Friday, December 18, 2015

Kara Blogs: My Interview with Andrew P. Quick: A Christmas Miracle

Actor Andrew P. Quick
After watching the BACT play, Lemony Snicket’s The Lump of Coal, I got to interview Andrew P. Quick, who played the Lump of Coal. The play was fun and exciting.  The Lump of Coal is about a lump of coal who wants to be an artist that draws rough black lines on a canvas or a piece of chicken filet.  He searches for a Christmas miracle but cannot find one.  For example, he gets kicked out of Mr. Wong’s Korean BBQ and Secretarial School because they only take in things that are 100 percent Korean.  He is about to give up when he meets a Santa that works for a drugstore. The Santa had an idea; “I will put you in my nephew’s stocking.  He has been naughty.”  The next day when Jasper, the little boy, found the Lump of Coal in his stocking he said, “I really wanted to draw rough black lines with a lump of coal.” They made a fortune together making art and with their money they took a trip to Korea.  When they got back they bought Mr. Wong’s Korean BBQ and turned it into Yang Kangs Korean BBQ.  They actually made sure that everything was 100 percent Korean.  Jasper and the Lump of Coal were great friends. 

After all the kids got to play in the snow and draw, I interviewed Andrew P. Quick in the empty theatre.  He played the Lump of Coal.  His favorite part of being the Lump of Coal was falling and rolling around and having buckets of fake snow thrown over his head.  For him, the most difficult part about being the Lump of Coal was being a bit more serious because his other job is being a clown.  After I found out he was a clown I asked him if he could juggle and he can juggle 5 balls!  That made me smile because I want to learn how to juggle too.  Andrew started acting in 5th grade when he played the character who sings ‘I Love to Laugh’ in Mary Poppins.  Later on, one of his favorite roles that he played in another BACT show was Bingo the dog in Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy.  Also, he liked doing a comedy act in a 1930’s Speak Easy. 

Andrew P. Quick started enjoying acting in college when he learned to make people laugh by using his body.  Here is his advice for people who would like to act or work in the theatre: Learn tons about the theatre. Work in many theatre jobs. Go to college.

Andrew gives Kara some tips on juggling!
After the interview, Andrew P. Quick got his juggling balls and gave me some tips on juggling.  Exciting! His tips are: 1. Throw one hand after the other, not at the same time.  2. If you are having trouble, alternate which hand you start with.  3. Try to make an ‘X’ in the air.  These tips helped me a lot. I enjoyed interviewing Andrew P. Quick because he was nice and funny. 

My favorite part of the play was when kids could come on stage and be in the play.  I got to go on stage and pretend I was ordering food at Mr. Wong’s Korean BBQ.  The most exciting part was when two kids pulled on a rope and snow fell down.  Last, seeing the Lump of Coal fall all over the place was funny.  The moral of the story is miracles can happen to anyone even a Lump of Coal.


Lemony Snicket's The Lump of Coal plays for three more weekends thru January 3rd at the Children's Creativity Museum Theater in San Francisco! Click here to reserve your tickets for this unique holiday show!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Min Kahng Discusses Adapting Bad Kitty for the Stage

