Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tales in the House

by Dan Rubin

Throughout the month of October, while Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet rehearsed on the sixth floor of A.C.T.’s studios at 30 Grant Avenue, two floors up the creative team of A.C.T.’s upcoming season finale, the world premiere of a new musical version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, busily worked with a remarkable cast to develop the book, music, lyrics, and choreography for what promises to be the event of the Bay Area theater season.

The production features a libretto by Tony Award–winning writer Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and music and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden of the glam-rock band Scissor Sisters; it is directed by Tony Award winner Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek: The Musical) and is choreographed by Larry Keigwin.

Unlike rehearsals, theater workshops are not intended to culminate in a fully staged production; instead the goal is to help the creators develop a piece of writing, such as a script or score, that is still in draft form. The plan for A.C.T.’s Tales workshop was to get the libretto and music ready for next spring, so that the cast and creative team can begin rehearsals for the world premiere production—which begins performances at A.C.T. in May—with a nearly finished text and score.

The cast of the workshop of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City at A.C.T.’S San Francisco studios. Photo by Ryan Montgomery
“A new musical is one of the hardest things in the world to create,” says director Jason Moore. “Having the time to be together and to try stuff out with actors who interpret the writing is such an important process for any musical, but particularly for one that has this scope.” A.C.T. is committed to developing original large-scale, multidisciplinary productions, especially projects that are immediately relevant to San Francisco—like 2007’s After the War and last season’s dance-based The Tosca Project. “A big part of what we do here,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff, “is celebrate our community. We believe that gorgeous things locally become gorgeous things globally. It is an incredible honor for us to work on this material—which was born in San Francisco—and launch it with this potent combination of artists.”

Armistead Maupin, author of the original Tales of the City newspaper series in the San Francisco Chronicle and the beloved novels it inspired, was himself in attendance for the first day of the three-week developmental workshop. “Thirty-seven years ago,” he told the assembled Tales team and A.C.T. staff, “I was working as a mail boy at Hoefer, Dieterich & Brown down on the Barbary Coast, the ad agency that became the model for Halcyon Communications in Tales. I was desperate to get out of there, and I had heard through the grapevine that there was a job opening in the promotions office of A.C.T. I was just over the moon because I thought, ‘Oh you would get to work in an office, but it’s theater. It would be perfect for me!’ I didn’t get the job, so I had to go out and write a book to find a way to bring myself back to A.C.T.”

“It is thrilling to be at this institution,” continued Maupin. “It is the perfect place for Tales of the City, because it did grow from this little, local thing that was laughed at and protested. To think that it has lasted all this time. I’m hearing from people who are coming from Paris to see the show. It’s very exciting.”

The world premiere production of Tales is scheduled for May 17–June 19, 2011. Single tickets go on sale in January 2011. To lock the best tickets and the best prices, subscribe to A.C.T.’s 2010–11 season.

Support Tales of the City by becoming a member of the Tales of the City Circle. For more information, visit act-sf.org/TalesCircle or call 415.439.2353.

For exclusive first looks, presale ticket info, and special offers, join Tale Chasers, A.C.T.’s email fan club, by visiting www.act-sf.org/TaleChasers


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