Aisle Seat Review begins a new series of question-and-answer interviews with prominent Bay Area theater people.
Our goal is not to subject you the reader to extended portentous sermons of the guest’s views on Russian translations of lesser-known Mamet flash drama (is there such a thing?)
Too often the people who guide and make theater in the Bay Area are behind the scenes — fast-moving denizens of the curtain lines who mumble into microphones while invariably (always excepting Carl Jordan’s beret collection…) dressed head-to-toe in black. These interviews allow you, the reader, to get to know these amazingly talented people a bit more, as…people. Offering some personal and professional insights: with a heavy dash of humor.
Steve Beecroft is an actor, dancer, choreographer, director, and producer as well as a pillar of the Curtain Theater in Mill Valley CA. Besides his vocal talent, Beecroft is noted for his extraordinary skill as an athletic fight choreographer. If you’ve ever seen him jumping, leaping, and swinging a sword onstage, be sure to duck.
ASR: How did you get started in theater?
SB: It was really by accident. I have always been a singer, and still do concerts for fund-raising today, but I’d never planned to act. In my senior year of high school, I somehow got roped in to play the lead in the musical “The Boyfriend”. I was hooked and never turned back. It was a real switch from athletics for me. I remember that my football coach would avert his eyes when he saw me in the school corridors after that.
ASR: How many theater companies have you been involved with?
SB: I have never counted them all, but between Canada, England and the USA, quite a few.
… We had a blast mixing Shakespeare, Star Trek and rock ‘n roll!
ASR: When was your present company formed?
SB: The Curtain Theatre was formed twenty years ago to bring Shakespeare to the outdoor stage in Old Mill Park in Mill Valley. I joined the company 10 years ago. We are blessed to have two of the original founders still in the company. Michele Delattre is Artistic Director and will direct this summer’s show “Twelfth Night”, while also playing in the band. Don Clark has been our music director throughout all the years the company has been in existence. They are both brilliant!
ASR: Did you anticipate that it would become as successful as it has?
SB: It was already pretty special with its free performances in our outdoor setting. We have grown the company further over the years and are proud of the awards and loyal audiences we continue to gather.
ASR: What’s Curtain Theatre’s focus?
SB: The Curtain Theatre is primarily a Shakespeare company, adjusted to be fun and family-friendly. Many kids come and sit at the foot of the stage. We’re delighted to see they’re totally into it, which makes it super for us. We keep the plays light with topical music and authentic costumes. We might introduce props that were not available in the Bard’s era, like the chain saw we used in “The Taming of the Shrew.” That got everyone’s attention!
We switch out of Shakespeare too, performing other classic plays such as Moliere’s “The Miser” in 2017. Back in 2013, we went completely off the Bard’s rails when I joined with Carl Jordan and Gary Gonser to put on “Return to the Forbidden Planet.” It was such a hit at Tam High that we staged it the following year at Novato Theatre. We had a blast mixing Shakespeare, Star Trek and rock ‘n roll! It was outrageous and won a batch of SFBATCC awards.
ASR: On a somber note, it will likely be several months until theaters reopen due to COVID-19. How is your company coping?
SB: Our 2020 summer show has been cast and the artistic team are hard at work planning music, choreography, sets, costumes, etc. We start rehearsals after the July 4th weekend and we are hoping to have the go ahead then.
ASR: How has the crisis affected your planning for coming seasons?
SB: Given social distancing rules, we obviously cannot meet for character work and design sessions, so we use ZOOM a lot.
ASR: How do you envision the future for your company?
SB: The Curtain Theatre has been an integral part of the cultural life of Mill Valley and Marin for a long time. Shakespeare aficionados and neophytes alike love to come to see our plays. Families come to be entertained with their children getting their first impression of the Bard at our shows. They keep coming back. So will we.
It is worth remembering that Shakespeare and his company often saw the theatres closed by the plague. But creativity continued, plays were written and rehearsed, and when the air cleared, new plays surged into the light to entertain a people much in need of it. We at the Curtain Theatre hope to do the same in these troubled times. We think it vital that we carry on, whatever the difficulties.
ASR: Has Assembly Bill 5, requiring theatre folks to be employees, affected your company’s plans?
SB: If the law were to be enforced, it would kill almost all amateur theatre companies including us.
ASR: Life in the theater: What are some personal favorites?
SB: For dramas: “Equivocation”, “Cyrano de Bergerac”, and “Shakespeare in Love.”
Musicals I like include “Les Miserables”, “West Side Story”, “Return to the Forbidden Planet”, “Mamma Mia”, and “Guys & Dolls.”
My favorite comedies include “Noises Off”, “Lend me a Tenor”, and “Much Ado About Nothing”.
ASR: What are three all-time favorites from The Curtain Theatre?
SB: Tough choice. Top of the list is “Return to the Forbidden Planet” of course, plus “Henry IV” part one, and “The Taming of the Shrew.”
ASR: What is Shakespeare’s most underrated play?
SB: “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” It has great comedy and some excellent poetry and prose. It has a problem at the end but I think that can be worked around effectively. I hope to direct the play in the future.
ASR: Shakespeare’s most over-performed play?
SB: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”…though it is still great fun!!
ASR: If you had to do a whole season performing technical work—sets, lights, projections, sound, props, costumes—which would it be and why?
SB: I am afraid I am hopelessly untalented when it comes to tech areas. I could probably manage props.
ASR: How do you warm up before a performance? How do you relax after?
SB: Lots of stretching and singing beforehand, and a beer with my cast mates and the Curtain team afterward.
ASR: If someone asked to be your apprentice and learn all that you know, what three things would you tell them are essential?
SB: Hmmm… I guess,
1. Only do plays and roles that you are passionate about.
2. Seek to work with the most creative people you can.
3. Have fun!!
ASR: What is the funniest screw-up you’ve seen on stage in a live performance?
SB: When playing Curly in “Oklahoma”, I was supposed to shoot Jud, but the gun cap didn’t go off. I spent about 3 minutes ad-libbing and having lots of fun with the audience.
ASR: The most excruciating screw-up?
SB: I tore my hamstring doing a split-leap on stage. Not fun.
ASR: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen a guest do at the theater?
SB: When I was rehearsing for a John Denver concert, an elderly lady came in to listen and watch. When I finished one particular song, she proceeded to remind me that I had gotten one word wrong and that I really shouldn’t do that again.
ASR: Do you have a “day job?”
SB: I work for a multi-national investment bank.
ASR: What are your interests outside of theater?
SB: Hiking, the gym, singing both choral and in concerts, traveling, kayaking, and environmental economics.
ASR: Favorite quote from a movie or stage play?
SB: This one…
“How will it work?”
“I don’t know, it’s a mystery.”