Monday, April 25, 2016

Julietta Blogs: My Interview with Mitali Perkins

BACT Blogger Julietta had the opportunity to interview Mitali Perkins, author of the book Rickshaw Girl, at the show's San Francisco opening! She shares her experience below!

The Rickshaw Girl play was super cool! It is about a girl named Naima. She wants to help her dad get some rest while still making enough money to pay back a loan for buying a new rickshaw, so she tries to drive the rickshaw. Instead, she crashed it. It will be very hard to fix such a beaten up Rickshaw, but if they don't fix it, her dad won't get any business with it.
A rickshaw built by actors with props! 
I liked the book because it inspires girls to help them know that they can do anything. I liked how Naima's passion for art turned out to not be useless, but very important for her family. In the stories beginning, Naima really likes art, but she thinks because she cannot help make money, she is useless for the family. At the end, she realizes that it is a good thing that she was a girl, or else she would have not been given a chance to paint Rickshaws in exchange for the repairs of her dads Rickshaw.

To bring the play to life, they had to make a Rickshaw for the actors to use. At first, the Rickshaw is just a bunch of pieces, but when actors held up the pieces while moving it, you could see the rickshaw, and I thought that was a great idea. There was even live music for the play!

After the play, I got to meet the author of Rickshaw Girl, Mitali Perkins, to interview her. Her favorite part to write in Rickshaw Girl was when Naima's dad says "its a good thing you turned out to be a girl." She liked that part because she had two older sisters and everyone cried because she wasn't a boy and now her parents say that to her. She was inspired to write the book because of the Rickshaws she saw and she also learned how it was hard for girls to make money in Bangladesh. She thought it would be a great idea to show in her book how it is changing now. Besides Rickshaw Girl, Mitali wrote 9 other books! She is also working on a novel and a picture book. Mitali is local to Bay Area in Orinda. Rickshaw Girl is not yet popular in Bangladesh yet. The book is not translated yet, either. Mitali started writing books because she loved reading and she wanted to write books for other people to enjoy just like she enjoyed reading. She set the story in Bangladesh because that was where her parents were born. She likes art a lot. Her favorite tool to draw with is colored pencils. She especially likes to draw alpanas because they are really simple and easy. It was great getting to meet Mitali and it was really great getting to interview her.
Author Mitali Perkins (L) with BACT Blogger Julietta (R)

Rickshaw Girl continues for one more weekend at the Children's Creativity Museum Theater before heading to the Osher Studio in Berkeley. Purchase your tickets today!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kara Blogs: My Interview with Piggie aka Anna Smith

Actor Anna Smith and BACT Blogger Kara
BACT Blogger Kara had the chance to interview Anna Smith, who plays a Squirelle in Elephant & Piggie's WE ARE IN A PLAY! She is also the understudy for Piggie, and Kara was able to see Ms. Smith perform this title character.


The play Elephant and Piggie's: We Are in a Play! is based on the books written by Mo Willems. The character of Elephant worries frequently and has a lot of emotion, but Piggie is more carefree and is good at calming Elephant down. Elephant and Piggie like to play together with their toys, share ice cream and play with their friends the Squirelles. After I saw the play I interviewed Ms. Anna Smith who plays Piggie and a Squirelle.

Ms. Anna Smith is the understudy of Ally Johnsen and when Ally Johnsen is there Ms. Anna Smith plays a Squirelle. Ms. Anna Smith did her first play when she was ten. When she told me she taught an after school drama program I wanted to learn how to write a play too. Her favorite parts about playing Piggie are spending lots of time with her friend Derek, who plays Gerald, the worrisome elephant and having exciting, exquisite interaction with the audience. She made the audience say “banana,” do the wiggle waggle and clap their hands. Her favorite part about being a Squirrelle is getting more time to rest and watching Ally Johnsen play Piggie. Also, she likes adding character to make her Squirelle to stand out because unlike Piggie you don’t know much about the Squirelles. The hardest part about being an understudy was trying to learn both parts at the same time. Anna Smith is making her fifth debut with BACT. She was also in Pinkalicious, A Year with Frog and Toad, Lyle the Crocodile and The Day the Crayons Quit. She likes all of the parts she has played equally but playing Piggie is exciting for her because the audience likes to see the character in the book come alive. For fun she likes to play electric guitar, ukulele and an instrument that’s like a dulcimer. Anna Smith’s advice for future actors is to have as much fun as you can no matter what part you get.

