Showing posts from 2019

Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Subscriptions Manager Mark C. Peters

By Annie Sears

Meet Mark Peters, a master of repurposing thrifted fabric, auditioning for the Amazing Race (he’s submitted four video auditions and attended six open calls), and maintaining a morning routine: meditation, followed by yoga, followed by breakfast and a crossword puzzle—which is surprisingly similar to his work here at A.C.T. as our subscriptions manager. We recently sat down with Peters to hear about his 32 years here at A.C.T.

How would you describe your job to someone that doesn’t know anything about it?
It’s a giant puzzle, and I love puzzles. Our subscribers get to choose their seats, and keep those same seats for each show they attend. So when we get new subscribers or have subscribers who want to change their seats—that’s my favorite part. I have to say, “Okay, this person wants to move to Saturday night, so I can get this person into this space. And what if I shift this person here?” I do my best to take care of every subscriber. The biggest puzzles were after th…

Working Like Dogs

By Kayla Kaufman

Which member of the Geary backstage crew is known to pee onstage, distract cast members (especially children), and nibble scenery? Much-loved dog Bibingka, who despite clocking in at less than a foot tall, has the whole of The Geary Theater under her paw.

Although A.C.T. has only a few furry coworkers, they are a mighty group, bringing joy, challenge, and inspiration to our work. After being scooped up from Macy’s holiday SPCA windows during a tech break for A Christmas Carol in 2018 by former head carpenter Miguel Ongpin, Bibingka has been a staple in the 1,040 seat space. She is known to rest in her stage-left bed, where she keeps one eye on Miguel, but willingly receives pats from anyone else.

The Artistic team offices are home to two of A.C.T.’s finest, Frannie and Eleanor. Though Frannie only began using public transportation when she first met human pal Janet Foster (our director of casting) a few months ago, she’s now become quite the commuter. Every Tuesday, …

Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Wig Master Lindsay Saier

By Annie Sears

You can tell a lot about a person from the way they style their hair. That’s Lindsay Saier’s area of expertise. After growing up in Redwood City, California, she studied at the Make-up Designory in Burbank before moving to New York, earning her barber’s license, and completing a wig and make-up internship at The Juilliard School. After working at some off-Broadway theaters, she returned home to the Bay Area to join the A.C.T. family as wig master. We recently took a trip to the Wig Shop to learn more about the process of creating a character’s look.

How would you describe your job?
Essentially, we give depth to characters. It’s something people don’t really think about because when it’s done right, you don’t notice it. For instance, if the character is supposed to be evil, we can play with their hairline, their part, and the color of their hair to really tell that story. Or in Rhinoceros, we have a character that is flippy and fun and French, but the actor playing the c…

Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Head Stage Manager Elisa Guthertz

By Annie Sears

Elisa Guthertz has been stage managing at A.C.T. for 26 years, but as a third-generation San Franciscan, her connections to The Geary started long before that. Her father grew up seeing shows on that stage, and he encouraged his daughter’s love of theater as she grew up. After earning her BFA in stage management at North Carolina School for the Arts, she returned home to San Francisco in 1992 to intern at A.C.T. during Artistic Director Emerita Carey Perloff’s first season. In 2005, she took over as head stage manager. Guthertz has done shows all over the world—from Russia to Broadway, from Washington, DC, to Calgary, Canada. Most recently, she stage managed Rhinoceros at The Geary. We recently sat down with Guthertz to get a backstage glimpse into pulling off a production.

How did you first get into stage management?
When I was about 13, my brother was involved with a community theater. He said, “Hey, do you want to learn how to run light board?” It was a big, old-schoo…

10-Month Fellowship. 9 Major Takeaways.

By Annie Sears

As the curtain falls on the 2018–19 season, our Fellows (including the author of this blog) are packing up their desks and preparing for their next adventure. Some will stay here at A.C.T., and others are starting jobs at other Bay Area nonprofits. Some are moving across the country to begin freelance careers, and others aren’t sure what’s next. We may be dispersing moving forward, but for the last ten months, we’ve been united in an unforgettable experience.

