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Showing posts from 2020

Producing Live Content in the Age of Uncertainty

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By Beryl Baker

Since San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order went into effect on March 19, A.C.T. Digital Content Producer Beryl Baker has been keeping busy. In addition to turning live productions of Gloria and Toni Stone into streamed films and editing A.C.T.’s InterACT-at-Home videos, Baker also produced Spring Forward, the smash-hit virtual fundraiser that helped sustain our artistic and education and community programs. Baker shares tips on how to produce a successful, virtual, live event in a pandemic. 

Find out what technology can do for you
Talk or reach out to video production experts and trust their advice. Dig deep into understanding what is and isn't possible. Most people don’t realize that technology isn't as ahead of its time as we’re told. While FaceTime and Google Hangouts exist, those are patented products produced by two top tech companies: having video be sent out and received live requires incredibly fast data processing. Comparing a phone call to a FaceTim…

The Full Her: An Interview with Dinah Berkeley

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By Claire L. Wong and Alejandra Maria Rivas

Dinah Berkeley (she/they) grew up in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb outside of Chicago. After graduating from Ohio University, Berkeley studied in a professional training program at Actors Theatre of Louisville, then moved to New York for a few years. There she became involved with mime, physical theater, and clown, and joined the Broken Box Mime Theater troupe. Berkeley’s focus narrowed to sharpening her acting skills, and after auditioning for graduate programs, she came to A.C.T.

Dinah Berkeley. Photo by Deborah Lopez.
Can you describe your experience being in the MFA Program? It’s challenged me about what kind of artist I want to be, how I want to present myself. What kind of work I want. I’ve had to be open to things that I might feel resistance to and trust that if I do the work and if it’s not serving me, I can put it aside. But I won’t know that answer until I commit to fully trying.

What’s your favorite part of the Program?
Sky Fest hand…

It Wasn’t a Party—It Was a Riot

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By Beryl Baker and Livian Yeh

San Francisco Pride is turning 50 this year amid a global pandemic and worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. In response to questions about the upcoming virtual celebration and rally, San Francisco Pride board president Carolyn Wysinger expressed support of the protesters and highlighted the especially vulnerable Black trans community. “Stonewall was started by a Black trans woman. Stonewall was a defense of Black bodies,” says Wysinger. “In honor of this, San Francisco Pride will use this moment to lift up and center our Black LGBTQ+ community members.” The woman Wysinger referred to was Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender activist and performer credited with throwing the first brick at Stonewall. As the saying goes, Pride didn’t start as a party—it was a riot, and members of the LGBTQ+ community have long fought back against police harassment and discrimination. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the transgender and …

Jennifer Bielstein Joins Mayor Breed’s Economic Recovery Task Force

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By Simon Hodgson

Congratulations to A.C.T. Executive Director Jennifer Bielstein for her appointment to San Francisco’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force. “We are looking for ways to keep businesses and organizations afloat and prepare San Francisco for recovery,” says Mayor London Breed. “This Task Force will help us get there.”


Bielstein is one of a select group of arts and culture leaders joining the task force. Given the diverse economic challenges facing San Francisco and the Bay Area, the Task Force draws its talented members from many areas: elected officials, representatives from multiple unions, city planning administrators, Chinatown community leaders, prominent local business owners (representing many sectors including the restaurant and construction industries), chamber of commerce leaders, as well as executives from California-based multinationals including Google, Gap, and Salesforce.

A.C.T.’s executive director is well suited for this participation—Bielstein bring…

Our Commitment and Resources to Anti-Racism

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Last week we shared a message with our community in response to the trauma our country and individuals are experiencing with the continued horrific and unnecessary deaths of Black people.
Over the past two years, A.C.T. has undergone tremendous change as an institution. We have owned and learned from our history, including significant input from a departing Black MFA faculty member in 2018, and recognize ongoing systemic challenges. We continue to evolve our organizational culture and work toward making meaningful changes that reflect our values of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

In our efforts to be an anti-racist organization, American Conservatory Theater is taking or committing to take the following actions:
Serving as community advocates by ensuring our programming reflects and represents the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area communityEnsuring the diversity of creative teams (including playwrights, directors, dramaturgs, and designers) to better tell stories and mak…

Empowerment and Happiness: An Interview with Teaching Artist Radhika Rao

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By Claire L. Wong

The first teacher Radhika Rao encountered was her grandmother, and she saw how far a teacher’s love and influence can reach. “She loved education and her students so much,” says Rao. Growing up in New Delhi, India, Rao remembers being in an elementary school play. But it wasn’t until college that she sought out the drama club. Her first job out of college was teaching theater, and she’s continued acting, directing, and teaching theater ever since.

For the past eight years, Rao has been working as a teaching artist and arts integrator in the Bay Area. She uses theater tools and techniques to further conversations about topics including family, the environment, vaping, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Rao works with people of all ages to engage them creatively, emphasizing empowerment and happiness in their art and daily lives. Her local work has included A.C.T., San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, TheatreWorks, New Conservatory Theatre Center, Stanford University,…

Finding Voices Within: A.C.T. Joins Forces with Community Works

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by Livian Yeh

Led by our Community Programs Manager Stephanie Wilborn, A.C.T. has started a brand-new partnership with Community Works, an Oakland-based nonprofit that provides programs for people impacted by incarceration throughout the Bay Area, both in-custody and in the community.

“I’ve always wanted to collaborate with them,” says Wilborn. So when a colleague forwarded an email from the organization, she leapt at the opportunity to connect. The admiration turned out to be mutual. Her counterpart at Community Works, Lynn Aylward, happens to be a longtime A.C.T. fan. The two met for coffee, and Stephanie offered A.C.T.’s support of their theater program.

