The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) 2011-12 season opens with a new revival of the dazzling George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart 1930 comedy Once in a Lifetime, which has been called "a delicious Hollywood send up" (The New York Times) and "a tinseltown satire [with] bite" (Newsday). This witty satire by the Broadway luminaries behind such comedy classics as The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can't Take It with You will be directed by A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker and will feature an enthralling ensemble cast of 15 who will take on 70 roles. This unique production will incorporate period film clips and dynamic cinematic backdrops that meld the worlds of theater and film, redefining audiences' experience with "moving pictures." In Once in a Lifetime, a trio of down-on-their-luck vaudevillians head west to pull off the ultimate con: posing as vocal coaches to help Hollywood stars make their speaking voices as beautiful as their glamorous mugs as silent films evolve into "talkies." Once in a Lifetime performs September 22-October 16, 2011, at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco). Press night is on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, at 8 p.m. Tickets (starting at $10) are available by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or at act-sf.org.
"I have been an early Hollywood enthusiast since my teenage years-like many people from my generation, I got introduced to the brilliance of Kaufman and Hart's writing in high school. I've had this play in mind for all those decades and it's an honor to get to finally direct it at A.C.T.," said Rucker. "I'm especially excited to bring this amazing era to life using original black-and-white film clips to make ‘moving' cinematic backdrops, creating a juxtaposition of the worlds of theater and film." A.C.T. associate artist Alexander V. Nichols, who recently collaborated with Rucker on the evocative video sequences for last season's Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet, will take on the ambitious video design, which includes rare clips from period films and large-scale cinematic backdrops that enhance the beautiful scenic design by Tony Award nominee and A.C.T. associate artist Daniel Ostling (The Homecoming, War Music, and Brainpeople at A.C.T. and Metamorphoses on Broadway).
Rucker directed a version of this play with the Master of Fine Arts Program in 2010, and the artistic team was quick to realize that his vision for the play would be a great match for the majesty of A.C.T.'s historic home. Artistic Director Carey Perloff says: "One of the things I love about Mark Rucker is his fascination with vintage American comedy. When he directed Once in a Lifetime with our M.F.A. Program students last year, I found his approach so delightful and original that I immediately asked him to bring it to the mainstage." Speaking to the wide range of A.C.T. artists who will take part in this production, Perloff adds: "This production will be filled with a remarkable combination of stunning newcomers, brilliant recent A.C.T. graduates, multi-talented M.F.A. Program students, and core company members in surprising roles . . . plus delicious video courtesy of Alex Nichols. I can't wait!" The hardworking cast, which brings together many different arms of the A.C.T. artistic family, includes A.C.T. core acting company members (René Augesen and Nick Gabriel), recent A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program graduates (Gabriel along with Marisa Duchowny, Patrick Lane, Patrick Russell, and Ashley Wickett), and three third-year students from the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program (Alexander Crowther, Jason Frank, and Jessica Kitchens). Completing the cast are Julia Coffey, Margo Hall, Will LeBow, Kevin Rolston, and John Wernke. Along with Nichols and Ostling, the creative team includes lighting designer James F. Ingalls, costume designer Alex Jaeger, sound designer Cliff Caruthers, choreographer and assistant director Amy Anders Corcoran, and stage manager Elisa Guthertz.
A.C.T. will offer numerous InterACT events-many of which are presented free of charge-in association with Once in a Lifetime that will give patrons opportunities to get closer to the action while making a whole night out of their evening at the theater:
• 10UP: World-Class Theater at Happy-Hour Prices: Sep. 22-Oct. 1
Live it up with 10UP! Enjoy the Bay Area's best theater for only $10 a ticket for Balcony seats during select performances. The third-floor Sky Bar opens one hour before curtain time-show up early and mingle with other theatergoers while you enjoy happy-hour drinks and soak up the historic charm of one of the most beautiful theaters in the country.
• Audience Prologue Featuring Mark Rucker: Tue., Sep. 27, at 5:30 p.m.
Get the backstage perspective at this lively preshow discussion with the director and A.C.T. artistic team members. FREE and open to the public (no tickets required).
• Bring What You Can/Pay What You Wish: Thu., Sep. 29, at 8 p.m.
Pay any amount for your tickets when you bring nonperishable food donations for the San Francisco Food Bank (sffoodbank.org). Patrons are limited to two tickets per donated item, two tickets per person. Tickets go on sale at 6 p.m. the day of the performance. Sponsored by Bank of the West.
• Theater on the Couch: Fri., Sep. 30, following the 8 p.m. performance
Get psyched after the show as members of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis explore the minds, motives, and behaviors of the characters.
• Audience Exchanges: Tue., Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. / Sun., Oct. 9, at 2 p.m. /
Wed. Oct. 12, at 2 p.m.
After the show, stick around for a lively Q&A session with the actors and artists who create the work onstage.
• OUT with A.C.T.: Wed., Oct. 5, following the 8 p.m. performance