THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE
GETS THE JOHN DOYLE TREATMENT
Production features a world premiere translation by
A.C.T. Associate Artist Domenique Lozano and
original music by San Francisco composer Nathaniel Stookey.
Cast features the A.C.T. core acting company alongside
A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program students and graduates.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) brings Bertolt Brecht’s masterpiece The Caucasian Chalk Circle to the Bay Area in a fresh take from Tony Award–winning director and designer John Doyle (Company on Broadway, Sweeney Todd on Broadway and at A.C.T.), whose work has been hailed by critics as “ferociously inventive” (The New York Times) and “gleefully irreverent and bracingly modern” (The Times, London).
This world premiere production of a new translation by A.C.T. Associate Artist Domenique Lozano marks the return of modern theater master Brecht’s work to A.C.T. after the successes of The Threepenny Opera in 1999 and Happy End in 2006.
Pictured above, the Governor’s Wife (A.C.T. core acting company member René Augesen, left) and Grusche (A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Omozé Idehenre, right) hold onto the child in preparation for the test of the chalk circle, as a Soldier (A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program student Nick Childress) moderates. Photo by Kevin Berne.
The play follows the story of a servant girl who saves the life of an abandoned baby boy in wartime. When the wealthy mother returns to claim him, however, their fates lie in the hands of a wily, unpredictable judge whose concern for the poor is rivaled only by his concern for saving his own hide. Featuring Doyle’s signature theatricality, A.C.T.’s Caucasian Chalk Circle soars with humor, romance, and unexpected plot twists. The production features a new score by acclaimed San Francisco composer Nathaniel Stookey (The Composer Is Dead and upcoming Junkestra with the San Francisco Symphony). As with Stookey’s earlier work, the score incorporates objects scavenged from the San Francisco Dump alongside more conventional instruments and voices. And as in Doyle’s extraordinary rethinking of Sweeney Todd, the entire score is performed by the cast. The Caucasian Chalk Circle plays February 18–March 14, 2010, at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco). Opening night is Wednesday, February 24, 2010, at 8 p.m. Tickets—starting at $10—are available by calling A.C.T. Ticket Services at 415.749.2228 or at www.act-sf.org.
“I am very excited to be doing this very special new translation of this wonderful play for A.C.T. I enjoyed my visit to San Francisco for Sweeney Todd and hoped to return,” says Doyle, who has decided to create the ensemble of The Caucasian Chalk Circle exclusively from A.C.T. core acting company members, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program students, and graduates. “I am always attracted to venues that have resident companies, very much an ethos I grew up with in the U.K. I was interested in doing this production with the company members and with graduating students, as such ways of working make me feel very ‘at home.’ I have so enjoyed collaborating with Domenique Lozano on her translation, and again it has been special to work with an artist who belongs to the organization.”
Lozano, whose work at A.C.T. includes directing A Christmas Carol for the last four seasons and numerous productions for the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program, where she also teaches, has received special permission from the Brecht estate to create this new translation. She speaks to the challenge of setting Brecht’s language to English: “The Caucasian Chalk Circle is filled with characters that have dirt under their fingernails, people who are scrambling to survive. Brecht’s language matches that—it’s German of the people, not in verse, not fancy. There isn’t time for that. The language is a direct pulse, right through the heart of things. The play reads so easily and lightly in the original language; that’s what I am trying to accomplish in the translation.” Lozano adds about being an associate artist at A.C.T.: “A.C.T. is an institution that values artists and their contributions and gives you the chance to expand your strengths. I am so grateful to Carey and John Doyle for giving me this opportunity.”
Stookey, a San Francisco composer who has received considerable national attention, is composing the score for this production. Stookey speaks to working with Doyle on this collaboration: “John Doyle is often described as ‘an actor’s director,’ but he also made lots of friends in the music world with his extraordinary rethinking of Sweeney Todd. That’s because of the way the music was incorporated into the fabric of the drama, something you just can’t do with a pit orchestra. I had never expected to write music for theater, but I would follow John anywhere!”
