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Showing posts from 2020

Barrier Breakers in Sports

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By A.C.T. Publications Staff
You still have the opportunity to watch Toni Stone from the comfort of your home. Those who have purchased tickets to Toni Stone will receive an email with access to the recording. If you missed your chance to purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/ACTStreaming to see our video streaming options, available for a limited time.
Toni Stone was the first woman to play professional baseball with men. Her contributions to the sports industry were supported by many who broke barriers before her, just as she paved the way for those who came after. Here we note some outstanding athletes whose dedication and perseverance overcame prejudice. Their efforts on and off the field continue to create a fairer and more diverse sporting community.

Baseball player Toni Stone, the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro League. Photo courtesy of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Tidye Pickett
Home: Chicago, Illinois
Born: November 3, 1914
Known For: First Black American woma…

Fight Director Danielle O’Dea on Gloria

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By Claire L. Wong

You still have the opportunity to watch Gloria from the comfort of your home. Those who have purchased tickets to Gloria will receive an email with access to the recording. If you missed your chance to purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/ACTStreaming to see our video streaming options, available for a limited time.

To tell the best story, you’ve got to be open to discovery. It’s something Gloria Fight Director Danielle O’Dea always keeps in mind when working on a production. With over 15 years’ experience as a fight director and stage combat instructor, her work in the Bay Area includes A.C.T., San Francisco Opera, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Her background in martial arts, strength athletics, motion capture, and stunts provide her with diverse ways to communicate her fights. Whether she’s choreographing and teaching stage combat to seasoned actors or emerging performers, O’Dea emphasizes safety, partnering, and communication. We caught up …

Choreographer Camille A. Brown on Toni Stone

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By Claire L. Wong

You still have the opportunity to watch Toni Stone from the comfort of your home. Those who have purchased tickets to Toni Stone will receive an email with access to the recording. If you missed your chance to purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/ACTStreaming to see our video streaming options, available for a limited time.

A.C.T.’s Toni Stone choreographer Camille A. Brown is always reaching. She’s never giving up, and her rapidly expanding body of work proves it. The award-winning choreographer, director, and dance educator’s driving passion is to empower Black bodies to tell their stories in their own languages through movement and dialogue. The New York Times has called her “one of the most expressive, genuine and deeply felt choreographers working today.” Whether she’s exploring ancestral stories and sparking conversations with her dance company Camille A. Brown and Dancers, or choreographing Broadway productions such as Choir Boy, Once on This Island, and A Streetcar …

The Negro Leagues: Toni Stone in Historical Context

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By A.C.T. Publications Staff

Have you ever heard of the New York Black Yankees? What about the Homestead Grays, Baltimore Black Barons, or Cincinnati Tigers? From the 1880s until the 1950s, there were two professional baseball systems in the United States: one for white players, and another for Black Americans. Both contributed to the development of the modern game and baseball industry. This year, 2020, marks the centennial of the Negro Leagues, which was founded by Andrew “Rube” Foster,  retired pitcher and owner of the Chicago American Giants, in February 1920 to “create a profession that would equal the earning capacity of any other profession . . . keep Colored baseball from the control of whites . . . [and] do something concrete for the loyalty of the Race.”
The 1943 Homestead Grays lineup included several future Hall of Fame players: Cool Papa Bell (back second from left), Josh Gibson (back fifth from left), and Buck Leonard (back second from right). Photo courtesy of the Negro …

Keep the Story Rolling: An Interview with Toni Stone Director Pam MacKinnon

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By A.C.T. Publications Staff
Before Pam MacKinnon got a call from her friend Samantha Barrie in 2012, she had never heard of Toni Stone. Barrie, a theater producer and avid baseball fan, urged MacKinnon to read a biography published in 2010—Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League. MacKinnon found the book riveting. “It just works on so many different levels,” says the Tony Award winner and A.C.T. artistic director. “Historically, sociologically, and biographically.” Barrie purchased the rights from author Martha Ackmann, and MacKinnon approached playwright Lydia R. Diamond to dramatize the story of Toni Stone.

