Doing two shows at the same time isn’t anything new for actor Rinabeth Apostol. It’s exhausting, certainly. But at the very least, both her current shows are in the same city, which cuts down some drive time for the popular Bay Area performer.
That convenience isn’t always the case.
Back in early 2019, Apostol and fellow actor Jomar Tagatac were performing in a production of “King of the Yees” at San Francisco Playhouse multiple times a week. But there was a rehearsal for a different play at Capital Stage in Sacramento at the same time. Hopping on Amtrak at 6 a.m. for rehearsal was the norm – rehearsing at eight in the morning was not. And once the clock struck three, it was back on the train for the return trip to Berkeley, followed by a drive into the City for their performance.
“It was one of those times where we were so ambitious,” recalls Apostol. “We were going to be running our lines on the train, so we weren’t going to have a problem.
“But no, we needed to nap.”
Napping, or just straight up sleeping, is at a premium these days. Running around at multiple rehearsals means scheduling media obligations past 11 pm. Apostol, who was raised in South Sacramento, finds difficulty in keeping the scheduled time because late night tech and late night East Bay bridge closures have other plans for her ride home to Emeryville. Still, a chat that pushes closer to midnight doesn’t change what an interviewer gets – an engaged, gregarious soul ready to unpack an astute mind before hitting the pillow for a few hours of rest.
Ambition has taken a different shape for many in the months after the heights of the pandemic. Apostol recalls the joy of sharing a schedule with her wife of eight years for the first time in their marriage, a silver lining during such an anxiety-filled time in the world. But now, she is ready to get back to those pre-2020 levels of stress and engagement.
Apostol is playing the groundbreaking role of Alison in 42nd Street Moon’s production of “Fun Home,” now running through May 8. And three days after that show’s closing, she opens the world premiere of the Sam Chanse play “Monument, or Four Sisters (A Sloth Play)” at the Magic Theatre.
There have been a few shows Apostol has performed in since theatres began to re-open, but this is her most ambitious recent stretch, a nod to just how close she is to her new normal. And with that comes the thrill of reconnecting with a live audience.
“The muscle memory is definitely there, but it’s just a matter of waking up,” said Apostol. “One of the reasons why I love theatre so much is because the audience plays such an integral role in the show. I was just getting into that mental state because things really are different.”
Despite the changes that theatre has been experiencing, from content to safety protocols, Apostol was also able to pick up where she left off, nabbing different readings and acting projects, and being named Asian Centennial Distinguished Theater Fellow in Residence at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
Apostol understands that choosing a career in theatre will always come with a level of uncertainty, but the confidence in the various components she can implement as an artist and educator helped her move through the peaks and valleys of the past few years.
“One of the reasons why I love theatre so much is because the audience plays such an integral role in the show. I was just getting into that mental state because things really are different.”Rinabeth Apostol
The musical “Fun Home” comes from the 2006 graphic novel of the same name written by Alison Bechdel. The show, adapted by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, premiered on Broadway in 2015 and garnered five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, a character who navigates the audience through her sexual awakening as a young girl in a series of drawings, and her attempts as an adult to connect to the memory of her father who lived as a gay man in secret before committing suicide.
Despite Apostol not believing that being cast as Alison was possible considering she doesn’t feel like a match of this particular representation (“I’m not a butch lesbian from Pennsylvania” says the San Francisco-born Filipina), she connects deeply to the rich theme of memory that exudes throughout the piece.
“For me, there are these moments of trying to recall specific situations in her life, and all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Am I remembering this the way I should be remembering this, or is there a part of me that has suppressed that memory?’ I think it’s such an interesting thing as you age especially, and then specifically after something like (Covid-19), because everything starts to blend together.”
Keeping her shows from that blend has its own challenges. And yet, when “Fun Home” comes to a close, a few days later begins another few weeks of deep-level engagement. “Monument, or Four Sisters (A Sloth Play)” at the Magic explores three sisters on their respective journeys navigating loss. They are on a search for what might be the magical elixir which could make everything whole again – finding their fourth sister.
Apostol was involved in one of the show’s earliest zoom readings, and immediately got to work on dissecting the meaning beneath the story. Much like “Fun Home,” honesty within relationships and what that does to shape one’s memory is a prominent dynamic in the show’s motivations.
“It’s similar to ‘Fun Home’ because there are certain things we would love to talk about, but we have to keep this veneer because I don’t want certain siblings to know what I’m doing,” said Apostol. “You sometimes feel you have to have that façade, because it’s sometimes the people you’re closest to and who love you the most are the ones you refuse to be the most honest with.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
42nd Street Moon presents “Fun Home”
Written by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron
Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel
Directed by Tracy Ward
Through May 8
The Gateway Theatre
215 Jackson St., San Francisco, CA 94111
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets range from
For tickets, call (415) 255-8207 or visit 42ndstmoon.org
The Magic Theatre presents “Monument, or Four Sisters (A Sloth Play)”
Written by Sam Chanse
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
May 11 – 29
The Magic Theatre – Fort Mason
2 Marina Blvd., Building D, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94123
Tickets range from $20 – $70
For tickets, call (415) 441-8822 or visit MagicTheatre.org