photographs by Barry Wisdom /
Some were born to direct. Some have had directing thrust upon them.
For Kristine David, it’s been a bit of both.
David, who helms Teatro Nagual’s current production of “Anna in the Tropics” at Coloma Community Center, is the daughter of longtime Sacramento actor-producer-director (and Teatro Nagual founder/creative director) Richard Falcon, and Barbara Falcon, an event planner-turned-theater administrator. For David, greasepaint was part of her DNA makeup.
But David, like her father, began her career on the boards as an actor with no set plan to one day sit out front and call the shots.
“In the earliest stages of ‘Anna,’ I was simply going to stage manage,” said David, whose local credits include turns with B Street Theatre, Capital Stage, Big Idea Theatre, Resurrection Theatre, Celebration Arts, Beyond the Proscenium Productions, Main Street Theater Works, Woodland Opera House and River Stage. “Then I was tapped to assistant direct, then co-direct with my father, and then he handed me the reins to direct on my own. Having buffed up my résumé with acting gigs, commercial gigs, it seemed like the perfect time.”
David, whose father established Teatro Nagual in 2006 as a means to promote Latino theater, said that while she holds the title of director – and the full responsibilities that come with it – mounting Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about “love, literature, politics, and the loss of innocence” in a Depression-era Florida cigar factory has been a collaborative effort.
“It was something I really wasn’t confident I was capable of,” David admitted, noting that there was a bit of additional pressure in making “Anna” successful as its staging is part of Teatro Nagual’s campaign to raise money for a proposed children’s educational program. “I had wanted to direct in the past, and had been given the opportunity twice before, but I wasn’t sure until I took this project on. Richard and the actors have been incredibly kind and seem to trust me completely.
“They were more sure of me than I was in myself. They were on my side the whole way.”
A San Francisco native who moved with her family to South Sacramento when she was 5, within three years she was starting to perform on stage in and around Sacramento.
David – like so many aspiring actors – grabbed her high school diploma and headed to the Big City (in this case, Los Angeles) to gain some grown-up experiences.
“I dipped my toe in and ran home,” she laughed, who said that while the year in the Southland didn’t do much for her résumé, it did provide valuable “knowledge of the business.”
Back safe and sound in the River City, David began studying in earnest. She gives River Stage founder and producing director Frank Condon full “props” for prepping her for her career in theater.
“I credit him with everything I know today,” said David, whose tenure with River Stage included roles in “Mrs. California,” “Chicago Conspiracy Trial,” “Disability,” “A Christmas Carol,” and “Acts Unbecoming a Golem.”
While at the Cosumnes River College-based theater, she also had the opportunity to work with such guest luminaries as director Vada Russell, and Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff (during the River Stage Playwright’s Festival).
“It was an incredible opportunity,” she said.
David also sought additional private tutelage from noted Sacramento-based actor-educator Janis Stevens.
Well-reviewed roles began piling up for David, who would go on to win two best actress Elly Awards: the first for her role as Lula in the Celebration Arts production of “Dutchman” (“My favorite role of all time!”); and the second for Big Idea Theatre’s “The Compleat Female Stage Beauty.”
In 2010, on the strength of such head-turning performances as the bitter, undervalued younger sister in Cap Stage’s production of “Mauritius,” she was named “Best Local Actor” in Sacramento News & Review’s annual best-of-Sacramento issue.
Many newcomers to the director’s chair might ease into the role by making their debut helming a show that features a small cast – perhaps taking on a light, comedic two-hander.
But “Anna in the Tropics,” which plays through July 1, is a highly charged drama with only a bit of comedic leavening, and demands rather intricate staging and blocking thanks to its substantial cast of eight.
To complicate her directorial debut, David’s rehearsal schedule – which began shortly after her March 1 casting decisions – was set on its ear due to last-minute conflicts.
“Some actors had to go – stepping down for personal reasons,” she said. “We ended up with less rehearsal time, but I think we have a better production.”
“A lot of them haven’t worked a lot, or have been out of acting for a while,” she continued. “But it’s great to have these fresh faces on stage and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at their skill level.”
Among her cast is father Richard Falcon, who plays the cigar factory’s owner Santiago. Also on the call sheet: Ernesto Bustos; Jay Patrick; Amanda Morish; Ana Maria Perales; Pierre Perales; Irene Velasquez; and Martin J. Rodriguez as the factory’s new lector, whose arrival “is a cause for celebration, but when he begins to read aloud from ‘Anna Karenina,’ he unwittingly becomes a catalyst in the lives of his avid listeners, for whom Tolstoy, the tropics and the American Dream prove a volatile combination.”
David’s staging seamlessly moves the audience’s attention from character to character, which playwright Cruz has facilitated by carving intimate moments between the actors as they convey a myriad of personal and professional emotions during a time of industry and world economic upheaval.
Big changes are afoot: the Great Depression is about to hit; mass production is threatening the Old World ways of cigar rolling; women are throwing off cultural yokes and becoming more assertive, independent thinkers; and the lovely tradition of professional storytellers reading to factory workers engaged in monotonous tasks is being challenged in favor of “efficiency.”
“I have an incredible love for the scenes and how they’re broken down to zero-in on one-on-one scene partners,” said David. “There’s so much language, all the audience needs to know is snuck in there. Every character has something else going on that they’re not saying, and it’s up to the actors to let the audience in on it without speaking to it. The people in the play are so multi-dimensional, and seem like characters from the novel (‘Anna Karenina’) that the lector is reading. The language in the play is just beautiful.”
“The compelling image of a young woman working tirelessly in a factory, finding reprieve through the words read by the lector – which provide a means of escape and perseverance amidst oppressive working conditions – has followed me throughout this process,” writes David in the show’s program. “The notion of traditions, and the loss of them, caused me to reflect on the probability that countless other strategies of survival, unacknowledged and underappreciated, have been cast away with the times and so-called progress.”
Now that “Anna in the Tropics” is up and running, David said she’s not only confident in her newly proven abilities as a director, but is eager to reprise the process.
“I channeled all of my favorite directors in working on this show,” she said. “Now I want to direct more and more – it’s like a new bug has bit me.”
JUST THE FACTS
WHAT: The Teatro Nagual production of “Anna in the Tropics”
WHEN: June 15-July 1, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays
WHERE: Coloma Community Center, 4623 T St., Sacramento, Calif.
WHO: Written by Nilo Cruz, directed by Kristine David, scenic design by Ron Reisner, stage management by Mary Goodall, and produced by Maria Celia Garcia. Featuring: Ernesto Bustos (Cheché); Richard Falcon (Santiago); Jay Patrick (Palomo); Amanda Morish (Marela); Ana Maria Perales (Conchita); Pierre Perales (Eliades); Martin J. Rodriguez (Juan Julian); Irene Velasquez (Ofelia)
TICKETS: $12-$20 (available online at brownpapertickets.com or at the door)
FOR MORE INFO: Call or email Richard Falcon (916-549-3341; firstname.lastname@example.org), or go online at teatronagual.com.