The production stays true to Brecht’s style, doing away with theatrical artifice and inviting the audience to become active participants in the telling of the story. Doyle sets his production in an abandoned, dilapidated theater in a war-torn environment. The nine performers, all playing multiple roles, transform the space, finding costumes, script pages, and objects to create the play. The visual look of the piece is inspired by a series of photos from wars of the last century, with the costumes evoking a wide variety of time periods and locales, from the Spanish Civil War to the Vietnam War to the war in Iraq. In this eclectic atmosphere, the nine performers will have a life and story unto themselves, along with the characters they play in service of the story. Doyle, who is no stranger to working in this style, quips: “It has often been said that my working style is ‘Brechtian’—never by me, I might add. I am interested in communicating the story simply and directly as Brecht has, and hopefully with something of his sense of ‘theater.’ Brecht said to his audience, ‘Imagine,’ and that’s what we are asking our audience to do. It is this unlocking of the imagination that gets humans through dark times of violence and war. In this way, the production will not be about a remote place. It will be about what is fair, what is law, and what is true.”
Artistic Director Carey Perloff is excited to share yet another Brecht masterpiece with the A.C.T. audience, especially as conceived by a master artist such as Doyle: “After having such an amazing experience with Sweeney Todd, John Doyle was eager to return to A.C.T., and I was thrilled about the opportunity to have this inventive and imaginative artist and great collaborator back in our midst. Brecht has long been a favorite of A.C.T. audiences, who came in record numbers to see both The Threepenny Opera and Happy End as reimagined by our core acting company. Doyle’s passion for this wartime story of injustice and hope brings a contemporary immediacy to The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and I think this will be a revelatory and moving production.”
A.C.T. offers numerous InterACT events in association with The Caucasian Chalk Circle that allow patrons to get closer to the action and save big while making a whole night of their evening at the theater:
• 10UP: World-Class Theater at Happy Hour Prices: Thu., Feb. 18, through Sun., Feb. 28
Get in on 10UP and enjoy the Bay Area’s best theater at only $10 a ticket for our second-balcony seats. Bar opens one hour before curtain time—sip discount specialty cocktails, beer, and wine, and then enjoy world-class entertainment in one of the most beautiful theaters in the world. It’s theater, only different. Cheers.
• Audience Prologue Featuring Director John Doyle: Tue., Feb. 23, at 5:30 p.m.
Get inside the artistic process. Join us for this half-hour discussion with the director introducing the production. FREE and open to the public (no tickets required).
• Bring What You Can/Pay What You Wish: Thu., Feb. 25, at 8 p.m.
Pay any amount for your tickets when you bring a donation of nonperishable food donations to the San Francisco Food Bank (sffoodbank.org). Patrons are limited to two tickets per donated item, two tickets per person. Tickets go on sale at 6 p.m. the day of the performance. Sponsored by Bank of the West.
• Audience Exchanges: Tue., Mar. 2, at 7 p.m. / Sun., Mar. 7, at 2 p.m. /
Wed., Mar. 10, at 2 p.m.
Join us for lively Q&A sessions with the actors and A.C.T. artistic staff members after these performances.
• OUT with A.C.T.: Wed., Mar. 3, at 8 p.m.
A dynamic series for LGBT theater lovers that includes a catered afterparty with complimentary wine and desserts and a cast meet and greet. Visit www.act-sf.org/out for more information about how to subscribe to OUT nights.
• Bike to the Theater Night: Thu., Mar. 4, at 8 p.m.
A greener alternative to theater transportation. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) offers free valet bike parking for all patrons who cycle to the theater for this performance. Valet bike parking is available one hour prior to showtime. Bicycles will be attended throughout the evening. Please bring your own lock.
The creative team of A.C.T.’s production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle also includes Jane Cox (lighting designer). A.C.T.’s production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle is made possible by executive producers Mrs. Albert J. Moorman and Ms. Toni Rembe and Mr. Arthur Rock; producers Janet and Lloyd Cluff, Daniel E. Cohn, Natasha and Lincoln Evans-Beauchamp, Rose Hagan and Mark Lemley, Jeanne and Kent Harvey, and Doug Tilden; and associate producers Valerie Charlton Char and Devron Char and Randy Solomon and Joe Mallet. A.C.T. would also like to acknowledge company sponsors Priscilla and Keith Geeslin, Nancy Livingston and Fred Levin, The Shenson Foundation, Burt and Deedee McMurtry, Kathleen Scutchfield, Mr. and Mrs. Steven L. Swig; Jeff and Laurie Ubben, and Susan Van Wagner. Major support for A.C.T.’s core acting company and Master of Fine Arts Program has been provided by Jewels of Charity, Inc.
