American Conservatory Theatre



  • (ACT) The largest regional repertory company in America, based at San Francisco's 1456-seat theater of the same name (formerly the Geary Theatre), with some performances also at the Marine Memorial Theatre. The 50-member company, which performs both classical and modern works, is committed to an educational and experimental role.

    ACT was founded in 1965 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse by the flamboyant actor William Ball (1931 - 91), already acclaimed for staging an off-Broadway production of Chekhov's Ivanov (1958). He created a 'dashing style' for the new company but soon fell out with the Pittsburgh management; ACT toured for a year before settling in San Francisco, where it opened with Molière's Tartuffe (1966). In 1970 Allen Fletcher began to direct the company's training programme and in 1978 it began to offer a master's degree in acting.

    The company overcame a 1973 deficit of $900,000 by trimming its size and repertoire. Its productions have since ranged from Hamlet to Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear and Albee's A Delicate Balance. The theater wasdamaged by an earthquake in 1989 and did not reopen for some years. Subsequent successes have included Tony Kushner's Angels in America (1994) and a revival of Coward's High Society (1997).