Joan Mankin blogs from the set of SHREW

By Associate Artist Joan Mankin

Joan Mankin, Doug Hara, and Danny Scheie in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (2009)

Joan Mankin, Doug Hara, and Danny Scheie (who she rejoins in Shrew) in A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009); photo by Kevin Berne.

I’m so happy to be back working at the Bruns! I missed last summer, so being in the gorgeous new green room and dressing rooms is wonderful. To say nothing of being able to work with such a magnificent cast and crew for The Taming of the Shrew.  I remember when Shana Cooper was an artistic associate at Cal Shakes in 2002—my first year performing there. She’s come back as the director of this show, and her knowledge of outdoor performance and working at the Bruns Amphitheater is incredibly helpful in putting up this complex piece.

We all have so many costume changes. Last night (Sunday) was our first run-through with costumes, and we were all running around backstage trying to figure out what to put on next. I’m really interested to see how this piece works for the student matinees. I can’t imagine that the kids won’t love Kate and Petruchio wrestling. Right now my hardest task is figuring out how many different mustaches I can wear.

 

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Associate Artist Round-Up Addendum

Earlier this week we posted an “Associate Artist Round-Up” to our news page. No sooner had I checked its formatting on the website than additional ones started rolling in from the rest of our artistic family. So go there, read the first one, and then come back here and read these. (Or vice versa–it makes no nevermind to me).

Nancy Carlin is directing Sands Hall’s adaptation of Little Women for Foothill Theatre Company in Nevada City, CA; the production runs Nov 20-Dec 28.

As mentioned in the original news item, Jim Carpenter is going into closing week of Rock ‘N’ Roll at A.C.T. After that, he and wife Cass will be taking a short trip up to Ashland, OR as a 35th Anniversary present to themselves; shortly thereafter Jim goes back to A.C.T. reprising his role as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Joan Mankin, who has been posting to this blog from China, will be back in the USA on October 20. She has two main projects upon her return: to begin work on a piece with the third-year students at the A.C.T. Conservatory, a collaboration with Glide Church which will will attempt to address the situation of homeless people; and to direct a show about conservation of our resources with clowns from the S.F. Circus Center, to tour elementary schools all over Alameda County.

Lynne Soffer has been in Arizona since August rehearsing and performing in Enchanted April, directed by Timothy Near. Next up is dialect and text coaching at Berkeley Rep and Marin Theatre Company.

Dan Hiatt will be playing Rutherford Selig in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Berkeley Rep, directed by Delroy Lindo and running Oct. 31-Dec. 14.

Clive Worsley is finishing up residencies in Fruitvale Elementary and Charlotte Wood Middle schools, while directing Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Clackervilles for Orinda Intermediate School’s Bulldog Theatre. And of course, he’s still “steering the ship” as Artistic Director of Town Hall Theatre.

Have you seen our Associate Artists anywhere (besides Cal Shakes) recently? Do you plan on attending any of the above mentioned productions? Let us know in the Comments section!

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Clowning in China, by Joan Mankin PART 2

I am learning so much about clowning by being in a place where I understand no one, and no one understands me. When I say I understand no one, I am referring to words, of course, verbal interactions (which for me are limited to “hello” and “thanks”). But when I have no hope of conversing with someone in the usual, more facile manner, I must look into their eyes and read their body language, and respond in ways that touch different chords in my body energies. And Chinese people have the most truthful smiles. Either their faces are composed and distant, or they smile completely–there is no half-smile, they don’t do it unless they mean it. And that makes me be more truthful in what I say and do. I feel like I am revisiting the core of what clowning means.

Last night Jonah (a student from the SF Circus center) and I were walking home along Stinky Tofu Alley (our name, not the official name) and we started singing “Country Roads” (“country roads, take me home, to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads”) and when we got to the “West Virginia” part someone started singing along with us. It was a Chinese man, who somehow knew the words (although I’m sure he had no idea what they were about) and loved the song. So all three us walked down this alley in the heart of downtown Nanjing, singing about West Virginia at the top of our lungs–we even did harmony! And when we finished, he went to get into his car, and he held out his hand to shake mine, to thank us for letting him sing with us. And I couldn’t help bursting into “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”–and I sang to him and his friends with all my heart and soul as they drove away, leaving me and Jonah in the smoggy, dark Nanjing night.

(Pictured above: Joan with Arthur Keng in SF Playhouse’s 2008 production of
Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge.)

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Clowning in China, by Joan Mankin

I’ve been in Nanjing for two and 1/2 half weeks now, teaching Western clowning and acting to Chinese acrobats (and a few magicians). The workshop itself is in Nanjing, but the acrobats are from troupes all over China: Beijing, Wu Han, Yin Chuan, An Hui, Tai Yuan. They were brought together by the Chinese Arts and Cultural organization to try and raise the level of comic acting in the acrobatic performances, and to encourage them to connect on a more personal level with their audiences.

China is going through a transformative phase now, letting go of some of the attachment to tradition and seeking out new artistic and performative channels. It’s exciting to be in on this surge of interest in Western comedy forms. There are very few Westerners in Nanjing (a city of five and 1/2 million people) so I get stared at a lot (which I kind of like) and laughed at a lot (which I really like). I’m here with three other people from the Clown Conservatory at the San Francisco Circus Center, and we’re all intrigued by the cultural differences and similarities. The students threw themselves with tremendous dexterity and gusto into every gag we ask them to do–running into walls, tripping, falling, slapping–but ask them to reveal something true and vital about themselves in front of other people, and they run into a different kind of wall.

We will do two performances at a college here in Nanjing in the middle of this month; I’m so excited to see how they take in what we have brought.

I miss eating salads sooo much. Best to all from Joan Mankin.

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