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Steven Culp in "The Quality of Life"

October 24 - November 23, 2008 (37 performances)

American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco, CA




Playwright by Jane Anderson Bill - Steven Culp
Directed by Jane Anderson Dinah - JoBeth Williams
Jeanette - Laurie Metcalf
Neil - Dennis Boutsikaris

Running time: Approximately 120 minutes incl. a 15 min intermission.
Recommendation: Contains adult language and situations.



OUT with A.C.T.
Stage Captures
Press Coverage of "The Quality of Life"
Review by a Fan




Set design sketch of Jeanette and Neil's home, by scenic designer Donald Eastman


"... life is too precious." ~ Bill



Published in the American Conservatory Theater
performance program, Oct/Nov 2008, Vol. 7 No. 2




(c) "The Quality of Life," Words on Plays 08/09, Insight into the play, the playwright, and the production
Vol. XV, No. 2, 2008 A.C.T.
Interview with the A.C.T. cast of "The Qualitiy of Life"

by Dan Rubin

Steven Culp (Bill) received Drama-Logue Awards for his performance in Angels in America at A.C.T. in 1994 and returned to A.C.T. in Blackbird in 2007. Also a prolific screen actor, he received wide acclaim for his performance as Robert F. Kennedy in the film Thirteen Days and Screen Actor's Guild Awards in 2004 and 2005 as part of the cast of ABC's Desperate Housewives.

Do you prepare for your roles in theatre and film differently?

Essentially, no, although with Bill I'm already thinking that I want to transform myself physically, somehow. And I've been listening for him, which is something you get a chance more to do in theatre than in TV and movies, although I've had a few roles in TV and movies where I've been able to do the kind of thing: I've been keeping an ear out for what I would like his voice to be.

I'm very different from him. Bill is a farm-bred, Midwestern man of few words (seemingly). More the salt-of-the-earth type, while I'm more the white kid from the suburbs who went to university and was an English major. I have more of an East Coast sensibility.

It's funny, because you go through all the possibilities of what you'd like to do, and a lot of the time you come right back to yourself, but you've taken what you've learned from exploring those possibilities, so what you come out with is richer. But I really do feel that I want to change him so that he doesn't look like me.

I did the same thing with Ray in Blackbird: he's older than me, he's in his mid 50s, and I was concerned about making the age sell, because I thought that was a really important aspect of that play, the age difference between the two characters. For Ray I ended up graying the hair and dressing a certain way, but also I changed my posture. There was a certain visual image I had in my head based on someone I knew, and it just felt right. Also, vocally for Ray I had a certain model in my head, a certain actor's accent, which is where I started and developed it from there. And now I am looking for that with Bill's voice.

What else are you doing to prepare for the role?

I'm reading. I got in contact with an old friend from high school who is a born-again Christian, and I asked him about where I could go to find some good stuff on Creationism. I'm actually reading a book by James Dobson now, When God Doesn't Make Sense, because I think that really relates to what these characters are going through with the loss of their daughter. It's interesting to read, because Dobson is a fundamentalist Christian, and he has some interesting things to say about dealing with tragedy, when God doesn't seem to be there, and I think that's exactly the kind of thing that Bill is going through. So I've started my preliminary work, but it's hard to say where it is going to end up.

Have you ever lived through a fire?

I was in L.A. in 1991 during the riots, and we finally left the apartment when the camera store around the corner went up in flames. Some friends of ours who lived in Burbank called us and said, "You should come over here." So we threw things very quickly in the car, but, what do you throw in the car? I grabbed my guitar, we grabbed our wedding pictures, and some clothes, and I forget what else. I don't know if we thought to take bank statements and stuff like that. We were younger and lived simpler lives. Nobody had computers back then. We stayed in Burbank for a little while, but I did go back. We had just got permission from our landlord to start a vegetable garden in the back on this little bare spot next to the wall. And I actually went back to water the garden during the coupe days when things were really tense.




Production Photos taken on October 24, 2008 by Kevin Berne









(Aug 17, 2008, act-sf.org)

When Bill and Dinah, a religious Midwestern couple, visit free-spirited cousin Jeannette and her husband, Neil, in their Northern California home, both couples confront loss and survival in the face of explosive circumstance. An unforgettable, brave work of heart and humor, The Quality of Life was nominated for four 2007 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. The play will be seen in a newly revised version following its world premiere production in 2007 at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse.

(Sep 25, 2008, act-sf.org)

A daring, star-studded cast explores hot-button issues of life and death in this riveting new tour-de-force, featuring Laurie Metcalf (Desperate Housewives, Roseanne), Caroline Lagerfelt (A.C.T.'s Mary Stuart, Gossip Girl), JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist, The Big Chill), Steven Culp (A.C.T.'s Blackbird), and two-time OBIE Award winner Dennis Boutsikaris. When a religious Midwestern couple, Bill and Dinah, visit free-spirited cousin Jeannette (alternately played by Metcalf and Lagerfelt) and her husband, Neil, in their Northern California home, both couples confront loss and survival in the face of explosive circumstance. An unforgettable, brave work of heart and humor, The Quality of Life was nominated for four 2007 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards.

(Oct 16, 2008, act-sf.org)

A daring, star-studded cast explores hot-button issues of life and death in this riveting new tour-de-force, featuring Laurie Metcalf (Desperate Housewives, Roseanne), JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist, The Big Chill), Steven Culp (A.C.T.'s Blackbird), and two-time OBIE Award winner Dennis Boutsikaris. When a religious Midwestern couple, Bill and Dinah, visit free-spirited cousin Jeannette and her husband, Neil, in their Northern California home, both couples confront loss and survival in the face of explosive circumstance. An unforgettable, brave work of heart and humor by Emmy Award–winning playwright-director Jane Anderson, The Quality of Life was nominated for four 2007 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards and six 2008 LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards.

"Tremendous! It entertains, amuses, compels, makes the audience think, feel, laugh, weep. That is theater." - San Francisco Examiner

"A magnetic work of theater. Very funny ... astounding performances!" - San Francisco Chronicle

"Thoroughly captivating. Beautifully directed ... wonderfully engaging characters" - Contra Costa Times

"Radiant! One of the most emotionally acute productions of the fall season" - San Jose Mercury News

"Highest rating! Crackling, fast-moving! A powerful play that touches every emotion in the book ... as passionate and profound as you're likely to see on any stage." - BeyondChron.com

"Touching and thought-provoking ... skillfully crafted" - San Francisco Bay Times

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