Anna Smith (center) as a Squirelle, along with Debra Harvey (left) and Aly Casas (right)
My favorite part of the play was when Gerald was going to share his ice cream with Piggie but it melted. Then Piggie shared her ice cream with Gerald. They sing a song about Gerald being the ice cream hero and he is really sad when he realizes the ice cream is melted, but Piggie ends up being the ice cream hero. Another one of my favorite parts is when the audience repeats saying “banana”, doing the wiggle waggle and clapping their hands at the same time. I was in the group that said “banana.” The moral of the story is friends always stick together.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Charlette Blogs: My Interview with Gerald aka DerekTravis Collard

BACT Blogger Charlette recently sat down with DerekTravis Collard who plays Gerald in BACT's production of Elephant & Piggie's WE ARE IN A PLAY!


Charlette and DerekTravis
I interviewed DerekTravis Collard who played Gerald the elephant in the play Elephant and Piggie. Derek started acting when he was a little kid.  When he was 8 or 9 years old he did a national tour which went all over the United states, North America, and Canada. He did that for 2 years. He also did a musical called "Peter Pan." Derek went to a university to study theater. He did lots of different kinds of plays and he traveled all around the world into different countries where he did theater. He also took tap dancing when he was younger. He is the only actor in his family but his dad is an editor for Disney animation and his grandfather was a set designer. What inspired him to act was when his great grandparents took him to see a play called Your a Great Man Charlie Brown. That was his first show he has ever seen. The moment he saw that he wanted to grow up to do that because it made him feel happy. He wanted to bring the audience happiness just as he felt.

Playing Gerald was one of Derek's favorite roles because he enjoyed physical comedy and being silly and to move around alot. But it was a little tiring for him because he never leaves the stage until intermission. His least favorite part is the very end because he gets very sad when it's over. The girl who plays Piggie (Allison) and Derek are good friends and the last song is a very sweet song and he does not want it to end. He loves playing Gerald the elephant. In his rehearsal they had all the copies of the books so he got to reference them for physical gesture for his part. He rehearsed for about 5 weeks. He was doing another show before this show so he went right from that show into this show. Its a little tricky to learn his lines in this show because it's alot of scenes quickly together so it was really hard to learn them. He rehearsed for about 4 to 5 days a week. He had alot of free time to come up with his own physical aspects of the show and the character work.  It was alot of work outside rehearsal to memorize his lines. He had to go home read his script, learn his music, and learn his choreography.  
DerekTravis Collard as Gerald with the three Squirelles.
His costume that he was wearing in the play is not his. He had a wonderful costume designer named Brett.  Brett actually designed the whole idea and put it all together. The only thing that is his in his costume is his boots. He thinks they look very elephanty. He got them from Japan and asked if he could use them for the play. He wears fake glasses for the play that are not his. So he can't see very well when he put them on. He has to be very careful and he relies on his friends to help make sure that he does not get hurt or trip on the stage. 
He worked with Allison before, they did a show called Knuffle Bunny and they played father and daughter.  She played Trixy and he played the dad. He really enjoys working with her.  He also worked with one of the Squirrelles, named Anna who also plays the penguin. She is also Piggie's understudy. On Friday performances they preform for students in school,  so Anna goes on as Piggie, so he gets to do the show 2 different ways every week.  It is a different show with different actors and they are really funny. Some new friends like Debra and Aly, the other two squirrels, this is the first time he has ever met them doing this show, but they are really good friends. It's really fun to do it with them and he likes to hang out with them.
Derek's advise to me and other young actors is to go to school and stay in school,  and go all the way through school. Take classes,  practice alot and even when something is hard keep practicing.  It will take some time and dont be afraid to get frustrated.  When you get frustrated hopefully it lifts you up to push up and succeed. That is very important. He thinks it is important to keep moving. 
I think Derek did a great job playing Gerald the elephant.  I hope I can see Derek again in another play. He was a great person who was really funny and friendly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The World Premiere of Rickshaw Girl

