Monday, December 10, 2012

BACT Blogger Genevieve Interviews Min Kahng

Our special guest blogger Genevieve is back! Genevieve is now ten years old and in the fourth grade at Kensington Hilltop School. She attended her first live theater performance at three years old. Genevieve also enjoys acting, particularly in musicals, playing the piano, writing, reading, traveling, and playing sports with her friends. She lives in Kensington with her parents and two younger siblings.
If you are age 9 and up and want to write a blog about your experience with BACT, email

My Interview of Min Kahng
By Genevieve, Age 10

I got lucky enough to interview Min Kahng, the playwright of the new and wonderful BACT production, The Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical. I was so excited to hear I could interview him! I really enjoyed the play. I loved all the songs and the funny lines. Min is a great writer and based some of the main ideas on his own childhood life.

The mortal character, Jason, learns an important lesson about trusting himself while he is taught some classic Greek mythology from a few of the more famous Greek Gods. The character of Athena was a know-it-all and she seemed true to my imagination of her behavior. Aphrodite was very graceful and it was funny when the Gods were arguing and she sang her song which made everyone’s thoughts turn to love. Calliope was bossy and caring and Zeus showed his power in many funny ways.

Playwright/composer Min Kahng playing Hermes
The costumes were creative and they used many small props to help the audience understand the stories. Min Kahng probably did not know that nearly all of my fourth grade friends are very into Greek myths when he and Nina, the Executive Director of BACT, got together to think about the theme of their next play. Nina suggested Greek myths and Min liked the idea because of his great elementary school teacher who taught him how exciting Greek myths were by having him and his classmates act out the stories.

After he knew what he was writing about, he needed a deadline. He started in the spring and had the script mostly ready for a workshop in June 2012. A workshop is a time when acting businesses hire actors to read out loud the script to make sure that the lines work and the story makes sense. Then, in between June and October, Min had to revise the script and lyrics to be sure they were ready and perfect to start rehearsing with the real actors.

Min was also hired to be the musical director of the production, so he helped the actors on their solos and harmonies. Also, he would stay around at rehearsals to make sure the lines made sense and did not need to be adjusted. Min did not entirely memorize the lines of the actors, but knew the basic arch of the story. For example, when I saw the play, something happened to Jonathon Brooks, the actor playing Hermes, and Min took his part and did very well.

Min works on short plays and songs in his spare time. Some of his plays are The Song of the Nightingale, Bust, The Plans of Theodore Crumb, and some BACT teen plays, Café Broadway and Beasts of I’m very grateful to Min for spending some time with me so I could do this interesting interview with him! I am also thankful for the great cast who put on the play and made it wonderful!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writing Olympus - A Guest Blog by Min Kahng

Min Kahng wrote the book, music and lyrics for Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical, playing in Berkeley from December 8th thru 22nd. Min is also an instructor with BACT's Youth Education Program, as well as the Marketing Coordinator for BACT.
Greek mythology is cool. So cool, in fact, that all I have to do is mention the title of my new show (Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical) and people of all ages respond "Ooh! That sounds cool!" Understandably so. This ancient pantheon of gods and goddesses takes our imaginations on fanciful journeys that could rival the best super-hero/fantasy/science-fiction fare today. The myths also teach us something about our world and our society. And, quite simply, they're fun.

A Greek myth musical? Sounds cool to me.

What was perhaps less obvious or self-evident was how to give Tales of Olympus its form or shape as a show.  I knew I wanted to introduce young audiences to a handful or so of Greek myths - like a "story sampler platter" as one of the characters in Tales says.  But I also wanted to prevent the show from becoming one of those overstated works of "edu-tainment," which ironically serve to lose a kid's attention.  I had to come up with a through-line - a story that tied all of the myths together, so audience members would be thrust into this recounting of Greek myths without feeling like they were in school.

I knew this through-line had to be centered around something that was important to me, something that captured my heart.  So, I looked back to why Greek myths strike a chord with me. I recalled how Mrs. Abelmann, my fifth grade teacher, introduced me to Greek mythology by acting out portions of the famous lore in class, and eventually had us write our own myths. Mine was on the origin of the sunset, and I was quite proud of it. There was something very empowering about being able to create my own story. I was joining the ranks of Homer - or at least following (far, far behind) in his footsteps. I realize that because of Mrs. Abelmann, Greek mythology will always be a part of my own journey as a writer.

This led me to think about the other people or events that have influenced my writing journey.  Encouraging teachers, mentors & professors who affirmed, critiqued, sharpened my writing voice. Hours spent alone, dreaming up stories and scenes on paper, video camera or at a keyboard. I also remembered the doubts and set-backs. The times when I denied my writing ability because I felt like I would never be good enough. Or my hesitation to let others read or hear what I have written, for fear of harsh criticism or ridicule. These fears were especially strong during my middle school years. I remember writing a song for a 7th grade class project. My teacher lauded it and gave me an A+. Then she asked if she could play the recording for the class. I said "No," embarrassed at the thought of drawing attention to myself, and later, full of regret for not having taken the chance.

What had it taken for me to finally declare that I was a writer? When did I finally start thinking "I can do this?" Perhaps, more poignantly, why didn't I just give up and go another route? What made me stay on this path in spite of my own defeatist attitude?

I think the answer has to do with the work of writers that came before. Books, plays, films - anything with a narrative that has inspired me - kept nudging me to find my own footing; Greek myths included.