Rising Voices, the initiative managed by Aylward, is the brainchild of CW Founder and Executive Director Ruth Morgan. It focuses on young women (ages 18 to 25) who are currently or recently incarcerated, and fits within the nonprofit’s broader program for transitional age youth who are at risk of incarceration or in the process of …

Worthy to Be Told: An Interview with Summer Brown

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By Claire L. Wong and Alejandra Maria Rivas
Summer Brown comes from a loud family in Richmond, Virginia. “Growing up the youngest of four, it made me a big observer in how people operate,” says Brown. “My family members were definitely my first scene studies.” Brown is a third-year student in A.C.T.’s MFA Program and is nearing graduation. While studying theater at University of Maryland, College Park, one of her professors told her about A.C.T.’s Summer Training Congress, which she completed the summer before her senior year. “I remember during that summer was the first time that I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, I’m gonna be an actor.’” Since she had decided to purse acting as a career, Brown auditioned for graduate schools, and came to A.C.T. after undergrad.

Summer Brown. Photo by Deborah Lopez.
What has your last year in the Program been like? Starting this third year with Top Girls [A.C.T.’s season opener at the Geary Theater], I was figuring out what it is to be in a professional r…

MFA Students on Learning from Home and Maintaining Their Mental Health

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By Claire L. Wong
For nearly two months, A.C.T. MFA students have been learning from home, an adjustment that takes mental energy and creativity. The faculty and staff members have been adapting to digital teaching and rehearsing, while maintaining as much normalcy as possible. “It’s meaningful to have structure and to create during this uncertainty,” says A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith. “The need to connect is fundamental to being human and through connection we evolve and become more empathetic.”

The cast and creative team of A.C.T.'s MFA production of Rough Magic, directed by M. Graham Smith, rehearse over Zoom.
Many MFA students have returned home or are living with family while sheltering in place, which poses challenges—and opportunities—to rehearsing. “I moved home to Utah for the quarantine,” says Grace Fojtik. “I’m returning to the place of play where I’d spend hours in my backyard pretending to be a spy or an explorer. Tapping into that kid-like imagination ha…

The Fire Within: An Interview with Sarah Traisman

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By Claire L. Wong and Alejandra Maria Rivas
Sarah Traisman (she/they) loves running. She loves its goal-oriented training and its meditative quality. And she loves hosting a dinner party. Traisman, a third-year student in A.C.T.’s MFA Program, is weeks from graduation. She grew up in Chicago and attended undergrad at Vassar College. For two years afterward, Traisman lived in New York, trying the audition circuit. Then she decided she wanted more training under her belt.

One of her best friends was already at A.C.T., and when Traisman learned about A.C.T.’s emphasis on citizen artistry, she was drawn to the MFA Program. “There’s something to be said about a community that is interested in you,” says Traisman. “A.C.T. showed a lot of interest in who I was.” Now, three years later, Traisman has recently performed her senior solo show (over the video conferencing platform Zoom). We spoke with her about her experience in A.C.T.’s MFA Program.


Sarah Traisman. Photo by Deborah Lopez. 
How have…

How Can I Support the Arts Right Now?

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By Miranda Ashland

All around the country, arts organizations are struggling after having to shut their doors and cancel upcoming programming due to COVID-19. We’ve compiled a list of ways to support the arts community.
A.C.T.'s Geary Theater. Photo by Marco Lorenzetti.
How to Support an Arts Organization
Many organizations are nonprofit and employ not only artists, but dozens of staff: administrators, customer service, concessions, janitors, ushers, curators, ticketing services, security, and more. These are ways you can support them.
DonationsNo matter how small, monetary donations are instrumental to the survival of most arts companies. If you’ve purchased tickets to an event that’s now canceled, donate your tickets back. If refunds are automatic, turn the refund into a donation.Buy for the FuturePurchase a subscription to the next season or a ticket to a future performance. You’re helping the organization now and giving yourself something to look forward to.Buy a Gift CardIf ther…

The Show Must Stream On

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By Livian Yeh

On March 16, four days after performances of Gloria and Toni Stone were canceled in response to the coronavirus, A.C.T. began offering patrons access to recordings of both shows through a partnership with the streaming platform BroadwayHD. “We didn’t have the time or resources to invest in a five-camera shoot that’s directed and designed,” Executive Director Jennifer Bielstein told the New York Times. “So we recorded with one or two cameras in the house. It’s more about making sure the audience gets to see the work.”

For Ticketing Services, A.C.T.’s most forward-facing department, pivoting from live performances to online streaming required flexibility and adaptability. ”We’re used to selling an experience,” says Director of Ticketing and Sales Operations Jennifer Peterian. “Customer service is usually about the shows that are happening in the theater. For virtual tickets, we had to become technical troubleshooters.”

The cast and creative team of A.C.T.'s Gloria watch…

A.C.T. Conservatory Classes Go Online

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By Claire L. Wong
The world is still adjusting to sheltering in place in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. In this time of uncertainty, A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith emphasizes connection and creativity. “It’s crucial to seek joy, to find laughter and hope,” says Smith, “which happens naturally when theater artists get together and play.”

 A.C.T. San Francisco Semester Spring class students make the most of remote learning with Studio A.C.T. Director Mark Jackson (center top).
How are theater artists getting together? All of A.C.T.’s Conservatory classes for students in the MFA Program, Young Conservatory, San Francisco Semester, and Studio A.C.T. are now online through Zoom video conferencing. It was challenging for faculty and staff members to figure out how to quickly adapt classes for a live performance art form to something digital, but they found solutions. “They worked with remarkable speed, agility, thoughtfulness, and flexibility,” says Director of Studio A.C.T.…

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 …