Vietgone at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater – A Story of Love and Loss

The American Conservatory Theater is presenting Qui Nguyen’s “Vietgone,” at the Strand Theater until April 22. The story revolves around how two Vietnamese refugees fall in love, one is a fighter pilot, Quang (James Seol) and the other a U.S. Embassy worker, Tong (Jenelle Chu). In the beginning, Nguyen slyly alludes to the characters being based on his parents, “Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. That especially goes for any person or persons who could be related to the playwright. Specifically, his parents. Who this play is absolutely not about”.

VTG_215Tong is given the opportunity to escape the violence and politics caused by the Vietnam War via her job at the embassy, she’s allowed to take one other person with her. She chooses her mother (Cindy Im), forcing her to leave her brother behind. Quang has two children and a wife he’s barely seen as his pilot duty calls, but he intends to be with them as soon as he can. Unfortunately, his plane is discarded and they force him to stay in the U.S. Tong and him both end up at the same refugee camp and that’s where the emotional rollercoaster begins.

The story is told through a mix of humor, intermittent musical set changes, and rap numbers. The dialogue is also sprinkled with a little bit of “shade” towards racist tropes and the fake “woke”. No matter what one believes about a situation or history, there’s nothing more important than having the perspective of a person who’s directly affected by it.  Our parents, and how they tell their story becomes our history.

VTG_171Quang first meets Tongs mother who relentlessly flirts with him and lies about her age, one of the more comedic parts of the show. They establish a friendly relationship and while looking for her, Quang meets Tong. Tong likes to pretend she’s unaffected by emotions and lives as detached as possible, and immediately has a fling with Quang. Her mother walks in conveniently after they’re done and Quang is gone in a flash. And that’s how their love story begins.

VTG_014However, Quang is on a mission to go back to his family in Vietnam and exposes this truth right when Tong is starting to have feelings for him. The story then takes us to the motorcycle adventures of Quang and his friend Nhan (Stephen Hu) on their way to California to catch a flight back “home”. Nhan questions that belief, is it still home after all it’s been through, all that’s been lost? After all they’ve been through, and all they’ve lost?

Although, the story centers around commonalties that we share as humans like love and friendship, the main crux of the story is to not assume that you know what someone feels about their history and experience. This is pointed out when Quang and Nhan meet a couple of hippies on the road and when Quang is being questioned by his son.  

VTG_047People don’t choose to be in a country torn by war. It happens to them not because of them. This harsh reality is one people don’t seem to quite understand. Two people fall in love in this story but two people also have great losses in this story. They were torn apart from their families, their home, everything they’ve ever known.

In situations like this, people are left behind and the only way one can move forward is by accepting the choices that one was able to make regardless of how hard they were, and the ones forced upon you. Through humor, Nguyen explores romance, family, tragedy, regret, abandonment, guilt, and pain. Vietnam was not a “mistake,” Quang tells his son, it is a country. Catch it while you can as this is not a perspective you’ll read in your history books.  

Tickets and Info: 

A.C.T.’s Strand Theater (1127 Market St., San Francisco)

415.749.2228 |
Tuesdays–Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Sundays at 2 p.m.
*Ticket prices are subject to change without notice






A Night With Janis Joplin in San Francisco

Kacee Clanton It’s fitting that the American Conservatory Theater is bringing “A Night with Janis Joplin” back to the Bay Area during the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco. It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 artists, misfits, hippies, activist, anyone who was disgusted with current politics, consumerism, or just felt like an outsider united in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It was a unique moment in history where people came together to look for a higher meaning in life through drugs, music, sexual freedom and social justice movements. Janis was a key component of the time period with a unique voice that lingers on playlists today.

Kacee Clanton revives the Janis Joplin role she played in 2013 in various theaters including San Jose Repertory Theatre, a national tour, and as the alternate on Broadway. Prior to, she had appeared in the Off-Broadway stage production Love, Janis in 2001. It’s no surprise that at this point in time she truly encompasses the spirit of Joplin, not only in her voice but also her demeanor.

Snippets from Joplin’s life and words of wisdoms compose the bulk of the dialogue. The music is what truly makes the show as Clanton commands the audiences attention with her renditions of Joplin’s top songs — “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Cry Baby” and a sing-a-long to “Mercedes Benz” towards the end. Clinton pretends to take swigs of alcohol between songs reminding fans of Joplin’s trouble with sobriety and her death at 27 of a heroin overdose. It’s hard to believe sometimes that so many artists in that time period that changed music forever were so young; their work has so much meaning unlike many artists of the same age today.