And then I had it; this would be my through-line. 
Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical would be my little nudge to younger artists and writers.
Zeus & Aphrodite show Jason the wonders of Olympus.

This led to the birth of the character Jason - a talented, twelve-year old storyteller who needs some gods and goddesses to help him see his potential. Meanwhile, the gods and goddesses need Jason's storytelling ability to keep their tales alive. The show is indeed rife with popular Greek myths, as the title promises. But underneath all that is the coming-of-age of a young bard who is influenced by the work of bards who came before him. Tales of Olympus is a story about telling stories.

And I'm pretty sure the ages of human history would agree that stories are pretty cool too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

BACT Spotlight On - Actor/Educator

As we prepare for the holiday season, we are excited to bring back one of our most popular shows from last year: Pinkalicious, the Musical!  We thought it would be fun to interview Pinkalicious herself, or rather the very talented actress who plays her: Katie McGee.  In addition to being a performer, Ms. McGee is also one of the educators for BACT's Youth Education Program (YEP). We asked her about both her life on-stage and her life as a drama teacher.

BACT: Let's get right to what everyone probably wants to know. What is it like to play Pinkalicious? In what ways are you like or different from her?

Katie: Playing Pinkalicious is a delight! It is very similar to a crazy sugar rush - spaz, crash, and return to normal. I relate to Pinkalicious in a lot of ways. The relationship Pinkalicious has with her little brother, Peter, is very similar to the relationship I have with my little brother. Like Peter and Pinkalicious, we were very close growing up. Much like Pinkalicious, I was (my brother would argue that I still am) a bit of a bossy boots. Also similar to Pinkalicious, I love the color pink. When I was a kindergartener, I went through a phase where I would only wear pink. Red was a big wardrobe no no. Unlike Pinkalicious, however, I have always loved my greens. Yum!

BACT: Pinkalicious, the Musical was one of our most successful productions. Why do you think kids relate to Pinkalicious so much?


Katie: I think one of the biggest draws is the magic. She turns pink! And then red! Pinkalicious brings to life all of the wives' tales our parents told us. "Don't cross your eyes Tommy or they will get stuck that way." "Don't eat all of your Halloween candy Susie or your teeth will fall out." Also, many of the audience members know the story of Pinkalicious before they see it. Therefore the dramatic irony builds each time Pinkalicious eats another cupcake. There is something very suspensful about knowing a character's fate and watching them ignore your warnings.

BACT: We're getting ready for the return of Pinkalicious to the BACT stage this December. Will it be easy to jump back into the role? Will there be any new challenges the second time around? What are you most looking forward to about doing the show again?

Katie: Since closing, Pinkalicious has followed me around like a shadow. The kids I nanny for frequently request Pinkalicious living room performances. (I thought these requests would fade, but here we are in November and it is still happening!) Thanks to them my lines are pretty solid. I will, however, need to dust off my pink tap shoes and start practicing my footwork! I am most looking forward to reuniting with the cast and crew. They are a hoot!

BACT: You also help out with BACT's Youth Education Program. Can you describe what you do?

Katie: This semester I have been helping lead Montclaire Elementary first and second grade students on pirate adventures and jungle explorations. It is the BEST. BACT's curriculum is based in process drama. Teachers and students are in role (playing news reporters, jungle explorers, pirate captains, etc.) throughout class. While in character, students are asked to help teachers solve problems and make discoveries in real time. For example, last week I played a starving hunter. The student jungle explorers were asked to help me come up with alternatives to hunting. They concluded that they would help me plant crops and loan me some of their food. They were so sharp and generous!


BACT: What do you enjoy most about working with kids, specifically as it relates to theatre and dramatic arts? What have you found most rewarding about working with children?

Katie: Such a hard question! Many aspects of the job are extremely rewarding. Most recently I have enjoyed watching students make discoveries about human relationships. For example, last week I was participating in a pirate tableaux with a few first grade students. I was cast as a timid crew member opposite an evil pirate captain. I put on my best scared face and made eye contact with the "captain." I watched the lightbulb go off in the captain's head. As she observed my frightened face, her face got meaner and nastier. She discovered that our emotions and demeanor generate a reaction from others. Awesome!

BACT: Many teachers say that they learn a lot from their students. Is this true for you? What have you learned from your students?

Katie: I am constantly learning from my students. The teaching I do inspires a lot of what I do onstage. The biggest lesson I have learned happened while I was working as a music director for a student production of Peter Pan. It was someone's birthday and cookies were getting passed out backstage. One of the second graders was getting into costume and asked if either my co-director or I could set a cookie aside for her. We both said yes and immediately forgot to do it. Later while apologizing to her, she stopped us and said, "Guys, it's just a cookie." Now whenever I get worked up over something I say to myself, "Katie, it's just a cookie!" 

BACT: What advice would you give to any young actor who wants to one day take the stage (perhaps to play the next Pinkalicious or Peter)?  

Pinkalicious (Katie McGee) and Peter Pinkerton (Evan Boomer)
Katie: Start now! Pets, friends, stuffed animals, parents all make great audience members. Some of my best performances happened when I was five and performing for my dog Bob. The more you practice acting and storytelling, the better you get.