BERTOLT BRECHT (Playwright), German poet, playwright, and theatrical reformer, was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, in 1898. He was publishing poems in a local newspaper by the age of 16, and his first produced play, Drums in the Night, was performed at the Munich Kammerspiele in 1922. In 1924 he moved to Berlin, where he worked as a theater critic and as Max Reinhardt’s assistant and dramaturg at the Deutsches Theater while writing a number of plays. Brecht’s early works include In the Jungle of Cities (1923) and Life of Edward II of England (1924), but his first real success came with The Threepenny Opera in 1928. He began reading Marx’s Das Kapital in the mid 1920s; the influence of this work is noticeable in his first collaboration with Kurt Weill, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1927). It was also during this period that he developed his concept of “epic theater,” which departed from the conventions of theatrical illusion and considered the drama a social and ideological forum for leftist causes. Marxism did not become a driving force in Brecht’s work, however, until the early 1930s, when he wrote Saint Joan of the Stockyards and a number of short didactic plays. Brecht was forced to flee Germany in 1933 with his wife, Helene Weigel, and their two children, and after living in Switzerland, Denmark, and Finland he settled in California in 1941, where he remained during the war. During these years, he wrote what are generally considered his most important plays: Mother Courage and Her Children (1941), The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941), The Good Woman of Setzuan (1943), The Life of Galileo (1943), and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1944). In 1947, having been called before the House Committee of Un-American Activities, Brecht left the United States for Switzerland, and in 1949 he was asked by the government of East Germany to form a state-financed theater company. He moved to East Berlin and founded the Berliner Ensemble, taking up residence in the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, which he ran until his death in 1956.
DOMENIQUE LOZANO (Translator) directed last two years’ productions of A Christmas Carol. Other directing credits include The Countess with Center REPertory Company, Two for the Seesaw with Marin Theatre Company, Inspecting Carol and the West Coast premiere of Jane Martin’s Anton in Show Business with San Jose Stage Company, and The Norman Conquests, Holiday, The Real Thing, and She Loves Me with Napa Valley Repertory Theatre, of which she was a founding member and associate artistic director. An associate artist at A.C.T., Lozano teaches in numerous programs and has directed many projects with the Young Conservatory and M.F.A. Program. Young Conservatory projects include the American premiere of After Juliet; the world premieres of Sarah Daniel’s Dust and Constance Congdon’s Nightingales; a coproduction with the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Zürich of Paul Steinmann’s Only Victory; and the West Coast premieres of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Korczak’s Children and Wendy MacLeod’s School Girl Figure. Directing work with the M.F.A. Program includes Caught with Her Pants Down, Richard III, and numerous graduating class showcases, as well as the M.F.A. Program/Young Conservatory coproduction of Amy Herzog’s The Wendy Play. This spring she will direct a new musical by Craig Slaight celebrating the music of Rufus Wainwright. Acting credits include work with such theaters as California Shakespeare Theater, where she is an artistic associate, A.C.T., Berkeley Repertory Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, San Jose Stage Company, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Lozano has also taught throughout the Bay Area at such institutions as Saint Mary’s College, UC Davis, California Shakespeare Theater, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
JOHN DOYLE (Director) has been artistic director of four prestigious regional theaters in the United Kingdom, including the famous Liverpool Everyman. In the 2006–07 season he directed the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Previously he directed the critically acclaimed Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Broadway, West End, U.S. national tour, and A.C.T.), earning the 2006 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Director, and the Drama Desk Award. Other notable productions include The Gondoliers (West End), Fiddler on the Roof, and Moll Flanders, which each won U.K. regional awards for best musical; four other productions also received nominations, including Mack & Mabel (also West End). Last season, he directed Peter Grimes at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny for LA Opera, and Lucia di Lammermoor for Scottish Opera. Opera work in the United Kingdom includes The Tailor’s Daughter and The Elixir of Love (Welsh National Youth Opera), Ice (City of London Sinfonia), and Fast Forward Figaro (Buxton Festival). Doyle has directed numerous classic plays, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream (New Shakespeare Company), The Wars of the Roses (York Theatre Royal), and a major revival of Amadeus (Wilton’s Music Hall, London). He is also co-author of the internationally best-selling Shakespeare for Dummies.