The goodbyes are hard, and I’m caught up in the nostalgia of it all. As I reflect on all I’ve learned through my Fellowship, I’ve distilled nine tidbits of advice I’d have offered pre-Fellowship Annie, nine tidbits of advice for the person who will sit in my seat next season:

1. Get to know the other fellows. You’re sure to have a lot in common—they’re theater people, after all! Having a support system of like-passioned people who truly understand the in-and-outs of your job will prove invaluable. Also, you’re th…

Rhinos 101

By Annie Sears

As the title would suggest, Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros—playing through June 23 at The Geary—features some lumbering pachyderms. The play isn’t really about rhinos, but they’re a constant onstage presence. Characters are always talking about rhinos, gawking at rhinos, or in some cases, transforming into rhinos. Our marketing department visited the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens to learn some fast facts about these mysterious creatures.

1. A group of rhinos is called a crash. Does that make the Rhinoceros cast a crash? A crashing cast? A casting crash?

2. Their horns are made of keratin—the same protein that makes up human fingernails!

3. Some rhinos have one horn. Others have two. Gene and Berenger have a disagreement about this in Rhinoceros, so let’s break it down: There are five different species of rhinos. Two of those species, the black rhino and the white rhino, are African rhinos. The other three—Javan rhinos, Sumatran rhinos, and greater one-horned rhinos—are…

Catching Rhinoceritis

By Annie Sears

Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, playing at The Geary through June 23, presents a series of challenges to theater-makers. How do you fill a stage with stampeding rhinos, wreaking havoc on a French provincial town? And how does one portray a rhino convincingly? Actor Matt DeCaro has figured out how to take the audience on “an imaginary ride,” says DeCaro. “I want it to be fun to watch.”

For many actors, the first consideration when stepping into a physical role is where the character’s energy emanates from and which part of the body initiates motion. To discover a rhino’s primary impetus, DeCaro took a trip to the zoo. “I looked at rhinoceroses for a while to try and see how they move,” says DeCaro. “Well, they didn’t move much, but I noticed a lot of it is from the shoulders.” So DeCaro leads with his shoulders, sometimes moving unilaterally—using only one side of his body—and sometimes bilaterally, using both sides simultaneously. No matter which way he’s moving, DeCaro si…

On to the Next Stage of Life

By Annie Sears

The end of a schoolyear often brings a medley of emotions, a peculiar blend of nostalgia and the energizing promise of what’s to come. This is certainly true for the A.C.T. community as we say goodbye to the 13 members of our M.F.A. class of 2019. For the last three years, these citizen artists have enriched Bay Area theater with their desire to learn and their joy in the creative process. So where are these recent graduates headed?

Göran Norquist isn’t leaving—at least for a month. He’s on A.C.T.’s mainstage as Marcel in Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, playing through June 23 at The Geary. Several other classmates are also staying in the Bay. Caleb Lewis is getting married here next week. He’s a twin, and his fraternal twin is also getting married this summer. “But to be clear,” joked Lewis, “I asked my fiancé first, and we’re getting married first too!” Jerrie R. Johnson will star in her one-woman show A Crooked Room as part of the 22nd Annual National Queer Arts Festival…

Join the Crash, Embrace the Herd

By Elspeth Sweatman

Like it or not, humans are herd animals. From the moment we are born, we crave interaction, communication, affection. To achieve these needs, we accept rules and traditions that help us to fit in, get along, and stay safe. Yet, we also know how dangerous going along with the group can be. Our news reels and Netflix queues are full of examples of innocent bystanders being duped, injured, or killed because they followed others. How can herd mentality be both the bedrock of our civilization and its undoing?