BACT: Great advice, Katie! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your thoughts with us! We wish you the best with your students, and break a leg on the return of Pinkalicious, the Musical!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Teach Theatre? - A Guest Blog by Thomas Arndt

Thomas Arndt, who is the Program Assistant in the Youth Education Program (YEP), joined Bay Area Children’s Theatre in 2011 and worked as the Assistant Director for The Aristocats and Sleeping Beauty.  He is now directing Winnie the Pooh in Piedmont and Alameda with the Little Performers (ages 5-6) and Young Performers (ages 7-11) programs and is the Lead Teacher for Crocodile Junction, a Drama Residency at Montclair Elementary in Oakland (where he is assisted by the fabulous Katie McGee, who plays Pinkalicious, and Bryan Quinn, who was Farmer Brown in this summer’s Click, Clack, Moo).  Thomas grew up in Washington State, going to school in Redmond (where he played roles such as The Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) and spending summers farming with his family in the San Juan Islands.  He later attended Bard College in Upstate New York, where he graduated with a B.A. in Human Rights (Concentrating in Theater). 


Hi folks!  I’m excited to be writing for Nina’s Notes, and thought I’d use this time to talk about some of my experiences teaching and working with YEP and discuss a question that I really enjoy answering: “Why teach Theatre?”  Thanks for reading!

There was a time when I thought Theatre would no longer be a part of my life.  I was in the middle of my college career and, faced with what I saw—and still see—going on the world around me, I figured that I needed to be more serious; I thought I needed to take on all of the problems of the world.  Looking back, I think that this mindset is actually indicative of exactly why I believe Theatre is so important to all people in general, and young people in particular.  It’s not that I think Theatre all by itself is going to save the world—that’s silly!  But I do think that it can do some really important things for all of us, and I know now more than ever that I want to and need to be creating and teaching Theatre!

Theatre teaches us to make choices.  When developing a character or directing a show, you can have lots of good ideas, but you can’t use all of them.  Theatre forces the artist to choose, take risks, make mistakes, rethink, and practice, practice, practice.  For example, in Winnie the Pooh Kids, which is an incredibly fun show to work on, we have been spending a lot of time on character development.  The characters are all so expressive and different, yet so malleable for each actor to make his/her own.  Each character of the story really illustrates a different side of human emotion and the kids get that.  We recently did some work with character walks, having the kids move through our rehearsal space putting attention into embodying their characters.  At one point, I had everyone freeze and just look at Tigger and Eeyore next to each other.  Totally frozen and soundless, they each were able to communicate such volumes about who they were as characters—it was quite striking to everyone there.  One of the most common refrains I return to in teaching theatre is “Drama means telling stories.”  It’s not a profound statement on its own, but I think it’s important to remember what we are doing and why we are doing it—we step onto the stage to communicate something, and to do so in a way that you can’t achieve with words alone.  I also think Winnie the Pooh is a great show because there are so many opportunities in the script for Physical Comedy and tongue-in-cheek laughs.  We also do this because it’s fun—to see and to do!

Theatre also encourages us to think about what I call “Big Picture, Little Picture.”  Theatre expands our ideas of what is possible.  And this extends beyond the classroom and the stage—creativity is a muscle and the more we use it, the more it grows.  Children need to experience seeing and feeling themselves in different roles than those they may have always assumed.  So Theatre encourages us to think big!  At the same time, we are also called in Theatre to get very focused on small details—an expression in the face, the movement of a hand, or a moment of a scene.  This practice helps us to look at problems up close, analyze them, and think and feel our way through.  And the amount of focus that this can teach is priceless!  At Montclair Elementary, we are really exploring all of this in our Crocodile Junction program.  Based on the Process Drama work of the late British Theater Education Expert Dorothy Heathcote, Crocodile Junction utilizes group storytelling to explore language arts, writing, and acting skills, while building creativity and teamwork. Currently we are building a story with the 1st Grade about Jungle Explorers searching for the Magical Monkey, and with the 2nd Graders one about Pirates searching for Captain Blagl’s lost treasure. In role as a character in the story (be it One Eyed McGregor, Jungle Jim, or Dr. Fleet, the world’s leading Piratologist, to name a few), I lead each class—who are also in character as part of the story—in an exploration that fills in details and builds unique narratives.  At the end of the semester, we will look through what we have done together and create a performance.  Process Drama in Crocodile Junction is an incredibly fun and powerful way to step wholeheartedly into Theatre and performance!

Finally, Theatre teaches us to speak up!  There are all kinds of actors, but ever heard of a quiet one?  (Okay, okay, mimes, I’m sorry! … Wait, excuse me, what’s that you’re saying?).  Being introverted and being shy are not the same thing.  Acting can teach us very literally to stand up on a stage in front of a group of people and speak powerfully.  And as I say when kids are really nailing an improv piece: “If they’re this amazing when they don’t know what they’re going to say, imagine what they could do when they know what they want to say!”

You have to do what you love.  Not for any big philosophical reason, but just because your life isn’t going to be very fulfilling if you are not.  I love Theatre and I love working with kids.  Seeing them light up with excitement about a project, work hard at it, and succeed in front of their families, friends, and community is absolutely thrilling!  And more than anything, I truly believe that the more young people can use Theatre to learn to make solid choices, expand their creativity, and speak up, the greater their possibilities will be in the future.  I see groups of BACT kids doing this time after time in our programs, and if we can do all that we must be doing something right.  So, Hip-Hip-Pooh-Ray for our kids!

Monday, October 22, 2012

BACT Blogger Genevieve Interviews Ms. Nitpicker

     This week's blog is brought to you by special guest blogger Genevieve! Genevieve is nine and a half years old and in the fourth grade at Kensington Hilltop School. She attended her first live theater performance at three years old. She enjoyed it so much she has been returning regularly to most Bay Area Children’s Theatre performances. Genevieve also enjoys acting, particularly in musicals, playing the piano, writing, reading, traveling, and playing sports with her friends. She lives in Kensington with her parents and two younger siblings.
If you are age 9 and up and want to write a blog about your experience with BACT, email


     Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is the current show being put on by BACT. It is a play adapted from the book by Bernard Waber. The play was well done and I really liked it. The story and the scenery both stayed true to the book. Lyle did many tricks and he was a very entertaining gymnast. I liked how Ms. Primm was very prim. I liked Mr. Grumps, who really seemed evil. I loved the way thunder boomed and lightning flashed whenever he came into the room. He did a really funny glare that always made me laugh. Ms. Nitpicker was a good actor and I really liked it when she gossiped, “And then she said what I said that they said that she said…” I liked ALL the characters, but if I list them all, it would take up my whole page, and I don’t think that would be so good. I enjoyed the production because it was funny and it was a really sweet story.
     After the show, I interviewed Anna Smith; the actor who played Ms. Nitpicker, a chatty character who goes back and forth between the evil side and the nice side. Anna Smith lives in the Bay Area and started dancing around the age of three years old. She later started singing and then began acting at 10 years old. She has been in a LOT of plays, but between college and now, she has been in about fifteen. She played Mrs. Pinkerton, Pinkalicious’ mother, in last season’s production of Pinkalicious.
     Anna has been rehearsing for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile since August, so it has been about five weeks. She didn’t know the story of Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, though many other of the actors in the play did. But as soon as she looked through the script she knew it would be super fun to put on, and she says it was! Anna felt very happy about getting the part of Ms. Nitpicker. She loves the way the character goes back and forth from Lyle’s side to Mr. Grumps’ side. Anna thinks that Ms. Nitpicker has a gossipy streak, and she’s really fond of her.
     If Anna could be in any play, she says it would be Into the Woods. That’s because she is co-directing it now. She watches the actors working, and it makes her want to act in the play. Coming up next, Anna will be taking on Mrs. Pinkerton in Pinkalicious again.
     I am really grateful to Anna Smith (or Ms. Nitpicker) for spending time with me. I’m also thankful for the wonderful people who put the whole play together and brought these fun characters to life.

Ms. Nitpicker (Anna Smith, right) dishes out the gossip with Mrs. Primm (Jessica Chisum, left)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BACT Spotlight On - Stage Manager

Stage Managers are rarely seen in the spotlight. So, we thought we would give our resident Stage Manager the opportunity to share with you exactly what her job is all about! Meet Christina Larson, the extraordinary woman who keeps our shows running like clockwork. She took a moment out of her busy schedule to respond to our interview questions.
BACT: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do as a stage manager for BACT?

Christina: Much of my job is being the connector for all of the different people involved in a production.  During the rehearsal process I am in charge of setting up the room every day, and keeping track of any changes that happen during the rehearsal regarding any of the different departments that help make up the production: props, costumes, set, lights, sound.  It is my job to make sure that all of the different departments and designers are on the same page throughout the rehearsal process, so that the show can come together in a cohesive way.  I also write down blocking, and make sure all of the props are set in the right places for the actors to use them.  I help make sure that all of the creative minds in the room during rehearsal are able to do their work, and not worry about anything else!

Once a show opens, it is my job to "run" and "call" the show.  Since a director's job is done once a show is open, it is my responsibility to make sure that the production runs just the same way that the director wanted it to when they left.  I will set up the stage, props and costumes (and usually if I'm lucky I'll get help doing that), make sure the actors are ready and warmed up for the show, and then I am charge of making sure that all of the light and sound cues happen.  Pressing the buttons (or telling someone else to) for the lights and sound is "calling" a show, and that is one of the biggest parts of my job once a show is open.  And if anything goes wrong, or anything breaks during the run of the show, it is my job to make sure that it is fixed (this is true at any point in the process, but especially once we open).  All in all, I'm trying to make sure the actors are doing their best work and feeling great, so the audience has a fantastic time watching them.

BACT: What’s your favorite part of the process? (rehearsals, tech, calling the show, etc)

Christina: I'm not sure that I could pick a favorite part of the process.  I do really love seeing all of the different pieces of the show come together during tech week.  "Tech" is when every aspect of the show is finally put together in one place.  Before tech, actors may not have been working with all of their costume pieces, or final props, but during tech, we get up onto the stage with the final set pieces, lights, and sounds and get to see how it all fits together.  As you might imagine, there are often some pieces of the puzzle that don't quite fit, and one of the most interesting parts of my job is getting to figure out how to fix the problems that we find during tech.  It is a very exciting (and understandably stressful!) time for the show.

BACT: You are one of the two recipients of the Eric Landisman Fellowship, can you tell us a little bit about the award and what you will be doing for BACT?

Christina: The Eric Landisman Fellowship is for local technical theater professionals who have a contract with a local company for a series of projects, to supplement their work for the company.  I will be BACT's Resident Stage Manager for their current season - which means I will stage manage all shows starting with Tales of Olympus - and received the Fellowship because of this contract.  I am honored to be working so much with BACT, and this award means that I will be able to focus more on my work here.  It is really a wonderful opportunity that I am so excited and honored to receive.

