Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Jack Sharrar, Director of Academic Affairs

By Elspeth Sweatman

Dr. Jack Sharrar. Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.
Amid the hustle and bustle of A.C.T.’s Conservatory offices, Dr. Jack Sharrar’s office stands as a beacon of tranquility. From this den of books murmurs the soothing strains of classical string quartets or Brazilian guitar music. We sat down with him at the start of another busy academic year to discuss his role, his favorite productions, and his 27-year relationship with A.C.T.

How would you describe your job?
I wear a lot of different hats. My title is Director of Academic Affairs. I also serve as a registrar for the M.F.A. Program and the accreditation liaison officer with WASC [Western Association of Schools and Colleges]. And I teach in the M.F.A. Program and the San Francisco Semester. I’ve been here since the summer of 1989. Initially I was working in publications and press, and teaching in the Young Conservatory.

Tell us about one of the classes that you teach.
I teach “The Glorious Ones” and we focus on Shakespeare and commedia dell’arte. “The Glorious Ones” is the title of a short novel by Francine Prose about a traveling group of commedia players. It was also adapted into a musical, and one of our graduates in the M.F.A. Program, Julyana Soelistyo, appeared in it at Lincoln Center and in London playing the role of Armanda Ragusa. She’s also appeared on our mainstage in Golden Child and The Orphan of Zhao.

What’s your favorite time of A.C.T.’s season?
For anybody in education, your clock revolves around fall, when students come back to campus. It’s like a little homecoming every year for the students before they move on to the next experience in their lives. So I would say that fall is the most exciting, but that would be followed by our callback weekend in late February/early March where we bring in the final candidates for the M.F.A. Program.

What are your favorite productions from your 27 years at A.C.T.?
Oh my gosh, there are so many. Enrico IV—a Pirandello play with Marco Barricelli—has always stood out in my mind. Right Mind is the very first show that I saw here and it was quite spectacular. It was destroyed by the earthquake. Jack Fletcher’s Caribbean Twelfth Night was a delightful romp. Shockheaded Peter, too, is vivid in my mind. And Carey Perloff’s beautiful production of Indian Ink.

What advice to do you give to these young actors and performers?

I use this quote from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in all my emails: “Our doubts are traitors / And make us lose the good we oft might win / By fearing to attempt.” Quite often in emails I write “Onward.” In other words, you always need to move forward. Follow your passion and try to overcome the obstacles that may be in your way. But stick to it, that’s the important thing.

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