“I had seen a few of Lydia’s plays,” says MacKinnon. “Even though we’d never worked together before, I felt like we shared the same theatrical sensibility. I felt that for this play to get written and produced, Lydia needed to write it. She can write really hard-hitting things that are also filled with big,…

Playwright Lydia R. Diamond on Toni Stone

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By Ted Sod
Award-winning Toni Stone playwright Lydia R. Diamond grew up in a family of educators and musicians. She found playwriting in her third year at Northwestern while studying theater, and went on to act professionally for 10 years while writing and producing her own plays. It wasn’t until her first regional theater production of The Gift Horse at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Diamond says, that she understood “I was happier and more adept at writing plays than being in them.”

Toni Stone premiered at Roundabout Theatre Company in 2019 before coming here to San Francisco. In addition to Toni Stone,Diamond’s playwriting career is expansive. Her other works include Smart People, Stick Fly (Broadway run at Cort Theatre), Voyeurs de Venus, Harriet Jacobs, and The Bluest Eye. She has also worked in television, and was a writer/ consulting producer for Showtime’s fourth season of The Affair, for which she was nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award for Best Drama. Diamond, an educator hersel…

Rites of Passage: Catch MFA Actors in Their Final Show

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By Claire L. Wong

Would you choose your friends over your country? It’s a question the third-year MFA students in the class of 2020 grapple with in Passage, directed by Victor Malana Maog and written by Obie Award–winning local playwright Christopher Chen. Drawing on E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Chen explores biases, blurred lines, and bigotry—issues affecting communities right here in the Bay Area and across the globe—and asks if friendships can survive in this imbalanced world.

A.C.T.'s MFA class of 2020. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Passage received a five-star review in Time Out New York, calling it “an extraordinary new play . . . unashamedly political yet deeply humane . . . dares to raise questions that make the audience profoundly uncomfortable, but simultaneously creates a welcoming space to which everyone is invited.”
“It’s a fantastical examination of colonialism and xenophobia,” says Associate Producer Ken Savage, “and it’s in conversation with TestmatchPassage looks a…

Director Eric Ting on Gloria (Part Two)

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By Claire L. Wong

A champion of new works, Eric Ting has directed such world-premiere productions as Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation... (2012; Obie Award) to Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap (2018) and The 1491s’ Between Two Knees (2019). This passion for new works is evident in Ting’s continued collaboration with his longtime friend and Gloria playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Ting previously directed two works by Jacobs-Jenkins, Appropriate (2015), a drama about an American family with contentious secrets, and An Octoroon (2017), a Brechtian critique of the portrayal of race in theater.

In Gloria, as in An Octoroon and Appropriate, there are layers to be uncovered in the subject matter of Jacobs-Jenkins’s plays and the bold way that the playwright confronts his audience. “Are these stories trying to shock us or make sense of shock?” asks the director. Ting’s excellence in unraveling his friend’s stories at each layer has made him a trusted interpreter of J…

Director Eric Ting on Gloria (Part One)

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By Claire L. Wong 
“Think of the Greek gods,” says director Eric Ting. “Stories arise from our need to make sense of our world, to understand trauma and disaster.” Ting has been called a magician by the New Yorker, and his work “powerfully and ultimately sublime” by Variety. It’s no wonder he’s received critical respect nationwide, from TBA Awards here in the Bay Area to an Obie Award in New York. We spoke with him about his work on A.C.T.’s production of Gloria, written by his longtime friend and Gloria playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Movement Coach Danyon Davis, Stage Manager Christina Hogan, Director Eric Ting, Voice and Dialect Coach Lisa Anne Porter, and actor Martha Brigham work on A.C.T.’s 2020 production of Gloria. Photo by Simon Hodgson.

What draws you to Branden’s plays?
There are these moments where, through the experience of a certain character, you recognize a sense of grace living in the heart of his plays. As much as they are often a collective reckoning, I like to thi…

Student Actors Partner with Pulitzer-Nominated Playwright to Create New Work

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By Claire L. Wong
Audiences stepping into the Geary Theater for Wakey, Wakey will also experience the never-before-seen play The Substitution preceding it. Pulitzer Prize–nominated playwright Will Eno wrote this short play specifically for A.C.T.’s MFA Program students. When thinking about the content of The Substitution with Eno, director Anne Kauffman says, “One thing that we were interested in was the woman who appears for a brief moment of time in Wakey, Wakey. She appears at an important place in the piece, and so it felt important that we meet her in a different context. From there, we developed this idea into the first part of the show.”