BACT: And we're so excited to have you working with us! What draws you to children's theatre?

Christina: I am drawn to children's theatre because it is so rewarding.  Children's theatre often draws a special kind of actor, which makes for particularly energetic and fun processes in the rehearsal hall. It is also wonderful to see kids watching theatre for the first time, and it is even better to see them inspired as they walk out of a show.  Getting to see how children's theatre affects entire families is one of my favorite things.  It is a different experience than watching with an audience consisting entirely of adults.  When all of those adults are accompanied by a child, their perspective changes, and seeing that change and the joy that it can bring is one-of-a-kind.

BACT: Are there any challenges that are unique to these types of shows?

Christina: Children's theatre, apart from its audiences is very much like any other piece of theatre.  It has challenges that any other production might have regarding moving set pieces, or quick changes - but these awesome puzzles are ones that all shows have, which is why I like it.

BACT: What are some of your favorite memories at BACT?

Christina: Some of my favorite memories at BACT are from the San Ramon run of Pinkalicious. There were days during our run when we would do three shows in one day.  These would be long days, and especially tiring for the actors.  What I ended up loving were the moments when we would all gather together to find the energy for the next show.  We would yell funny words at each other or jump around to get the blood pumping.  Those times when we all thought we were too tired to do much, but then came together to put on a great show were some of my favorites.

BACT: What are you looking forward to in the coming 2012-2013 season?

Christina: I am really looking forward to all of the shows, but in particular the new ones -Tales of Olympus, and Ivy and Bean - since I have had the luxury of seeing them from (close to) the very start of their processes, when they were workshopped this summer.  I think that these new works are wonderful, and I can't wait for our audiences to see them.

BACT: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Christina! We are so grateful to have you in our BACT family, and we look forward to what this upcoming season will bring for us!

Monday, October 1, 2012

BACT Spotlight On - Performer

As we prepare for the exciting opening of Lyle the Crocodile, we thought we just had to hear it from the crocodile himself - the amazingly talented Calvin Kai Ku! Calvin is a multi-faceted performer, as you will read about below, who will utilize his dynamic abilities to bring the imaginative character of Lyle to life on stage.
BACT: You are a bit of an acrobat, and you show off your skills in your role as Lyle; what other skills do you have? Which of them are you planning on bringing to the show?

Calvin: I'm also a magician and physical comedian. Lyle will be performing a little bit of magic in the show. As for Lyle's character, he has more of an elegant personality and is well put together, which limits the "clowning" portion of my talents to only small, subtle moments in the show. 
BACT: Where/how did you develop such an awesome arsenal of acrobatic achievements? Could you give a little description of your training? How old were you when you started?

Calvin: I studied gymnastics at a very young age. However, I didn't quite stick with it after a few years. I got back into training after college, but everything was a lot harder, which just meant I had to train harder and longer.

BACT: You are playing Lyle in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile: can you describe your process in taking a character from the pages of a story book/script and making him come to life as a very physical, acrobatic character?

Calvin: When reading the book and studying the pictures and character of Lyle, I got a sense of his personality. From there, it was a matter of finding that same sort of pizzazz that Lyle holds within my own character. I find it more effective and realistic to create a version of a character based on your own repertoire. During our rehearsals, I practice mostly only my relationship to everyone else in the cast as well as my "communication" since Lyle is mute. 

BACT: What are you looking forward to most for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile?

Calvin: There is a lot of comedy throughout the show. The setup for each of these bits requires so much practice with the ensemble for each joke to work. With that, I definitely look forward to working with everyone to make each and every moment of our show punch.

BACT: What has been your favorite part of the rehearsal process so far for the show?

Calvin: Creating the solo performance that Lyle does in the first couple of scenes of the show. It's a bit of a small medley of my skills, and I hope to be as charming as Lyle's character should be.

BACT: What part of Lyle's character do you relate to the most?

Calvin: Being green. I'm just a bit of a different shade of green. But most of all, the amount of different skills that Lyle holds is very similar to what I strive to possess. Many believe I'm a jack of all trades, but I just like trying everything.

BACT: You’ve taught circus camp for BACT before. Can you tell us how circus arts have related to your life? How have they related to your students lives?

Calvin: Circus Arts requires a lot of risk. Although it's calculated risk, it's risk nonetheless. I find with the lack of funding for the arts in America, we circus artists, especially, take a huge risk in leaping into this business. And, I hope the students that I teach take with them the courage that Circus requires, and use it throughout their lives.
BACT: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Calvin.  We are so lucky to have someone who is so passionate about the performing arts working with our company.  Best wishes on the opening of Lyle the Crocodile!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mueller Nicholls Builders Renews Its Support for BACT!

Mueller Nicholls Builders Renews Its Support for BACT!
For the second year in a row, Oakland-based Mueller Nicholls Builders, a construction and cabinetry company known for elegant new homes, meticulous remodels, and superb cabinetry, is supporting Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT) as our Season Sponsor. 

All of us at BACT are grateful to Mueller Nicholls for its ongoing, generous sponsorship, which enables us to bring live theatre inspired by great children’s literature to Bay Area families. As a small nonprofit organization, we depend on support from the community. We cannot thank Mueller Nicholls enough for understanding that the arts are critically important for our culture and for the next generation!
You may recall Steve Nicholls, CEO and founder of Mueller Nicholls Builders and his charming pre-show speeches at some of our productions last season.  We will honor him and Mueller Nicholls at our first annual Donor Appreciation Party celebrating the launch of BACT’s ninth season on Sunday, September 9.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tales of Olympus Reading

Hello everyone!

