American Conservatory Theater

About American Conservatory Theater

American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco’s Tony Award–winning nonprofit theater, nurtures the art of live theater through dynamic productions, intensive actor training, and an ongoing engagement with our community. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Carey Perloff, we embrace our responsibility to conserve, renew, and reinvent our relationship to the rich theatrical literature and traditions that are our collective legacy, while exploring new artistic forms and new communities. A commitment to the highest standards informs every aspect of our creative work.

Founded by pioneer of the regional theater movement William Ball, A.C.T. opened its first San Francisco season in 1967. Since then, we’ve performed more than 350 productions to a combined audience of more than seven million people. We reach more than 250,000
people through our productions and programs every year. Rising from the rubble of the catastrophic earthquake and fires of 1906 and immediately hailed as the “perfect playhouse,” the beautiful, historic Geary Theater has been our home since the beginning. When the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake ripped a gaping hole in the ceiling, destroying the proscenium arch and dumping tons of debris on the first six rows of orchestra seats, the San Francisco community rallied to raise a record-breaking $30 million to rebuild it. The
theater reopened in 1996 with a production of The Tempest directed by Perloff, who took over after A.C.T.’s second artistic director, gentleman artist Ed Hastings, retired in 1992.

Perloff’s 24-season tenure has been marked by groundbreaking productions of classical works and new translations creatively
colliding with exceptional contemporary theater; crossdisciplinary performances and international collaborations; and “locavore” theater—theater made by, for, and about the San Francisco area. Her fierce commitment to audience engagement ushered in a new era of InterACT events and dramaturgical publications, inviting everyone to explore what goes on behind the scenes.

A.C.T.’s 46-year-old Conservatory, led by Melissa Smith, is at the center of our work. Our three-year, fully accredited Master of Fine Arts Program has moved to the forefront of America’s actor training programs, our intensive Summer Training Congress attracts enthusiasts from around the world, and our San Francisco Semester welcomes undergraduate students who want a taste of the grad school experience. Other programs include the world-famous Young Conservatory for students ages 8 to 19, led by 25-year veteran Craig Slaight, and Studio A.C.T., our expansive course of study for adults. Our alumni often grace our mainstage and perform around the Bay Area, as well as stages and screens across the country.

A.C.T. also brings the benefits of theater-based arts education to more than 10,000 Bay Area school students each year. Central to our ACTsmart education programs, run by Director of Education & Community Programs Elizabeth Brodersen, is the longstanding Student Matinee (SMAT) program, which has brought hundreds of thousands of young people to A.C.T. performances since 1968. We also provide touring Will on Wheels Shakespeare productions, teaching-artist residencies, in-school workshops, and in-depth study materials to Bay Area schools and community-based organizations.

With our increased presence in the Central Market neighborhood marked by the opening of The Costume Shop theater and the renovation of The Strand Theater across from UN Plaza, and the launch of our Stage Coach community initiative, A.C.T. is poised to continue its leadership role in securing the future of theater for San Francisco and the nation.

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