American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Artistic Director Carey Perloff announced the lineup of the company's 44th subscription season today. Recently commended for its "sophisticated artistry" (The New York Times) and its "intellectual passion [and] guts" (Los Angeles Times), A.C.T. has put together an eclectic mix of plays with big theatrical visions and ideas, from reimagined classics to bold new plays. Anchored by the world premiere of a musical version of Armistead Maupin's groundbreaking Tales of the City series, which will take over two slots at the end of the season, the repertoire also features works by such artists as Tony Award-winning master clown Bill Irwin, Nobel laureate playwright Harold Pinter, and celebrated newcomer Tarell Alvin McCraney, as well as an international multimedia production of No Exit that pushes the boundaries of live performance. A play to be announced will complete the 2010-11 subscription season. Perloff says: "While many things seem to be shrinking and constricting in our contemporary culture, we deliberately sought out plays for next season that are big and theatrical. We wanted to bring our audience plays with huge imaginations, enormous heart, and rich language, from re-envisioned classics to bold new voices, from a San Francisco icon like Tales of the City to a celebration of Pinter's genius craftsmanship. I'm deeply proud that we are able to celebrate our core acting company with the incredible René Augesen's tenth anniversary at A.C.T." René Augesen joined the A.C.T. core acting company in the 2000-01 season, after appearing in The Misanthrope, and will have given many memorable performances in 23 productions by the end of the 2009-10 season.
The 2010-11 season opens with the return of two-time Tony Award winner and A.C.T. favorite Bill Irwin (A.C.T.'s Fool Moon, Texts for Nothing) to the Bay Area in Molière's Scapin. Irwin-who adapted (with Mark O'Donnell), directs, and stars-uses his trademark sophisticated clowning, commedia dell'arte, and live music to turn this 17th-century farce of mistaken identities and theatrical mishaps into a sparkling tour de force perfect for all ages. In Scapin, the rascally title character balances his penchant for mayhem and mischief with a promise to help two pairs of wide-eyed lovers. "I feel I have unfinished comic business here in San Francisco-I so look forward to being part of the A.C.T. season opener," says Irwin, who was one of the founding members of San Francisco's celebrated Pickle Family Circus. "I've long wanted to return to Molière's Scapin and the adaptation that Mark O'Donnell and I did together 14 years ago. I've also long wanted to return to A.C.T. and its audiences, and I've long wanted to work again with my San Francisco colleagues and friends of many years. Might as well do it all at once." Irwin's Pickle Family Circus artistic collaborator and celebrated Bay Area actor Geoff Hoyle joins him for this production. About Irwin's last take on this character, which seems tailor made for his unique style of physical comedy, The New York Times exclaimed: "The entire world is Mr. Irwin's straight man. . . . This prince of clowns bears a distinctly nonearthly relationship to the basic laws of motion and anatomy." Also featured in Scapin are A.C.T. core acting company members René Augesen and Gregory Wallace, as well as members of the A.C.T. artistic family Steven Anthony Jones and Jud Williford.
The 2010-11 season continues in October with a bold new American voice, which takes over the Bay Area in a theatrical event that spans three theater companies: A.C.T. presents the West Coast premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, directed by the acclaimed Mark Rucker (A.C.T.'s The Rainmaker and the award-winning film Die, Mommy, Die!). This production will be the final play in McCraney's trilogy, which is produced in association with Magic Theatre and Marin Theatre Company. The New York Times said that McCraney's is "a new, authentically original vision. . . . It's what people must have felt during productions of the early works of Eugene O'Neill in the 1920s or of Sam Shepard in the 1960s." Having taken New York City and Chicago by storm, McCraney's mythical and poetic trilogy was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as "the greatest piece of writing by an American playwright under 30 in a generation or more." McCraney speaks to the unprecedented partnership that is bringing the trilogy to the Bay Area: "It's incredible that three theaters have taken on doing all three plays, really allowing for each play to live distinctively and have a conversation with each other across the Bay Area." Set in the Louisiana bayou, Marcus follows a sensitive African American young man with a secret he can't seem to wash away. As Marcus struggles to come to terms with his sexuality while searching for a place in his community, McCraney brings in magical flights of imagination and his extraordinary poetic flair to this gritty coming-of-age story. McCraney adds: "Marcus is the youngest and to me the funniest of the three plays, giving us a bittersweet view into the time-told tale of coming of age." A.C.T. core acting company member Gregory Wallace will be joined in the cast by A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program students Richard Prioleau and Shinelle Azoroh and recent graduates Omozé Idehenre and Tobie L. Windham.