I am super excited to be guest-blogging for BACT this week, as I have a ridiculous amount of amazing things to say about BACT’s upcoming new work, The Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical.

But let me back up for a minute….

My name is Megan Fitzgerald, I am a college Sophomore home for the summer, and am lucky enough to be interning with BACT.

When Nina first sent me the dates of the rehearsals for the Tales of Olympus workshop, I had no idea what I was getting myself into…and I was quite confused that there were only four rehearsals. The cast started rehearsing last Tuesday night, and by Sunday afternoon they presented the workshop to a small audience in Berkeley. How could anyone pull together a show in such a short amount of time?

However, once I saw what this incredible team of talented theatre-artists was doing, I wished I was going to get to sit though more nights of rehearsal. However, in the mere four rehearsals I saw, I learned more than I ever imagined I would about the process of work shopping a new musical (and Greek myths!)

Min Kahng has written a script that is inventive, clever, and entertaining for kids, adults, and even picky college students like myself. I was completely enthralled by every one of his creative characters and their stories. With little experience in Children’s Theatre, I was definitely not expecting well-developed and vivid characters. However, I was incredibly impressed by the depth Kahng has written into each one.

Kahng’s lyrics and music are also sure to take you on a journey not only to Mount Olympus (the home of the Gods) but also through various genres and styles of music history. In just 90 minutes Kahn explores styles of rap, a capella, samba, ballad, and of course inspiring hero songs. Each new number introduces something we haven’t heard yet musically, and also tells another tale of Olympus. I found myself rocking out to stories like Pandora’s Box, and the tale of how Zeus became king.

With a superb script copied and stapled, and a director as talented as the lovely Emily Morison signed on, all this workshop needed was a brilliant cast to complete our journey to Mount Olympus. I’m sure regular subscribers to BACT shows are not surprised to hear that, yet again, the company has hit the jack pot and found a collection of local superstars to give life and truth to these roles.  The Gods of Olympus, featuring Calliope, Hermes, Athena, Aphrodite, and Zeus, each have their own distinct personality.  The actors rose to the occasion, bringing their own dynamic to this kooky version of Mount Olympus. Jason, the sixth and final character, is a twelve-year-old boy, who considers himself nerdy and unimportant. However, Calliope, the goddess of epic poetry, has faith in Jason to be the new Bard of Mount Olympus’s forgotten Greek Myths. I had the pleasure of seeing this cast interact with writer, Kahng and director, Emily Morrison, collaborating together to figure out who these characters they are. Seeing how much thought and creativity went into creating this wacky gang of characters was really inspiring to see as a hopeful, young, theatre-artist.

Sunday brought around a magnificent workshop, and a very enthusiastic crowd! In just a few days, this team created wonderful, new, and inventive children’s theatre, enjoyable for families aged 2 to 92. Tales of Olympus will officially debut in BACT’s season this December, and I cannot recommend it enough. The team working behind the project is absolutely brilliant, and everyone in the family can get something out of it. Whether you are looking for fun, colorful characters, or an education on Greek mythology, you can find it on Mount Olympus!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Behind the Scenes at BACT: Click Clack Moo Rehearsal

Click Clack Moo - Cows That Type, 
is opening at Fairyland this Saturday, July 7. 
I went to a rehearsal Thursday night to see how things are coming along. 

The rehearsals for this show are being help at the Arpeggio Building in downtown Berkeley. When I arrived, they were just getting started with a run through of the show. The stage manager, Christina, briefed the actors on how the run was going to go - ideally without stopping, to get an accurate sense of how long the show is, and because we are so near to opening.

The run went great! The show is in wonderful condition to open this weekend - the actors were solid on their lines and their blocking. There were a few moments of traffic pattern confusion on stage where Christina had to call out and help them, but for the most part everything went smoothly. The dance numbers and songs were sounding really good, and when they have more space to spread out - on the Fairyland stage - it will all come together beautifully. The show is Adorable!

Director Erin Merritt seemed happy with where the show was as well. It is always fun to see a show this far along - there are still costumes to add in, microphones to work with, props to add, but the foundation is laid, and what is left is the details. There is still plenty of work to do, but for just over a week from opening, it's good to see we have yet another crowd pleaser to share with the Fairyland audiences. 

Official Show Blurb:
Farmer Brown's cows are c-c-c-cold. They'd like cozy electric blankets. But how to tell him? Eureka! They discover an old typewriter in the barn, and start sending him notes. Farmer Brown finds the click clack of the typewriter annoying, but he doesn't take it seriously…until the cows post a rebellious note on the barn door: "Sorry. We're closed. No milk today." Uh, oh, how will barnyard peace be restored? Come find out, in this delightful musical adaptation of the Caldecott Honor Book by Doreen Cronin.
Oakland Children's Fairyland
7 Jul 2012 - 5 Aug 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

BACT History: Spotlight on - Creative

Min Kahng has been working with BACT since 2008. As you can see below, he wears many hats for the company. We love working with Min for his dedication, creativity, and well rounded approach to theater and everything he does. Below are his thoughts on working with BACT as a writer and director of the YEP Teen program. 
BACT: You have been involved with BACT in many different capacites - YEP Teen Program Director, Marketing Coordinator, Writer/Composer - is there one you enjoy most? Any reason? 

Min: That's a tough one to answer because there's obviously an aspect to each of these that I enjoy - otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.  The writing/composing is probably the most exciting right now because I get to create and introduce something new into greater landscape of theater.  I get to make my mark, however big or small it is, with my own story and style. I find that very empowering and energizing.

BACT: What aspect of a musical production do you enjoy the most (working with the kids on the singing, playing the music? etc) 

Min: I think I ultimately enjoy when all the pieces come together and work to effectively tell the story. For me, you can have great singing, acting and dancing, but that does not lend itself to great storytelling. I never want to lose track of the heart of the story I'm trying to tell. I love being able to find those moments with these children and shift their focus from self-focused performance to collaborative storytelling.

BACT: What aspect do you think the kids enjoy the most?

Min: The obvious answer is that kids love to put on shows for their friend and families.  But there are also kids who understand the gratification of getting better at their craft, whether it be acting, singing, dancing or stagecraft. There are also kids who might be more shy and reserved who I've seen come out of their shell. They gain confidence and find that they have something to contribute to the production, and I believe they find this very gratifying, which is why they return to our program.

BACT: Have you written many original works before?

Min: Yes.  In college I wrote a series of skits and short plays for a performing group I was a part of. I've also written many original songs that could be classified as pop pieces.  Basically, there hasn't been a period in my life when I wasn't creating something.  My first musical project was a 30-minute high school video project in which I adapted Nathanial Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."  My first full-length musical was called "The Plans of Theodore Crumb," and I literally produced it with no budget by asking friends to pitch-in and make it happen.  However, my first serious musical theatre project is called "The Nightingale" based upon the Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale of the same name.  This show had a staged reading in November 2010 and is slated for a possible local production in 2013.

BACT: Your show Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical - is making its world premiere next season. What are some of the challenges with writing a play geared toward children versus adults? Is one more fun?

Min: There are certainly some aspects where writing for children is easier.  Children are more willing to take imaginative leaps with a play, so if I all of a sudden announce that we are flying off to Mount Olympus, kids will follow that without a blink.  Adults need a lot more exposition and explanation of the fantasy of a story, so we can process it and figure out how it works. Perhaps the most difficult thing about writing a work for children is speaking at their level without "dumbing it down." When children are talked down to, they can sense it and the work immediately gets relegated into "baby" stuff.

BACT: Do you get nervous when starting work on one of your own shows?
No. I love the concept work behind a show.  I would say my process is two-pronged. There's the free-thinking side of it where ideas will come to me on the fly while I'm driving or just going about my day. I'll try to write these down or record them as I go. Then there's the methodical process where I will sit down and pull together those loose ideas and put it through a rigorous outline.  I follow outlines lined out by Aaron Frankel's "Writing the Broadway Musical" and Lajos Egri's "The Art of Dramatic Writing" to help me establish the heart of the show and the hearts of its characters. It's hard work, but it's a lot of fun.
Actually, what I think makes me most nervous is when I actually have to present what I've worked on to others, because up until that point I work in a bubble. It's tough when that bubble is penetrated by others who I am now giving permission to comment and critique.  It's necessary, but it always puts me on edge to have someone scrutinize my "babies."

BACT: Thank you so much, Min, for your thoughtful answers. We love working with you in all aspects, and we can’t wait for Tales of Olympus!

Friday, June 8, 2012

EBCF Mission Accomplished!

Thanks to You, 

We’ve Matched Our EBCF Challenge Grant!

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped us match our $8,000 challenge grant from the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF)! With your generous support, children in the East Bay and beyond will have the opportunity to learn more about Greek mythology!

We are deeply honored to receive an EBCF matching grant for the second year in a row, and we could not have succeeded without the enthusiastic support of families and friends who enjoy our shows and understand the importance of the arts for children. Thank you, all!

The EBCF grant is awarded as part of the East Bay Fund for Artists matching grant program to support artists in the Bay Area, engage the community, and create new works for East Bay audiences and organizations.

BACT will use the grant to develop Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical, with book, music, and lyrics by BACT artistic associate Min Kahng of Castro Valley. The new play will be an upbeat romp that will introduce children to the intriguing adventures of ancient Greek gods and goddesses, both familiar and obscure.

Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical will open December 8 at Berkeley Rep’s new Osher Theatre, adjacent to Freight & Salvage, before going on tour to local schools in January and February, with support from the Clorox Company Foundation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BACT History - Spotlight on - Audience!

Audience Members Victoria Zackheim and her twin granddaughters have been coming to shows at BACT since our days at the Julia Morgan. They are enthusiastic audience participants who have gone out of their way to be in touch with the BACT community. Below, Victoria answers some questions about being involved with BACT with her granddaughters. 

BACT: What brought you to BACT in the first place? What has kept you coming back to the shows?
VZ: I came because I wanted to share theater with my granddaughters, who were age 6 when we first subscribed. I didn't see anything equal to BACT in San Francisco, where I live, or in Pacifica, where they live, and the selected plays seemed perfect for their age.

BACT: What was the first show you and your granddaughters saw together?
VZ: After multiple seasons, who remembers?! But I do know that they were mesmerized, and thrilled to meet the actors. The girls stay with me often and have their own bedroom at my house...the walls are literally covered with signed posters from your shows.

