Moving The Dial: The Women's Leadership Conference

Thursday, August 25, 2016

By Elspeth Sweatman 

“We are here today to dialogue, to create, to unearth the big questions and bold strategies for moving conversation deeper and further around women and men of color in leadership in the American theater,” said Erin Washington, A.C.T.'s Interim Artistic Producing Associate and one of the organizers of the Women’s Leadership Conference that A.C.T. hosted on Monday at The Strand.

Research from the Wellesley Centers for Women. 
Infographic created by A.C.T. Marketing Team.
The conference began with the presentation of research conducted by Sumru Erkut and Ineke Ceder from the Wellesley Centers for Women. It was followed by responses from a panel including Seema Sueko (Deputy Artistic Director at Arena Stage), Shafer Mazow (Senior Grants Manager at Exploratorium), Michele Shay (actress, director, and producer), Elena Chang (Associate Director of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at Theatre Communications Group), Anne Kauffman (Board Member at Stage Directors and Choreographers Society), and Rhodessa Jones (Co-Artistic Director at Cultural Odyssey).

The Women’s Leadership Project began over two years ago when A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff and former Executive Director Ellen Richard approached the Wellesley Centers for Women to examine why women are underrepresented in the highest artistic and administrative positions. It was made possible by grants from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the Valentine Foundation, the Wellesley Centers for Women, and individual donors.

The purpose of the project and of the conference was to discuss “how we change the image of who is trusted with leadership,” said Perloff.

Research from the Wellesley Centers for Women. 
Infographic Created by A.C.T. Marketing Team.
An in-depth look at the study’s findings can be found here on A.C.T.’s website, and here on the Wellesley Centers for Women website. To watch a recording of the event, click here.

For more information about gender equity issues in Bay Area, visit the San Francisco Gender Equality Principles website.

Director David Muse Prepares for King Charles III

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

By Shannon Stockwell and Elspeth Sweatman

Buckingham Palace has come to 30 Grant. Prince Charles, William, Kate, and Harry (or rather, the actors who play them) have arrived for rehearsals for A.C.T.’s 50th-anniversary season opener: Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III.

Addressing a packed room of cast, crew, staff, and A.C.T. subscribers for the show’s meet and greet, director David Muse—who refers to himself as “Bartlett’s biggest fanboy in America”—told the story of seeing this play for the first time in London. “I sat there in slack-jawed disbelief for two and a half hours. The play was sophisticated, it was complicated, it was balanced, and it was good Shakespeare.”

In King Charles III, Muse sees many of the conventions of Elizabethan drama. There is a main plot in verse and a subplot in prose. There are soliloquies, rhyming couplets, and extended metaphors. There are supernatural elements, stage directions written into the text, and minimal scenery.

“But there’s also a deeper Shakespeareness about the play,” says Muse. “The play is unironic. It’d be very easy with this subject matter to participate in parody, to participate in satire. But he takes all of his characters seriously, just like Shakespeare does. The play doesn’t take sides—again, just like Shakespeare. It’s a political drama that plays out in very human terms.”

Director David Muse at the first rehearsal for A.C.T.'s 2016 production of King Charles III.
Photo by Shannon Stockwell.

Having worked for seven years at Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, (one of the coproducers for this production along with Seattle Repertory Theatre) and having directed a fourth of the Shakespearean canon, Muse knows the popularity of Shakespeare’s classics in the United States. “Americans have been drawn to Shakespeare’s history plays for centuries,” says Muse. “Why? Because they operate as much on the level of the human as the national, because the psychology is as interesting as the politics, and because we as audience members can take imaginative leaps. King Charles III operates like those history plays.”

“Americans know a thing or two,” says Muse, “about struggling to reconcile old traditions and ways of doing things within a radically changing world. We know about celebrities; many Americans are almost as tabloid obsessed with the royal family as the British are. And, of course, Brexit has put Britain on all of our minds.”

Muse concluded, “I think this the real response to the question of why do this play in America: if the play is just flat-out good, if it’s entertaining, and if it’s both emotionally and intellectually gripping, the question of relevance tends to fade pretty quickly in the audience’s mind. And I believe that this is a play that will do that.”

King Charles III runs at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater from September 14 to October 9. Click here to purchase tickets. 

Peter Pastreich Joins A.C.T. as Interim Executive Director

Friday, August 19, 2016

By Publications Staff

Interim Executive Director Peter Pastreich. Photo by Jamie Whittington.

Summer at A.C.T. has been busy, with back offices and backstages buzzing with preparations for our amazing 50th-anniversary season. As we raise the Geary curtain for the first show of the 2016–17 season, we’d like to welcome our new interim executive director, Peter Pastreich.

“I have known Peter since I arrived in San Francisco over twenty years ago,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff. “I have always been inspired by his leadership, his kindness, and his immense wisdom about artists and arts management. It is with enormous pleasure and gratitude that we join forces with him at this moment in A.C.T.’s history, to help us celebrate our 50th-anniversary year, to guide us forward in all our aspirations, and ultimately to help us complete a successful hire of a permanent executive director.”

“The A.C.T. Board of Trustees is extremely fortunate to have Peter’s wisdom and expertise during our search for a permanent executive director,” says board chair Nancy Livingston. “His accomplishments, distinguished reputation, and deep understanding of the arts community will propel us into our 50th-anniversary season.”

Pastreich brings with him 50 years’ experience of managing arts organizations, notably the San Francisco Symphony, where he was executive director for 21 years. “I am honored that A.C.T. has entrusted me with the responsibility of being its interim executive director,” says Pastreich, “I very much look forward to working with Carey Perloff and A.C.T.’s effective and committed Board of Trustees and staff.”

Across orchestras and symphonies from Louisville to London, Pastreich has taken the lead on management consultancy, theater renovation, endowment founding, mediation for union negotiations, and training the next generation of arts leaders. During his tenure at SF Symphony, the organization raised its budget from $6 million to $40 million and expanded its endowment from $12 million to $120 million. We are fortunate to have his expertise and experience as we look forward to our own historic season. Welcome, Peter!
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