The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program, which has trained such celebrated actors as Elizabeth Banks, Annette Bening, Anna Deavere Smith, and Denzel Washington, presents the sharp-witted, raunchy satire The Mandrake by Niccolò Machiavelli.
A.C.T. core Acting Company member and beloved local actor Anthony Fusco will direct the class of 2013 in a new adaption based onMalachi Bogdanov’s 2008 film The Mandrake Root, itself an adaptation of the 16th-century play. In The Mandrake, a cunning man concocts an elaborate ruse to sleep with a beautiful young woman. His biggest obstacle? Her elderly husband. Corruption, hypocrisy, passion, and potions propel this dashing Renaissance comedy—written 46 years before the birth of Shakespeare by one of history’s most infamous political philosophers. Called “a bawdy farce” by the New York Times and “full of fun and fraud” by the Buffalo News, The Mandrake runs February 1–11, 2012, at Hastings Studio Theater (77 Geary Street, Sixth Floor, San Francisco). Tickets ($15) are available online at act-sf.org or by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228. Press is welcome to attend the production, but reviews are not allowed.
“This play’s shrewd mixture of classic comedy and biting social criticism, its elusive tonal balance of farce and near-tragedy, intrigue me,” said Fusco, whose mainstage acting credits at A.C.T. include Race, The Homecoming, and Clybourne Park, among many others. “So it is with real eagerness that I look forward to exploring this classic work with A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program second-years. Judging by their kick-ass performances up to this point in their training, I know they are more than ready to throw themselves headlong into Machiavelli’s story, in which ‘the good’ triumphs over ‘goodness.’”
For this production, Fusco has adapted for the stage Malachi Bogdanov’s terrific screen adaptation of the play,The Mandrake Root. This new adaptation preserves the screenplay’s briskness and freedom, while still respecting the theatrical conventions employed by Machiavelli almost 500 years ago.
The Mandrake is made possible by generous grants from The James Irvine Foundation and The Bernard Osher Foundation. Additional support provided by donors to A.C.T.’s season gala.
Ranked as one of the top programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program was the first theater training program in the country not affiliated with a college or university accredited to award the master of fine arts degree. The essence of A.C.T.’s actor training lies in the interplay between the professional company and the conservatory. Student actors at A.C.T. perform frequently within the program in Studio Productions, as well as in cabaret and Shakespeare productions that tour to the larger Bay Area. In their third year, M.F.A. Program actors also appear in A.C.T. mainstage productions (a recent selection includes leading roles inArmistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, Once in a Lifetime, Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle) and participate in the process of creating new work for the theater by performing in A.C.T.’s staged readings, festivals, and other presentations of new and upcoming plays. Most graduates of the program go on to distinguished careers in theater and film and include such celebrated actors as Elizabeth Banks, Annette Bening,Benjamin Bratt, Christopher Fitzgerald, Danny Glover, Omar Metwally, Dileep Rao, Anika Noni Rose, Anna Deavere Smith, and Denzel Washington. A.C.T. also provides a wealth of talented actors for productions across the San Francisco Bay Area. Graduates of the M.F.A. Program have taken on leading roles in productions at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Stage,and Shakespeare Santa Cruz, among others. The M.F.A. Program functions as the cornerstone of the A.C.T. Conservatory, which also includes the Summer Training Congress, Studio A.C.T., and the Young Conservatory, and trains more than 3,000 students annually.