VOL. 26 - NO. 3
JAN 24 - 31, 2021
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OAKLAND, CA 94661-0283

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TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENT: American Conservatory Theater Announces Season Lineup

Jul 31, 2020
American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon and Executive Director Jennifer Bielstein have unveiled the diverse lineup that will make up San Francisco’s premier nonprofit theater organization’s new season. Extending through spring 2022, the season will include A.C.T.’s recently launched InterACT at Home initiative with a wide array of virtual programming, including an original film of singer-songwriter-soothsayer Heather Christian’s musical séance “Animal Wisdom; A Christmas Carol: On Air,” an enthralling radio play of the Bay Area’s favorite holiday tradition; “Virtually Speaking,” a new conversation series with icons of the industry; an encore performance of Madhuri Shekar’s “In Love and Warcraft; A.C.T. Out Loud,” a new series of play readings; and more.

Then, when theaters can reopen safely, there will be five in-person productions, including the West Coast premiere of Obie Award–winning Bay Area playwright Christopher Chen’s new San Francisco-set play, “The Headlands;” Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, and Bay Area-based Anthony Veneziale’s hip-hop improv sensation, “Freestyle Love Supreme;” the world premiere of the pre-Broadway musical, “Soul Train;” William Shakespeare’s masterpiece on tyranny, jealousy, and reparation, “The Winter’s Tale;” and the previously announced critically acclaimed, smash-hit production from Broadway and the West End, “The Lehman Trilogy.”


Expanding on A.C.T.’s recently-launched InterACT at Home initiative, the season will feature a rich menu of live streamed (fixed viewing dates) and on-demand (flexible viewing dates) virtual programming that gives patrons a new way to access and experience A.C.T. from the comfort and safety of their home.

This fall, A.C.T. will present an encore virtual performance of Madhuri Shekar’s “In Love and Warcraft” (Live Streamed: September 4–12, 2020; On-Demand: September 18–25, 2020). College senior Evie prefers the online role-playing game World of Warcraft to real life. In the game, she’s a fearless warrior with a boyfriend. In real life, she ghostwrites love letters for people, even though she’s never been in love. When Evie becomes attracted to her client Raul, she must decide whether to let her powerful and sexy warrior character out in the real world. Directed by Peter J. Kuo and featuring students from A.C.T.’s Master of Fine Arts program, “In Love and Warcraft” is a cosplay-loving romantic comedy about intimacy and love in the digital age.

In addition, A.C.T. will present three contemporary American plays, performed by students from A.C.T.’s Master of Fine Arts program and directed by the Bay Area’s own Shannon R. Davis, Dawn Monique Williams, and Jessica Holt. A.C.T. will also present a canonical Spanish play in an exciting new bilingual adaptation directed by A.C.T. Conservatory Head of Voice Christine Adaire.

Beginning in November 2020, Tony Award winner and A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon will host Virtually Speaking, a new series of in-depth conversations with prominent icons of the industry. First up, MacKinnon chats with four-time Academy Award nominee and A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts alum, Annette Bening (Live Streamed: November 20, 2020; On-Demand: Open-Ended).

For the first time in its 44-year history, the Bay Area’s favorite holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, will come to life as “A Christmas Carol: On Air” (available December 4–26, 2020), an enthralling radio play that the whole family can enjoy from the comfort of their home. Masterfully directed and adapted by Peter J. Kuo—using the original Dickens text and adaptation by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff—this timeless story of optimism and redemption will feature the delightful music, deliciously spooky ghosts, and cast that has made it a beloved Bay Area holiday classic.

In early 2021, A.C.T. launches “A.C.T. Out Loud,” a new series of play readings featuring enduring works by some of the greatest minds of generations past. These plays have the power to reach across time, speaking both to the age in which they were written and the ever-changing currents of today, and include works that have been long-celebrated as well as those that have not received the attention they are due because of societal bias. Upcoming readings include Alice Childress’ “Trouble in Mind” (Live Streamed: January 29, 2021; On-Demand: February 12–26, 2021), directed by Awoye Timpo; George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” (Live Streamed: February 19, 2021; On-Demand: March 5–19, 2021), directed by Obie Award winner and Tony Award nominee Colman Domingo; and Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker” (Live Streamed: March 26, 2021; On-Demand: April 9–23, 2021), directed by Dawn Monique Williams.

A.C.T. will next present an original film of the acclaimed musical séance, “Animal Wisdom” (Early Spring 2021). Do you believe in ghosts? Take a virtual front row seat as singer-songwriter-soothsayer Heather Christian lays to rest the souls that haunt her. Coming from a family of women who talked to ghosts, Christian summons a few of her own: her grandmothers whose spirits live in gardens and birds, an occupant of her family home who wouldn’t leave, and a playmate no one else could see. A virtual experience where a concert becomes a mass, a mass that becomes a séance, as Christian shapeshifts between rock star, folklorist, and high priestess. With their raucous, ferocious music that fuses blues and gospel and folk, Heather Christian & the Arbornauts invite you to raise a glass to the unseen forces that shape our lives. Fresh from a sold-out run at innovative Brooklyn theater The Bushwick Starr, “Animal Wisdom” will make you feel as though you are in the theater with these artists.

Next, A.C.T. will present the hip-hop improv sensation, “Freestyle Love Supreme” (July 29–August 22, 2021). Before Hamilton, before In the Heights, there was Freestyle Love Supreme. Now, more than 15 years after its inception, the original phenomenon from Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Bay Area-based Anthony Veneziale arrives at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater. Every performance, the crew takes the audience on a freestyle, hip-hop, improvisational, never-before-seen-and-never-to-be-seen-again comedy ride. See “Freestyle Love Supreme” for the first time every time as the performers take suggestions from the audience and spin them into instantaneous riffs and full-length musical numbers. And with special, spontaneous guest appearances by local and national performers, every performance brings the unexpected.

In fall 2021, A.C.T. will present the world premiere of the pre-Broadway musical, “Soul Train” (September 24–October 31, 2021), based on the iconic television show that brought Black music, dance, and style into every living room in America. In 1971, at a time of revolutionary cultural change, Black entrepreneur and visionary Don Cornelius created “Soul Train.” For the next four decades, he wrote, hosted, produced, and owned the series—turning it into a cultural institution, and the longest-running show on US television. Inspired by the series and Cornelius’s personal journey, “Soul Train” is the brand new, Broadway-bound musical featuring an acclaimed creative team, including 2019 Tony Award–nominated and MacArthur Genius Grant–winning playwright Dominique Morisseau.

For tickets or more information on A.C.T. please visit act-sf.org or phone (415) 749-2228.

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Photo caption: (L-R) Kaila Mullady, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Anthony Veneziale, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Aneesa Folds, Kurt Crowley (on keyboard back), and Arthur Lewis (on keyboard front) from the recent sold-out Broadway engagement of Freestyle Love Supreme. (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)


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