NATHANIEL STOOKEY’s (Composer) compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s great orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra. Recent vocal-theatrical collaborations include The Composer Is Dead with Lemony Snicket, Into the Bright Lights with Frederica von Stade, and Zipperz with poet Dan Harder, playwright Eisa Davis, and A.C.T. core acting company member Manoel Felciano. In addition to music for conventional ensembles, Stookey has continued to attract new audiences with compositions that challenge the established boundaries of classical music. Junkestra, for an orchestra of objects scavenged at the San Francisco Dump, drew thousands of listeners to warehouses and public squares. It will be performed by the San Francisco Symphony on May 9, 2010. Stookey also contributed original music for string quintet to The Mars Volta’s 2009 Grammy Award–winning album, The Bedlam in Goliath.
THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE
WHAT: Visionary director John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, Company on Broadway) returns to A.C.T. to stage a spectacular new interpretation of Brecht’s masterpiece of hope, humanity, and justice. Featuring Doyle’s signature theatricality and original music from acclaimed avant-garde composer Nathaniel Stookey (Lemony Snicket’s The Composer Is Dead), this must-see production finds an intrepid company of actors creating the play from the rubble of a war-torn society. Objects turn into set pieces, discarded articles of clothing become costumes, and shrapnel is transformed into musical instruments. In this brand-new translation, The Caucasian Chalk Circle soars with humor, romance, unexpected plot twists, and high-stakes intensity that will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
WHO: Written by Bertolt Brecht
Translated by Domenique Lozano
Directed and designed by John Doyle
Composition and musical direction by Nathaniel Stookey
Designed by Jane Cox (lighting designer)
Featuring René Augesen* (ensemble), Nick Childress** (ensemble), Manoel Felciano* (ensemble), Anthony Fusco* (ensemble), Rod Gnapp (ensemble), Caroline Hewitt** (ensemble), Omozé Idehenre** (ensemble), Gregory Wallace* (ensemble), Jack Willis* (ensemble)
*A.C.T. core acting company member
**Member of the A.C.T Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2010
WHERE: American Conservatory Theater
415 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
WHEN: February 18–March 14, 2010
Tue.–Sat. at 8 p.m. (3/2 performance at 7 p.m.)
Wed., Sat. & Sun. at 2 p.m. (no matinee performances on 2/21, 2/24)
Additional performances: 2/28 (7 p.m.)
Low-Price Preview Performances………………………..2/18 (8 p.m.), 2/19 (8 p.m.),
2/20 (2 p.m. & 8 p.m.), 2/23 (8 p.m.)
10UP: World-Class Theater at Happy Hour Prices………All performances 2/18–2/28
Audience Prologue with Director Carey Perloff…………2/23 (5:30 p.m.)
Bring What You Can/Pay What You Wish………………..2/25 (8 p.m.)
Postperformance Audience Exchanges…………………..3/2 (7 p.m.), 3/7 (2 p.m.), 3/10 (2 p.m.)
OUT with A.C.T………………………………………….3/3 (8 p.m.)
Bike to the Theater Night…………………………………3/4 (8 p.m.)
HOW MUCH: $10–$82
Premiere Orchestra Dress Circle Balcony 2nd Balcony
Weekend $82 $67 $57 $41 $22
Weekdays $71 $57 $47 $34 $17
Previews $57 $47 $37 $27 $10
Previews ($10–$57): 2/18 (8 p.m.), 2/19 (8 p.m.), 2/20 (2 p.m. & 8 p.m.), 2/23 (8 p.m.)
Weekdays ($17–$71): Tue. 7 p.m., Tue.–Thu. 8 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m., Wed. 2 p.m.
Weekend ($22–$82): Sat. 8 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 2 p.m.
TIX & INFO: 415.749.2228 | www.act-sf.org
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