A Personal Connection: An Interview with A.C.T.'s New Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon

By Simon Hodgson

This month, Pam MacKinnon officially took the reins as A.C.T.'s artistic director. As she plans for our upcoming 2018–19 season, we sat down with MacKinnon to talk about her own story and what's ahead.

A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon at a company meeting. Photo by Beryl Baker.

What are you looking forward to at A.C.T.?

Having an artistic home. I have always been a freelance director and that is a wonderful thing, hopping from project to project, accruing an artistic family along the way. But I’ve never been part of an institution, let alone a leader of an institution. So to dig into a place and really get to know an audience is very exciting to me.

What attracts you to San Francisco?

San Francisco is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city, a seat of innovation and higher learning, and a crown jewel of this country. Like a lot of American cities, it’s learning how to deal and manage and live with great new wealth next to people who are struggling and desperate. There is something very alive and thrilling in San Francisco.

You’ve been a freelance director for 20 years. What do you look for in new work?

I have to have an immediate personal connection to a play. It needs to be a story that I want to share—that has an emotional core. I’m drawn to stories that give equal weight to both men and women. It’s not just that if there are two men, there must be two women. It’s that the women are treated as messy and complicated and have points of view. And I gravitate to stories that lead with humor, and use humor to disseminate a story that eventually goes deep and dark. Take Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It might ultimately be a deeply harrowing story, but throughout, there are moments of desperate comedy.

As a director, The Geary and The Strand must be spaces you can’t wait to get your hands on.

Absolutely. During my interview process at A.C.T., I got a tour of The Geary early on a Sunday morning. Over the years I’ve seen a number of shows at The Geary, including Gem of the Ocean and The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets. So to sit in this great empty theater, and hop from lower orchestra to mid-orchestra and then from mid-mezzanine up to the balcony was quite a treat. I’m excited to fill The Geary and The Strand with bold, surprising stories, directed both by me as well as artists I admire. It is a time to dream big.

To learn more about the 2018–19 season, click here. Information about our season subscription packages can be found here.

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