From Stanislavsky to “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour,” movement intersecting with drama is the primary interest of writer, director and actor Mark Jackson, one of the Bay Area’s most exciting and original young playwrights. With “American $uicide,” a commission for the Magic Theater and the Z Space Studio New Works Initiative, he satirizes Americans’ fascination with their 15 minutes of fame. Spark visits with Jackson during rehearsal for his adaptation of the 1929 Nikolai Erdman play.
A graduate of San Francisco State University’s theater arts program, Jackson has created a brand of physical theater that integrates the theories of gesture and biomechanics that he studied under Gennadi Bogdanov and at the Saratoga International Theater Institute. Jackson, who has a flair for perceptive commentary on contemporary society, uses a modern sensibility to create dramatic works that present age-old ideas of theater in a fresh light.
Jackson first received widespread critical attention when he founded San Francisco’s Art Street Theatre in 1995. In his nine-year stint as the company’s artistic director, he created seven new plays, including “I Am Hamlet,” for which he won his first Bay Area Critics Circle Award in 2002. Jackson’s reinventions of classic plays, such as “R&J” and “Io, Princess of Argos!,” drew inspiration from sources as varied as Greek tragedy and Shakespeare.
For his acclaimed “Death of Meyerhold,” which premiered in 2003 at Berkeley’s Shotgun Players, Jackson turned to the work of legendary and revolutionary theater director Vselovod Meyerhold to craft a powerful and heady mix of dance, commedia, kabuki and circus. In 2004, following the success of “Meyerhold” — which won him a second Bay Area Critics Circle Award — Jackson accepted a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to study at the Mime Centrum in Berlin, where he continued to explore the relationship between dance and theater.
Jackson returned to the Bay Area scene directing highly regarded productions of Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” for the Aurora Theatre Company, Bertolt Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle” for A.C.T.’s MFA program and “The Forest War” for the Shotgun Players. Jackson wrote as well as directed “The Forest War,” a Kabuki-inspired morality tale with echoes of current-day politics.