Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Head Librarian Joseph Tally

By Taylor Steinbeck

Searching for a text on the Meisner technique? Wanting to read the latest Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner? Familiarizing yourself with contemporary women playwrights? Look no further than A.C.T.'s Allen Fletcher Library. Located on the 7th floor of 30 Grant Avenue, A.C.T.'s library is a hidden gem packed with books, scripts, theater-related magazines, and more. Head Librarian Joseph Tally has manned its shelves for nearly twelve years while juggling a position as director of development at San Francisco's Theatre Rhinoceros. We sat down with Tally to talk about the ins and outs of running a library for both a theater company and a graduate school.

A.C.T. Head Librarian Joseph Tally. Photo by Taylor Steinbeck.
How did you become A.C.T.'s librarian?

I was taking acting and auditioning classes at Studio A.C.T. and was making use of the library since Studio students get access to the books. A.C.T. was looking for a librarian and it ended up working out perfectly since I studied library science. 

How would you describe the Allen Fletcher Library?

We have some texts about theater studies and acting, but since A.C.T.’s Master of Fine Arts Program is a professional school as opposed to a research-based program, students want access to plays, plays, and more plays. We try to have as many unique titles on the shelves as possible and always keep up with what’s just been published.

A.C.T. Head Librarian Joseph Tally. Photo by Taylor Steinbeck.
How have you seen A.C.T. change over the years that you’ve been here?

I think the biggest change would be The Strand Theater. There was always a lot of interest in new work and you would see some of that done in the M.F.A. Program productions or staged readings, but I think the artistic team was constricted by not having the space to develop new work in. It felt like an explosion of talent and creativity and potential when A.C.T. opened The Strand.

What are some of your favorite scripts that you’ve read in this library?

I’m always looking for potential shows at Rhino, so I tend to read a lot of LGBTQ+ plays. Wolves: A Predatory Fairy Tale by Steve Yockey was a really interesting play. There’s a play by the Irish writer Frank McGuinness called Observe the Suns of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. It’s set in World War II and explores different kinds of male relationships. It has eight men in this very testosterone-driven environment. That play hasn’t left my mind.

What would you recommend to someone who hasn’t been to the library before?

Ask questions because there’s more here than you may realize. We have a lot of online materials that don’t get used as much as they could. I’m sure there’s a lot of A.C.T. staff—especially those who are not at 30 Grant—who don’t know we even have a library, and if they do, they’re only vaguely aware of it and aren't aware that they have access to it. And even then, they may think, “Oh, it’s that room where the books are.” There’s actually a whole lot more than that.

To learn more about the Allen Fletcher Library and access the library catalogue, click here.

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