Emily Alvarado as Naima, painting a traditional alpana.
Photo credit: Joshua Posamentier
Bay Area author Mitali Perkins’ award-winning children’s book, Rickshaw Girl, tells the heartwarming story of Naima, an artistic ten-year-old in an impoverished Bangladeshi village who yearns to help her hard-working father, a rickshaw driver, earn more money for the family. 
Perkins grew up speaking Bangla and hearing her parents’ stories about their life in the part of the world we know today as Bangladesh.  Later, she spent three years in Bangladesh, meeting the people, learning what they hold dear, and observing the impact of changes, like the advent of microcredit, on local customs and culture.
“When I read Mitali’s beautiful book, I knew immediately that I wanted to bring Naima’s daring adventure to the stage for children and their families to see,” said BACT Executive Director Nina Meehan. “Naima’s story opens a window on a different culture for our young audiences, which is so important for their experience, yet it has universal appeal in its depiction of courage, duty and caring.”
BACT commissioned critically acclaimed playwright Aditi Kapil to adapt Perkins’ novel, and the world premiere of Rickshaw Girl was born!  Of Indian and Bulgarian descent, Kapil was raised in Sweden and resides in Minneapolis, MN.  In addition to her work for BACT, she is currently working on commissions with Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Repertory Theatre, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Directed by Vidhu Singh, with live music by vocalist Sonali Bhattacharya, percussionist Amit Sharma, and others, Rickshaw Girl whirls with color and song, as it welcomes families into the world of Bangladesh.
Perkins has worked with Singh and Kapil to help them develop the show, contributing to the authenticity of the production by contacting a friend, an educator in Bangladesh, to learn what songs daughters of rickshaw pullers sing these days and what games they play. These songs—everything from a lullaby to a patriotic song—are sung in Bangla. Perkins also brought her mother to rehearsal to teach the actors how to paint alpanas, the traditional designs that figure prominently in the story!
Mitali Perkins’ mother, Madhusree Bose with cast members, after teaching them how to paint alpanas
Describing the rehearsal process, Perkins said, “It’s magical! When I watch these fabulous actors and see the story in the flesh on the stage, I find myself being curious for Naima and wondering what’s going to happen to her, and I have to remind myself that I know what happens to her—I wrote the book!” 
Director Singh of San Francisco has devoted her career to nurturing South Asian theatre and bringing work from around the globe to the stage.  Born and raised in India, she holds a master’s degree in Dramatic Art from the University of California at San­­­­­­ta Barbara and a doctorate in Asian Theatre from the University ­­­of Hawaii at Manoa, specializing in contemporary Indian theater.
“This play is so up my alley,” Singh said.”I’m so grateful it came to me. When I heard about it, I got a copy of the book—it’s one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read.  It is a sweet, empowering story that is important for girls all over the world. The story is a window to another culture but it’s also a mirror—Naima learns that, with a little ingenuity and a lot of courage and grit, she can recover from a terrible mistake and make things right for herself and her family. Kids can see that they have so much in common with her.”
Artists at Rickshaw Girl workshop, l. to r., actors Radhika Rao and Salim Razawi, Director Vidhu Singh, Author Mitali Perkins, Playwright Aditi Kapil
The play, Singh explained, is “an ensemble piece” that blends theatre, dance and Bangla songs.  Five actors play the primary characters as well as secondary roles. The ensemble also functions as a chorus, becoming school children learning the Bangla alphabet, villagers celebrating International Mother Language Day, vendors selling wares, farmers toiling in the rice fields, town dwellers—a vibrant microcosm of life in Bangladesh.  
“This is very important work,” Singh said, explaining that Bangladeshi culture has rarely been reflected in American theatre or even in South Asian theatre.  “What makes the story remarkably powerful is its universality and its ability to inspire children as well as adults across cultures. I’m from India, not from Bangladesh, and I’m very particular about reflecting Bangladeshi culture and creating the world of Bangladesh. As a director of Indian descent, I take that responsibility very seriously.”
Rickshaw Girl is recommended for audiences aged 6 and up.
NOTE: Families can meet Mitali Perkins in person at Rickshaw Girl performances on Saturday, April 16, in San Francisco, and on Sunday, May 22, in Berkeley!
Purchase your tickets at: