Showing posts from September, 2020

The Evolution of a Holiday Classic: A Christmas Carol at A.C.T. Part One

  By Michael Paller  * This article originally appeared on Inside A.C.T. in 2016.  In the mid-1970s, regional theaters around the country discovered that audiences wanted a Christmas story at Christmastime, and none more so than Dickens’s  A Christmas Carol . Adaptations began appearing, starting with the Guthrie (1974) and the Actors Theater of Louisville (1976). Artistic Director Bill Ball asked Company Director Laird Williamson to look at the handful of existing adaptations and choose one to direct. Williamson found them sentimental and clichéd. They were “sugar-coated Dickens,” he said. “Tiny Tim is not the leading character. Scrooge is the real story.”  The cast of A.C.T.'s 1981 production of  A Christmas Carol . Williamson was drawn to the tale’s psychological and social realism, to its “comment on poverty and the inequality of the classes.” He suggested that he and Dennis Powers, the company’s literary jack-of-all-trades, do their own version. Ball agreed. Determined not to

The Prepared Mind: An Interview with Emma Van Lare

By Claire L. Wong and Alejandra Maria Rivas Emma Van Lare grew up in Spring, Texas, 22 miles from Houston. Her parents immigrated from the Republic of Ghana in West Africa. “I’m first-generation Ghanaian American,” Van Lare says, “so I think I’m of two places, actually.” When planning out her career, Van Lare sat her parents down and told them, “Look. I am not going to business school. I want to be an actor.” Her mom said, “Okay, but you have to treat it like a business. It can’t be a hobby.” Emma Van Lare. Photo by Deborah Lopez.  “I appreciated that,” Van Lare says, “because my mom’s a doctor, my dad’s an insurance business guy. Their background was, [ dramatic voice ] ‘Education is the way! The truth and the light!’ I appreciated them telling me that, because it showed that they were not rigid, they were very supportive. In creative work, you have to be your own engine and treat it like a business even if you’re not making money from it. It’s the only way you’ll survive.”

Uncovering a New Dimension: Director Peter J. Kuo on the Making of In Love and Warcraft (Part Two)

By Allie Moss Click here to read Part One of this profile.  Originally, In Love and Warcraft was conceived as an in-person production to take place with A.C.T.’s MFA students in May 2020. But in the midst of the pandemic, A.C.T.’s Conservatory was forced to “pivot” and mount the show online instead. The May production did much more than fulfill the curricular need for student performance; it inspired a remount co-production from A.C.T. and Perseverance Theater, and it birthed a new medium that Kuo calls “live video theater.”  “Live video theater” is exactly what it sounds like: theater, happening on video, streaming live. And that live element is key; it’s what makes this form distinct from recorded videos of past theater productions. “When you’re watching something live versus recorded, the brain activates in a way that goes, ‘okay, something can happen,’” Kuo says. “That’s what I think liveness does; it allows us to be more forgiving, and lean into theatrical convention.” To facili

Uncovering a New Dimension: Director Peter J. Kuo on the Making of In Love and Warcraft (Part One)

By Allie Moss Madhuri Shekar’s In Love and Warcraft is a play for our times. While there’s no mention of a pandemic, it expertly draws out questions of intimacy and relationship-building in virtual space. The play centers on Evie, a college senior who is navigating a budding in-person romance alongside an online relationship with her long-distance gamer boyfriend, with whom she plays World of Warcraft. By rehearsing and presenting the production on Zoom, life mirrors art as six of A.C.T.’s MFA actors are tasked with reaching through the screen to create deep connections. Peter J. Kuo, the production’s director, is profoundly aware of this overlap. “It’s not just that [the show] translates well into the online medium,” he says. “It actually shows that internet relationships have meaning and are palpable.”  Peter J. Kuo. Photo Courtesy of Peter J. Kuo. This play resonates for Kuo in part because he has personal experience building relationships over the internet. “My main introduction t