Rage, Spirit, and a Wink: A.C.T.'s 2019–20 Season

By Claire L. Wong

Rules are made to be broken—and interrogated, rewritten, and overcome. The 2019–20 season at American Conservatory Theater features stories that examine the established rules of engagement, their violent and tumultuous histories, and the people chafing against these constraints. “Told with decorum, rage, spirit, and a wink,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon, “this season’s offerings continue A.C.T.’s tradition of telling stories that provoke responses and lead to debates, dreams, and even action.”

Women are pushing back against the rules of oppression in A.C.T.’s first two productions of the 2019–20 season. Tamilla Woodard (Men on Boats) returns to A.C.T. for her Geary Theater debut directing Caryl Churchill’s acclaimed modern classic Top Girls. Audiences may remember returning actors Rosie Hallett, who worked alongside Woodard in Men on Boats (2018), and Michelle Beck, last seen at the Geary in King Charles III (2016). In Margaret Thatcher’s divided England, Top Girls examines the lengths career-driven Marlene goes to in order to succeed and the sacrifices she incurs along the way. The world premiere of Kate Attwell’s Testmatch is directed by Tony and Obie Award winner Pam MacKinnon for her debut in the Strand. Attwell simultaneously reveals rising tensions between rival women’s cricket players from England and India, while also excavating the history and violence of British colonization underlying modern tensions.

 LEFT: Top Girls Director Tamilla Woodard; RIGHT Testmatch playwright Kate Attwell.

A.C.T. Executive Director Jennifer Bielstein describes the 2019–20 season as “filled with exciting work that reflects the rich diversity of stories and human experience from throughout the world.” The season continues with Obie Award–winning Will Eno’s latest work Wakey, Wakey, a comedy drama that highlights the extraordinary in the everyday, starring two-time Emmy Award winner Tony Hale (HBO’s Veep and Fox’s/Netflix’s Arrested Development). Dark comedy Gloria, by MacArthur “Genius” winner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, examines the role of storytelling in emerging from trauma. Lydia R. Diamond’s Toni Stone, a six-year collaboration between Diamond and director Pam MacKinnon, depicts the challenges and triumphs of a real-life Bay Area athlete. Tony Award–nominated director-choreographer Sam Pinkleton reimagines San Francisco as a sweeping sci-fi landscape in Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. Following the success of Vietgone (2018) at the Strand, playwright Qui Nguyen returns to A.C.T. with hip-hop and martial arts for Poor Yella Rednecks: Vietgone Part 2, the second installment in his autobiographical trilogy about a Vietnamese family navigating rural Arkansas after leaving Vietnam in the 1970s.

Look out for the new InterACT event Drinks & Drama, an evening of drinks, pop-up food, and low-priced tickets to the first Friday preview of every production during the season.

Tickets for the 2019–20 season are on sale now. Purchase your tickets here!

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