Sylvia MacCalla

Sylvia MacCalla as Odetta.  Photo: Kevin Berne

Joplin is the headline but the true focal point of the show is the blues genre. It’s a concert a music lover could only dream of as Sharon Catherine Brown, Tamar Davis, Tawny Dolley, and Sylvia MacCalla play the legends—Nina Simone, Odetta, Etta James, Bessie Smith, and Aretha Franklin. They are the women of color that elicited the love of music in Joplin’s soul. Without these talented black women the Janis Joplin we remember today would not exist.  

Created, written, and directed by Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin features a creative team that includes Todd Olson (Music Director), Len Rhodes (Orchestrations), Mike Baldassari and Gertjan Houben (Lighting Designers), Amy Clark (Costume Designer), Rob Bissinger (Scenic Designer), Ben Selke (Sound Designer), Darrel Maloney (Projection Designer), Leah Loukas (Wig Designer), Patricia Wilcox (Choreographer), Tyler Rhodes (Associate Director), Jonathan Warren (Dance Supervisor).

A Night with Janis Joplin

Tickets for A Night with Janis Joplin are available at the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or online at

Ticket prices range from $20-$120.

The show ends July 2, 2017.


Bay Area Theaters Take a Stand with Immigrants

Bay Area Theater’s released the following statement in response to Trump’s unconstitutional immigration ban. We’re glad to see the community take a stand on these unwarranted attacks. If you’re wondering where to take in a show, we suggest the leaders who signed below.

We, the artistic and managing directors of Bay Area theaters, feel we must speak out against the executive order that would deny the freedom and safety that we know as Americans. This new generation of immigrants deserves the protection and opportunity that America has always provided. Our great American theaters would be far poorer without the authors, playwrights, actors, directors, technical staff, administrators, and audiences who come to us from all over the world, enriching our lives and the lives of those who experience our work.

Theater has always provided a bridge between cultures. There is no theater without empathy and compassion—that is the very nature of what we do. We call on our government to show the compassion and generosity that have done so much to make the United States a haven for the oppressed and a beacon of freedom.

We take our responsibility as global citizens extremely seriously and urge the President and his administration to rescind the executive order and reestablish an open exchange between artists and audiences from all over the world.


L. Peter Callender, Artistic Director, African-American Shakespeare Company
Sherri Young, Executive Director, African-American Shakespeare Company
Peter Pastreich, Executive Director, American Conservatory Theater
Carey Perloff, Artistic Director, American Conservatory Theater
Julie Saltzman Kellner, Managing Director, Aurora Theatre Company
Tom Ross, Artistic Director, Aurora Theatre Company
Gretchen Feyer, Managing Director, Berkeley Playhouse
Susan Medak, Managing Director, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Tony Taccone, Artistic Director, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Mina Morita, Artistic Director, Crowded Fire Theater Company
Liz Olson, Managing and Producing Director, Cutting Ball Theatre
Paige Rogers, Artistic Director, Cutting Ball Theatre
Michelle Mulholland, Managing Director, Golden Thread Productions
Torange Yeghiazarian, Founding Artistic Director, Golden Thread Productions
Steven Anthony Jones, Artistic Director, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
Loretta Greco, Artistic Director, Magic Theatre
Jaimie Mayer, Managing Director, Magic Theatre
Keri Kellerman, Managing Director, Marin Theatre Company
Jasson Minadakis, Artistic Director, Marin Theatre Company
Ed Decker, Founder and Artistic Director, New Conservatory Theatre
Barbara Hodgen, Executive Director, New Conservatory Theatre
Jason Hoover, Artistic Director, Ray of Light Theatre
Patrick Dooley, Artistic Director, Shotgun Players
Elizabeth Lisle, Managing Director, Shotgun Players
Darren Doutt, General Manager, Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon
Jo Schuman Silver, Producer, Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon
Brad Erickson, Executive Director, Theatre Bay Area
Rachel Fink, Managing Director, Theatre Bay Area


Join the Ghostlight Project – Eve of Presidential Inauguration

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) announced today that on Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.—the eve of the presidential inauguration—it and over 100 theaters and theatrical organizations across the country will launch The Ghostlight Project, a collective, simultaneous action, together creating “light” for challenging times ahead. Inspired by the tradition of leaving a “ghost light” on in a darkened theater, artists and communities will make or renew a pledge to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone—regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Ghostlight Project

The event will be held at 5:30 p.m. in front of The Geary Theater (415 Geary St.) and will include a short program of speakers followed by the ceremonial lighting and photos. This event is open to all. Members of the community should arrive between 5–5:25 p.m. and are encouraged to bring an electric light, flashlight, electric candle, or smartphone.

At the same time that evening, a related gathering of Bay Area theatermakers will take place at Berkeley Rep at 5:30 p.m. in the theater’s central courtyard, located at 2025 Addison Street. This gathering will also include a short program of speakers followed by the ceremonial lighting.

For more information on The Ghostlight Project national action, and to find a theatre near you: