Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter – Opens September 16th at A.C.T.

Kneehigh Theatre’s groundbreaking production melds film, theater,
and the beautiful songs of Noël Coward.

A unique theater event commemorating the legacy of A.C.T.’s historic home
– formerly, The Geary Theatre –
as a movie house during its 100th Anniversary celebratory season.

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) launches its exciting 2009–10 season with the U.S. premiere of the runaway U.K. hit, Kneehigh Theatre’s groundbreaking production of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter, adapted for the stage by Emma Rice from the words and music of Coward. Rice, who is the artistic director of Kneehigh Theatre, also directs. In this must-see limited engagement direct from sold-out performances all over the United Kingdom, acclaimed Kneehigh Theatre transforms an iconic love story into a fusion of theater, film, and music. Forbidden passion brews in a 1945 railway station tearoom when a suburban housewife, over a series of stolen afternoons, falls madly in love with a married doctor. Featuring Coward’s infectious songs and ingeniously crafted with whimsical humor, dreamy romance, and stunning multimedia effects, Brief Encounter was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best Entertainment and Best Director.

milo-twomey-alec-and-hannah-yelland-laura
Alec (Milo Twomey) and Laura (Hannah Yelland)
begin an affair over a series of stolen afternoons at a train station café.

“I love romance and I love folk tales. Brief Encounter has surprisingly embraced both these passions,” says adaptor and director Emma Rice, who has made a name for herself in Britain as a leading force in ensemble-generated theater that challenges the boundaries of live performance. “If you boil it down to its most basic level, I think that my work is often about love, the wonder of it and the trouble it can get us into. It asks how one negotiates the emotions and what happens when you break the rules.” Rice describes Brief Encounter as “a very grown-up fairy tale,” which manifests itself in the fantastical staging and the unique mixture of romance and comedy that permeates the production.

annette-mclaughlin-myrtle-and-beverly-rudd-beryl
The colorful characters at the train station include
café owner Myrtle (Annette McLaughlin) and waitress Beryl (Beverly Rudd).

In Brief Encounter, Kneehigh Theatre will pay homage to the American Conservatory Theater’s legacy as a movie house with actors dressed as 1930s movie ushers before the start of the show. The transformation continues when the play starts with a large movie screen that is the most prominent element in the scenic design. The production blurs the lines between cinema and theater with actors going in out of projections that are a key part of Kneehigh’s signature visual storytelling. The whimsical staging of the production is in service of the emotional truth of the whirlwind romance at the heart of Coward’s film and play. Rice speaks to Coward’s innate ability to tap into the hearts and minds of his two protagonists: “It is written with such empathy, such observation, and such tender agony. Noël Coward knew what he was writing about. Imagine being gay in the 1930s and you begin to understand Brief Encounter. Imagine the impossibility of expressing the most fundamental of human needs and emotions.”
For more information: Brief Encounter

emma-rice-and-brief-encounter
Director and adaptor Emma Rice brings her unique vision to
Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter. Photo, Kneehigh Theatre.

BRING WHAT YOU CAN/PAY WHAT YOU WISH

Thursday, September 17, 2009, 8:00 PM
Pay any amount for your tickets when you bring a donation of children’s books, diapers, or coffee beans to benefit Raphael House, a shelter and support program for homeless families in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Patrons are limited to one ticket per donated item, one ticket per person. Tickets go on sale at 6:00 PM the day of the performance.

brief-encounter
BRIEF ENCOUNTER – From Kneehigh Theatre

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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