Playwright Min Kahng. Photo by Ben Krantz.
By Vivian Auslander
He created BACT’s award-winning musical version of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and our hit Tales of Olympus: A Greek Myth Musical. Now, the multi-talented Min Kahng is writing the script and the musical score for our upcoming world premiere of Bad Kitty on Stage! Below, he discusses what inspired him about Nick Bruel ‘s popular Bad Kitty comic series and how he is adapting the series for young audiences.
Q:  How did Bad Kitty on Stage! come to be?
A:  Our Executive Director Nina Meehan proposed the project—her sons were reading the series and loving it.  When I read the books, the first thing that jumped out at me was their unique style—a combination of comic books and chapter books—and I thought it would be fun and interesting to put that style onstage.  But I needed to feel an emotional resonance as well, and two of the books grabbed me right away—Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, which explores how Kitty reacts to the new addition to her family, and Bad Kitty School Daze, which struck me because the amazingly patient teacher tells Kitty at the end of the day that she doesn’t think she’s a bad kitty at all. I can imagine children needing reinforcement like that and how it would help them grow.  In fact, all the animal characters in the series are childlike, with their unique quirks and eccentricities, and they are all working on growing up.  For me, the stories are about what it’s like to grow up and learn important lessons, and I’ve kept that in mind along with the humor and the quirkiness to help make the story line cohesive and authentic.
Q: In the series, Kitty doesn’t use words.  How do you make that work on stage?
Actor Sango Tajima as Bad Kitty. Photo by Melissa Nigro.
A: We debated that a lot at the beginning, wondering if we should have Kitty speak.  But we wanted to be faithful to the universe of the books.  So the challenge was what that meant—how do you translate the images in the books to a human actor?  Casting was the key, and we are extremely fortunate to have Sango Tajima, a gifted physical actor whose face can tell you what Kitty is feeling in a cartoon manner that is also genuine!  It was clear to us from the first reading of the play, just from Sango’s face and movements, that she could tell the story.  And, in the script, while I write “meow” or other animal sounds, I also include parenthetical statements of what I want the sounds to mean to guide the actors as to what their intention should be.
Q:  What were your goals for the music that underscores the action of the play?
A:  When I started thinking about the style of the music, I recalled the Saturday morning cartoons I’d watched as a child—like Looney Tunes, where the background music plays such a big role in setting the mood and creating the sound effects.  I wanted to incorporate that sensibility into the play. Then, we workshopped the play, and realized that the music had to be performed live to provide vibrant energy and to choreograph precisely with what’s happening on stage.  We were very lucky to find Phil Wong, who is both an actor and a pianist.  Phil will be our narrator, and he’ll play the score and improvise as needed. I’m very excited to be collaborating with him.  He’ll take what I compose and give us his feedback about how it’s working with the characters and the scenes.
Q:  The Bay Area Children’s Theatre has co-commissioned Bad Kitty On Stage! with the Oregon Children’s Theatre.  What does that mean?
A:  Both companies are producing this show for the first time—our run begins in January, theirs in February.  And it’s been a fascinating experience for me, because I have to make sure the script and the music work for both productions.  For example, the sets for our BACT shows have to be compact and moveable, since we perform in three different locations.  Oregon has a big traditional proscenium stage. When we send Kitty up into a “tree,” we are working with the idea of a tree.  Their production includes something much more like a real tree, so they’ll need enough transition music for Kitty to get into and out of the tree.  My challenge is to make the score and the script elastic enough to meet different needs.
Director Benjamin Hanna at our first read-thru with the Bad Kitty cast.
Q:  Now that the show is in rehearsal, what is your role?
A: I’ll be in the rehearsal room to help clear up any questions about the script or how the music fits into the action on stage. I can make changes or re-write as the needs arise. 
Q:  Nick Bruel, the author and illustrator of the Bad Kitty books, will be here for the opening?
A:  Yes. He reached out to us when he was visiting the Bay Area some months ago.  He was pleased and surprised by how faithful our adaptation is to the series, which made me feel good, because I wanted to capture the spirit of the books.  He will be here for our opening day performances, signing books and joining us for a reception with our donors.
Bad Kitty On Stage opens at Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in downtown Berkeley on January 23rd. The show runs from January 23-February 21 in Berkeley, February 27-28 in San Ramon, and March 5-26 in San Francisco. Click here to purchase tickets.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Julietta Blogs: An Interview with Amanda Maxwell

Amanda Maxwell
Before seeing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I got to interview Amanda Maxwell, who is also a BACT teacher. She played three characters: the Baroness, a hair cutter, and a factory worker. She has been acting since she was 6 years old. The first time she was on a stage was in a song from The Wizard Of Oz, where she was Dorothy, and she has been acting ever since. The most characters she has played was in this play. She has played one character with many costume changes, but she has never been this many characters before. She likes being lots of characters better than being only one character because she gets to be more creative and because she just gets to be more characters in one play. Her favorite character she has been in this show is the Baroness. Her favorite scene is the end where the baroness and the baron get captured because everything is crazy onstage!

Julietta with the Baroness!
After the interview, I was excited to look for the characters Amanda plays. She had to change costumes between scenes, and most times change to the Baroness, since that character is in lots of scenes. She is really good at acting, and not only did she change her costume, but she also changed her voice. It looked hard being the Baroness because she has lots of lines that seem hard to remember. I have seen other BACT plays and usually there is a small cast and all of them play lots of characters. In this play there was a big cast, and still all of them had played multiple characters, like Amanda did. That's what I like about watching BACT plays, because the actors are really great at being their characters.
There are only two weekends left of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! December 12-13 in Berkeley and December 19-20 in San Ramon. Click here to get your tickets before this show flies away!