There are two types of herding: self-interested (when we copy the motivations and actions of others for our own gain) and collective (when we imitate others for the advantage of the entire group). When we go to a Giants baseball game at Oracle Park and follow the crowd to the entrance, that’s self-interested herding; we assume people know where they are going. When we stand on the right-hand side of escalators to let others pass on the left, that is collective her…

Rhinos Roaming Through Our Psychological Savannas

By Annie Sears

At the first rehearsal for Rhinoceros, director Frank Galati reminded the cast, crew, and A.C.T. staff that during the 1930s and ’40s, playwright Eugène Ionesco watched his friends succumb to popular political beliefs. In his memoir, Ionesco recalls chatting with his friends—university professors, students, journalists, critics, and other intellectuals—to dismantle fascist propaganda. All but three of those friends eventually changed their allegiance, even those who had claimed to be fascism's firmest opponents. To Ionesco, these friends were “pseudo-intellectuals” because they didn’t truly think; instead, they regurgitated predominant systems of thought. “They were caught in the mechanism,” wrote Ionesco. “They accepted everything. They became rhinoceroses.”

Absurdist theater artists such as Ionesco believed that fascist ideologies were propelled primarily by language, which could be manipulated into propaganda. Those who spouted fascist slogans would do so …

Young Actors, Brave Activists

By Annie Sears

Who are we? What do we believe in? And how will we stand up for those beliefs?

These are big questions best explored through a big medium—a medium like theater. Our 2018–19 Fellows' cohort believes that theater is powerful because it’s not passive. Theater engages the full person: physical, emotional, intellectual, and relational. Theater is entertainment, and it's also immersive education, which is why we partnered with Bay Area nonprofit 826 Valencia to explore these big questions through theater.

826 Valencia is dedicated to supporting under-resourced students with their creative and expository writing skills through individualized attention. They kindly invited us to lead two workshops on writing and self-advocacy for 24 of their sixth-grade students, working on becoming actors and activists.

Students first identified their core values. Then, they created poems speaking their truths, detailing ways they’d previously stood up for those truths, and imaginin…

The Birth of a Play: New Work and the New Strands Festival

By Ariana Johnson 

75 artists. 6 projects. 11 performances. 1 week.

The New Strands Festival is a thrilling time. All our studios are packed with innovative new plays, brilliant artists are mingling, and there is plenty of good music, food, and discussion throughout. It’s a chance for audiences to see the wizard behind the curtain and be a part of the growth of new pieces of theater.

This is my first New Strands Festival, but as one of A.C.T.’s 2018–19 Artistic Fellows, I’ve been a part of three new play workshops at A.C.T. For one, I was tasked with constructing a giant timeline across the wall of the studio so the team could test permutations of scenes. For another, I stashed copies of the script (and reading glasses) all around the rehearsal room so a performer could improvise a dance and then pick their dialogue back up no matter where they ended up in the room.

That’s the key part of new play development: you support the artists, adapting the process to whatever best serves th…

M.F.A. Alums Return to Their Theatrical Home

By Emma Penny

“Welcome to Vanity Fair!” The cast of Kate Hamill’s Vanity Fair has slammed into The Geary, bringing some familiar faces. A.C.T. is thrilled to welcome back two alums of our Master of Fine Arts Program: Rebekah Brockman (class of 2013) and Vincent Randazzo (class of 2018). Before these actors made their way across the country, we chatted about their triumphant homecoming to the Geary stage.

As a co-production with Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, Vanity Fair first ran in STC’s Lansburgh Theatre. Did knowing that the show would end up at The Geary influence any of your acting choices in the rehearsal room?
Brockman: It didn’t influence the choices, but it will influence how I play those choices. The Geary is a very steep house, so it’s important to play things up and out so what you are doing reads to the entire audience.

Randazzo: I’m sure we’ll adjust accordingly in The Geary—playing “up to the gods,” as Carey Perloff said about that giant dome. But c…

Nobody Puts Medea or the Dashwood Sisters in a Corner

By Aaron Higareda

What could Euripides’s Greek tragedy Medea and Jane Austen’s 18th-century Sense and Sensibility possibly have in common? At first glance, not much. But our M.F.A. artists have made the connections, and they’ll present these shows in repertory beginning May 8.

Medea, which director Peter J. Kuo has set against the backdrop of 1930s New Orleans, features an immigrant with no means of returning home after leaving everything behind for her unfaithful husband Jason. Her only option? Vengeance. Sense and Sensibility, directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh, is set in 1790s England, where the Dashwood sisters are left penniless, homeless, and vulnerable to gossip after their father’s death. Their only option? Set aside their differences and learn to rely on one another.

