell’s expedition through the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers—which Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus has staged in Men on Boats—has gone down in history as one of the defining heroic narratives of the American West. Yet, when he and his crew set off from Green River Station in the Wyoming Territory on May 24, 1869, they were unknown, and more hodgepodge than heroes. No one—except for Powell—had any river-running experience. The expedition had no federal funding, and there was very little attention from the press.

As the explorers looked downstream on that first day, they wondered just what they had gotten themselves into. Would they encounter waterfalls taller than Niagara or boulders the size of houses? Would their days be filled with a never-ending onslaught of rapids or become a tedious slog through almost still water? And looming in the back of their minds was the question which no on…

Living in Extended Time: Second-Year M.F.A. Students Prepare a Musical Revue

By Annie Sears

“Music is living in extended time,” says Milissa Carey, who teaches singing in our M.F.A. Program. Music slows us down, demanding that we move at its pace and no faster. It cycles through choruses, asking us to reflect on repeated words and phrases. It activates our emotions in ways that spoken words can’t, and it unites us as we slow down and reflect together.

Our second-year M.F.A. students are immersed in this hyper-emotive world, preparing a musical revue entitled Fascinating Rhythms: Jazz and Blues on Broadway. Directed by acting instructor Darryl V. Jones, this revue explores how early-20th-century African American music changed the name of the game for musical theater at large.

Jones has selected pieces for each of his students that will both suit and challenge them. M.F.A. student Jeff Wittekiend will sing “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” from the 1930 musical revue Americana. “That show was very up-front about its pro-labor sentimentality,” says Wittekiend. “Th…

High Fives for Fifth Graders: Bessie Carmichael Students Perform at The Geary

By Annie Sears

Every year, 91 schools bring a total of 5,000 students to A.C.T. stages as part of our Student Matinee program (SMAT), which provides steeply discounted tickets to student-only performances. Local music and theater teacher Peter Sroka takes it a step further; not only does he bring 70 fifth-grade students from Bessie Carmichael PreK-8 School/Filipino Education Center to an annual SMAT, but he also leads them in a pre-show performance. At a Christmas Carol SMAT this week, students will stage one of these mini-musicals, which Sroka writes himself. He tailors the songs and comic scenes to the play’s themes. “It’s a chance for students to engage with the text,” says Sroka, “to think about the different layers of a show.”

Sroka combines many of his talents in leading these performances. He has a master’s degree in international education from Harvard and he’s acted on stages in Los Angeles and here in the Bay Area, including the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and 42nd Street Moo…

A.C.T. Welcomes Associate Conservatory Director Peter J. Kuo

By A.C.T. Publications Team 

Peter J. Kuo is a director, producer, writer, and educator focused on raising the visibility of marginalized communities. As social justice programs coordinator at The New School, he founded the NSD: Affinity Groups program and was involved with several EDI initiatives. He is the co-founder of Artists at Play, a Los Angeles Asian American Theatre Collective. As a director, he has worked at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, East West Players, South Coast Rep., Geffen Playhouse, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Leviathan Lab, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, and others. He was recently named one of Theatre Communications Group's Rising Leaders of Color.

We are so excited to have you at A.C.T., Peter! What drew you to this role? 
I had just received my MFA in directing from The New School when I heard from A.C.T.’s new artistic director, Pam MacKinnon, who I’ve known for nearly six years. She knew that I…