Bill Irwin & David Shiner to Star in OLD HATS at A.C.T.

Bill Irwin & David Shiner to Star in OLD HATS at A.C.T.

16 years after they swept San Francisco Bay Area audiences off their feet with the Tony Award-winning production Fool Moon, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) welcomes back Tony Award winners Bill Irwin and David Shiner in the West Coast premiere of the Signature Theatre production of Old Hats. Using music, technology and movement - plus a few other tricks up their sleeves - Old Hats combines the inimitable magic, slapstick and hilarity of Irwin and Shiner into a wild and remarkable outing of theatre for generations old and new. Directed by Tina Landau, Old Hats was the recipient of the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Alternative Theatrical Experience and the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue. Old Hats marks the first collaboration for Irwin and Shiner since the smash Broadway hit Fool Moon, which set A.C.T. box office records during its sold-out 1998 run and their return engagement in 2001. At this time, tickets to Old Hats are available only to subscribers of A.C.T.'s 2014-15 season.

"I can't wait to bring Old Hats to A.C.T. and San Francisco, back to my favorite audience in the entire world," says Irwin. "We played Fool Moon twice in the Geary Theatre, 16 and 13 years ago and now it's time for baggy pants comedy, the mature-years version. David Shiner and I will bring our love for the art of the clown - which still gets us excited, even in deep, deep middle age - back to A.C.T. with an all-new show!"

Adds A.C.T. Artistic Director, Carey Perloff: "What a joy to welcome back our two beloved clowns in this exquisite and hilarious meditation on life, lunacy and the passage of time. Old Hats picks up where Fool Moon left off in a wildly imaginative journey about the anxieties of living in the modern world. For our audience, this will be a beautiful follow up to Humor Abuse, Lorenzo Pisoni's coming of age story. This is the story of clowns getting older and even crazier. We can't wait to have them back!"

In addition to Old Hats, A.C.T.'s 2014-15 season includes the West Coast debut of the outrageous and enthusiastically acclaimed new comedy Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, by Bay Area-born playwright Anne Washburn. Hailed by the New York Times as one of the Top Ten Plays of 2013 and "downright brilliant," Mr. Burns begins in a dark dystopia where a group of surviving strangers bond by recreating from memory the iconic "Cape Feare" episode of The Simpsons. As the story moves decades later, the recollection takes on a life of its own, becoming an almost religious-like fable, elaborately staged for adoring crowds through live theater and opera. The New York Times raves, "Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play has arrived to leave you dizzy with the scope and dazzle of its ideas." A marvelously meta tribute to the pop-culture phenomenon The Simpsons, Mr. Burns is a paean to the power of storytelling, an off-the-wall salute to the resilience of theater, and an ingenious exploration of how we share recollection, memory, and truth. A sold-out hit when it premiered at New York's Playwrights Horizons, Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play was one of the most in-demand tickets of last fall's theater season in New York City.

This fall, Carey Perloff will direct Testament, Colm Tolbin's fiercely lyrical solo play originally staged at the Dublin Theater Festival in 2011, and retitled for Broadway in 2013 as The Testament of Mary. Hailed as "beautiful and daring" by the New York Times, this incisive, intelligent, and profoundly challenging work -a 2013 Tony Award nominee for Best New Play-recounts in riveting detail Mary's personal narrative of the last days in the life of her son, Jesus. With pungent wit and wrenching resolve, Mary questions the motives behind the movement to deify her son, as she grieves for the child who has been taken from her by men she regards as fanatics. Testament echoes the despair of mothers all over the world who have lost their sons to the fervor of coercive movements greater than themselves. The sensational Canadian leading actor Seana McKenna will play Mary in this powerful, tour-de-force role that is as heartbreaking as it is immediate and vividly alive.

Continuing its exploration on the power of memory and storytelling, A.C.T. will present an all-new production of Tom Stoppard's great time-travel romance Indian Ink. Directed by Carey Perloff, Indian Ink-one of A.C.T.'s most often-requested return productions-will take the stage in early 2015. Stoppard's exquisitely ruminative play tells the story of a contemporary English biographer and a young Indian man, who separately attempt to explore the mysteries of the erotic artwork and poetry left behind by a racy, freethinking English poet from the 1930s and the Indian painter whom she has come to love. Through the passion of the poet's writing and letters, they each discover that she held many more secrets in Jummapur, India, than ever before known or imagined. Full of tender moments, Indian Ink is a brilliant study of the after-effects of British colonialism and how two cultures can physically and emotionally clash as they try to navigate their common territories. Indian Ink will wash over audiences with what the Indians refer to as "rasa"-the spirit, the juice, and the emotion you feel when you experience a beautiful (and erotic) work of art.

Stephen Sondheim's most rapturous and seductive musical, A Little Night Music, will waltz onto the Geary stage in late spring in a sumptuous, all-new production. Filled with Sondheim's signature wit and some of his most gorgeous melodies-including the beloved and haunting treasure "Send in the Clowns"-this is a bittersweet tale of lost love, scandalous infidelity, and young passions that intertwine over a midsummer's eve at a country home in 1900s Sweden. The Wall Street Journal raves that "no score of Sondheim's is as buoyant and thoroughgoing an example of musical comedy as A Little Night Music." Staged in our dazzling Geary Theater, this production will truly be an opportunity to ignite your senses and be swept away by mesmerizing theatrical storytelling.

The additional two productions for the 2014-15 season, as well as the complete show order and performance schedule, will be announced at a later date.

In addition to the seven-play subscription season, A.C.T. will welcome the return of the Bay Area's favorite holiday tradition, the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Featuring a lively cast of dozens, delightful music, gorgeous costumes, and those deliciously spooky ghosts, this version of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff, stays true to the heart of Dickens's timeless story of redemption and brings a playful sensibility to his rich language. A Christmas Carol -which played to sold out houses this past holiday season and now in its 38th year-is a cornerstone of the A.C.T. repertory and has become a holiday tradition for families around the Bay Area.

2014-15 subscribers will have the first opportunity to experience A.C.T.'s brand-new, state-of-the-art Strand Theater with exclusive tours and invitations to a host of exciting events plus guaranteed tickets to the premiere production in 2015. The beautifully renovated, 285-seat theater will allow A.C.T. to take more artistic risks, collaborate with a wide range of new artists, expand education programs in valuable ways, and create intimate theatrical experiences in a versatile and welcoming new space.

Full-season subscriptions (7-play) are available by phone only through A.C.T.'s Subscriptions Office. To order, call 415.749.2250 during regular business hours (Monday - Friday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.) Full-season subscriptions offer incredible savings, unparalleled access, exclusive benefits, and personalized customer service. Subscribers save as much as 50% off single-ticket prices. Students and educators are eligible to save up to half-price on subscriptions, and senior discounts are available for certain series. To make subscriptions more affordable, A.C.T. also offers all subscribers an extended payment plan that allows payment in two easy installments. A.C.T.'s competitive subscriber benefits include free ticket exchanges up to the day of scheduled tickets, guaranteed best seating, ticket insurance, access to convenient prepaid parking one block away from the theater, discounts for neighborhood restaurants, and the opportunity to subscribe to Words on Plays, A.C.T.'s in-depth theater guide for each show. To renew a current A.C.T. subscription, please call 415.749.2250 or visit

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

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