Despite their differences, both plays have strong female characters at their heart, and both are adapted—Medea by Robinson Jeffers and Sense and Sensibility by Kate Hamill (Vanity Fair)—to resonate with 2019 audien…

Seven Things You Didn't Know about the Kilbanes

By Annie Sears

Bay Area rock band the Kilbanes are creating imaginative work that leans into the “experimental” of “experimental theater.” They combine their indie sound with rock-concert lights and projections to create engaging, immersive spectacles focused on communicating timely, moving stories. Weightless is one of their most acclaimed rock operas. The premiere at Z Space last year was such a hit that it’s back by popular demand, this time in A.C.T.’s Strand Theater.

You’ll see the Kilbanes performing their own work next week on the Rembe stage, but here are some offstage details you won’t get from the show.

1. The two members of the Kilbanes—Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses—are married. In 2003, they met at a pizza joint in Brooklyn. “Kate was in line ahead of me,” says Dan. “She was looking overwhelmed at the slice selections, and I, a frequent solicitor of the establishment, offered some unsolicited advice about which slice I thought was best. Kate then invited me to sit down and …

7 Actors. 35 Characters. 8-Second Quick Changes.

By Annie Sears

Vanity Fair is a theatrical spectacle, a kaleidoscope of colors and costumes and characters—35 characters, to be exact. The seven performers engage the full range of their physical and vocal abilities to distinguish between Thackeray’s classic figures, from the stringent Miss Pinkerton to bawdy Rawdon, from slimy Pitt Crawley to his saintly son.

Costumes prove very helpful in defining each character, which means backstage hands are the heroes of these transformations. “When you’re watching from the audience, you’re seeing a well-oiled machine,” says actor Vincent Randazzo. “What you’re not seeing is the crew backstage working tirelessly to make it all seem seamless. They make the theater magic happen.”

Randazzo—an A.C.T. M.F.A. alum (2018) who has appeared on The Geary in Hamlet (2017), A Christmas Carol (2017), and A Walk on the Moon (2018)—embodies six different characters: Jos Sedley, Sir Pitt Crawley, Mr. Osborne, Miss Jemima, Lady Chesterton, and King George. This …

Cleats. Corner Kicks. Conversations About Global Genocide.

By Annie Sears

The nine players on soccer team The Wolves are warming up for their big game, and the pivots in their conversation are just as quick as their sprints up and down the field. Sarah DeLappe’s script (which our Young Conservatory actors will perform April 17–20) offers a glimpse into the real-life conversations high school girls share as they figure out what it means to be “a young woman in the multi-dimensional and complex world of today,” says actor Clara Dossetter (third from the left in the above photo). Dossetter is a high school senior who has been involved in the YC for “as long as I can remember,” including performing in The Life to Come in 2017. “The girls’ experience in the script reminds me a lot of my experience coming into my own as a woman surrounded by other young women.”

These characters talk about things high school girls really talk about, and they talk about them the way real high school girls actually talk. “In The Wolves, discussions about genocide happ…

What We ACTually Do Here: A Day in the Life of A.C.T.'s Production Fellow

By Lavine Leyu Luo (罗乐瑜)
Ever wonder what goes into the making of a show? What decisions are made before the reviews get rolling? What steps are taken to get the cast onstage, in front of a fully constructed set, wearing well-designed costumes, and accompanied with stunning visual and sound effects, all working together to bring the story to audience hearts?

The Production Department makes that happen; we’re the master cooperator that helps realize all the artists’ visions onstage. Our responsibilities range from small tasks, such as purchasing cough drops for the cast, to really large tasks—ensuring all aspects of production are efficient and safe, keeping everyone onstage and offstage alive and intact. There are so many small but essential details that need to be completed before a show can open. It’s only when the audience doesn’t notice any of these things that we know we’ve done a good job.

As the A.C.T. Production Fellow, I get to observe and participate in the production proce…