BACT: Have you noticed a change in the shows over time, since the Julia Morgan days until now?
VZ: They seem more professional...but we've loved them all.

BACT: What's the favorite show you've seen, and why?
VZ: The new show, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, was delightful. Also, The Magic School Bus. And we loved Strega Nona.

BACT: What aspects of the shows do you like best (costumes, sets, acting, singing dancing…?)
VZ: The singing and dancing are delightful, and have become increasingly professional. With the expanded stage, the musical numbers are even more impressive.

BACT: What would you say to someone who had never seen a BACT show before and was wondering about them?
VZ: I'd strongly encourage them to buy the season pass and expect something wonderful!

BACT: Any additional thoughts or comments?
VZ: This will probably be our last season, since the girls are "aging out" of the age range...they're ready for more complicated and "teen" productions. Unfortunately, there are very few choices. Perhaps you could start another theatre company for children 10-15?

From Sohpia Law – Victoria’s granddaughter: My sister and I enjoyed Pinkalicious because of all the sparkles that the actors wore. If I were to say to someone why they should come (to the theater,) I'd say because it's a great place for kids and the age ranges from like 3-9.  When I'm there, all the kids seem to enjoy the plays.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

BACT: A History - Spotlight on - Volunteer Ushers

BACT was founded on little more than a dream and a few dedicated company members, followed immediately by the volunteers, who have been the core of BACT’s success from our beginning. Because of the unique nature of our shows and audiences, volunteers are often adult/child pairs, especially when it comes to ushering. These amazing participants are the face of BACT – they bridge the link from behind the scenes to front of house, from audience to staff – and show others just how fun volunteering can be.

Anna Marie Schmidt and Abby Roat have been volunteering as ushers for BACT since 2007. In an exclusive interview, they share their experience being part of the BACT Front of House team.

BACT: You've been ushering for BACT (then Active Arts) since our first full season - What made you decide to start ushering?

Anna Marie/Abby: We first went to a production of Dragon Wings (February 2007) and enjoyed it.  We wanted to continue to go to the performances and participate in helping with the production in some small way.  Also, we get in free! Ushering seemed like the perfect fit. We have come as a mother-daughter team and usually bring another interested friend of Abby’s.

BACT: What changes in the BACT audiences/community since the early days at Julia Morgan have you observed?

Anna Marie/Abby: The shows appear to have audience appeal and the theater is full more often.  Abby notes that the audience is getting younger-but maybe that’s because she is getting older.

BACT: What's fun about being an usher? Is anything difficult about it?

Anna Marie/Abby: What’s fun about being an usher is being able to participate in a small way in the production.  It’s fun to work with the staff and other volunteers.  It’s also fun to see the excitement of the children as they come in to the theater to see the show. What has been difficult is controlling the audience. When BACT was housed at Julia Morgan, sometimes it was hard to keep patrons from taking in food/drinks.

BACT: Think back - what is the Favorite show you worked on?

Anna Marie/Abby: One of my favorites was Strega Nona. (Anna Marie). And one of my favorites was Miss Nelson is Missing (Abby) 

BACT: What would you say to other people if they are wondering about being an usher?

Anna Marie/Abby: It’s easy and fun.  Show your interest and come out to help and be a part of the theater world.

To volunteer as an usher, or otherwise get involved with BACT, visit our website:

Friday, April 27, 2012


Bay Area Children’s Theatre
2012 – 2013 Season Announcement!

BACT is thrilled to announce a fun filled seasons of new hits and old favorites! 

In classic BACT fashion – excitement, adventure, and outdoor theater - our season kicks off at Children's Fairyland with the well loved children’s story Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type. This delightful musical adaptation of the Caldecott Honor Book by Doreen Cronin brings the amusing story of Farmer Brown’s c-c-c-cold cows who demand electric blankets to life, and is geared for preschoolers and their parents.  

We are excited to start off our main stage season with LYLE THE CROCODILE at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on October 6. Adapted from the books by Bernard Waber, the show tells what happens when the Primms move into their new house on East 88th Street and find Lyle in the bathtub.  
TALES OF OLYMPUS: A GREEK MYTH MUSICALThe stories of the Olympus never get old, and this musical, a world premiere, is no exception. BACT is so excited to introduce our audiences of all ages to the classic Greek stories through song, dance, and laughter. This show will also go on school tour!
Also in December, BACT is bringing back the wildly popular Pinkalicious for a limited run.  For those who missed the show’s recent run, here’s another chance to find out what happens when everyone’s favorite proponent of pink looks at her mom’s pink-frosted cupcakes and asks, "Can't I have just one more?"
IVY and BEAN, the Musical!
The mischievous second-grade heroines of the award-winning Ivy + Bean stories by Bay Area author Annie Barrows will make their stage debut at the Freight and Salvage. Come meet quiet, imaginative Ivy and outgoing, action-oriented Bean – who together make for endless adventures and fun!
Another adaption of a beloved book, Knuffle Bunny, completes BACT’s season.  This musical version of the hilarious picture book by Mo Willems brings to the stage the adventures of toddler Trixie and her beloved stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny, when they go off to the laundromat with her somewhat distracted dad. - all the information you need for next season. Like what you see? Spread the love! 'Like' us on Facebook, and tell your friends! 
Make going to the Theatre a family affair.

We can't wait to share another incredible season with you!