MFA Program actors in the class of 2020 were in the room with Eno and Kauffman as they rehearsed The Substitution for the first time. “It was incredibly fun and helpful to get together with Anne and Kathryn [Smith-McGlynn] and the MFA students,” says Eno. “It’s a really important part of the playwriting process to hear things alive and in time,…

Playwright Will Eno on Wakey, Wakey

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By Joy Meads

There is a strange alchemy in Will Eno’s plays that draws us away from the anxious, racing world outside and into a quiet communion with one another and those solid, undeniable realities that connect us. Almost imperceptibly, he makes us more conscious of the world and more connected to those around us. Eno’s play The Realistic Joneses was performed at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater in 2016, and now his work is back at the Geary with Wakey, Wakey. We are grateful we have the opportunity to share this play with you. 
Wakey, Wakey playwright Will Eno. Photo courtesy Will Eno. 
What is it about the Geary that makes it the right home for this piece?
The play, I hope, makes spaces for us to have a human connection, to come together as a group of humans and sit with one another in the experience of larger, maybe scary or sad things. I love the potential ramifications of an audience using that entire space. I love the frank connection that Guy has with the audience, and the idea of actor …

Director Anne Kauffman on Wakey, Wakey

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By Hannah Clague
“The world is a complicated place,” says Anne Kauffman, “and directing theater is my way of facing that.” In two decades working in the American theater, the New York–based director has been unafraid to tackle weighty subjects. In addition to her work on and off Broadway, the Obie Award–winning Kauffman directed Hundred Days at Z Space in 2014, a musical that also tackles universal explorations of humanity. Kauffman returns to A.C.T., where she led an MFA Program production of Steve Gooch’s uncompromising drama Female Transport in 2005.

What excites you about Wakey, Wakey?
Growing up in the theater, we’re all taught the Aristotelian way of looking at plays: there’s a beginning, middle, and end. It’s this beautiful arc and all the moments of the play add up to one thing. Each scene is built to take us one step in the direction of the final conclusion. Real life is not shaped that way, and neither is Wakey, Wakey. It’s messing with the arc.

It’s so different from other p…

Humor and Vulnerability: Tony Hale on Wakey, Wakey

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By Simon Hodgson

“I hope that Bay Area audiences walk away from Wakey, Wakey feeling encouraged,” says two-time Emmy Award winner Tony Hale. Though Hale is best known for his television work in Veep and Arrested Development and recent big screen outing as the voice of Forky in Toy Story 4, his theater roots run deep.

You’ve been working for 20 years in film and television. How did you get started?
I was not a sports kid and my parents didn’t know what to do with me. My dad was in the army and he retired in Tallahassee, Florida, where I moved in the seventh grade. By the grace of God, there was this children’s theater nearby, Young Actors Theater, and my parents signed me up. It’s difficult to put into words how supportive and influential that theater was for me growing up. It was a space to be silly and stupid, to be free to discover, and to find what I love to do. I adore going back and talking with students and raising money for the theater.

Whether a kid goes into the arts or not, ce…

Drinks + Drama Fridays a Bay Area Hit

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By Claire L. Wong 
“Your new favorite end-of-week go-to spot” – The San Francisco Chronicle

Looking for a social spin on your theater-going experience? Ramp up your Friday night with a $15 advance ticket/ $20 door ticket for an orchestra seat and a drink included! Burst into the weekend with live music before the show, pop-up food from local vendors, and a lively atmosphere. You can even take photos against a backdrop with props.

Audience members in the Sky Bar at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater for Top Girls. Photo by Miranda Ashland.
Audiences loved Drinks + Drama for Top Girls at the Geary and Testmatch at the Strand. Join us for the next Drinks + Drama event at the Geary for Wakey, Wakey on January 24.

Check out our dates for upcoming Drinks + Drama events below.


Wakey, Wakey

Geary Theater

January 24, 2020 from 6–8 p.m.



Gloria

Strand Theater

February 14, 2020 from 5:30–7:30 p.m.



Toni Stone

Geary Theater

March 6, 2020 from 6–8 p.m.



Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show

Geary Theat…