Kaufman and Hart's ONCE IN A LIFETIME Opens At A.C.T.
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
The best LGBT party in town! Mingle with the cast and enjoy free cocktails and treats at these popular afterparties.
A.C.T.'s production of Once in a Lifetime is sponsored by Blue Shield of California. Once in a Lifetime is also made possible by producers Mr. and Mrs. John M. Bryan and associate producers Barbara and Jon Phillips. A.C.T. would also like to acknowledge its 2011-12 season company sponsors Ray and Dagmar Dolby, Frannie and Mort Fleishhacker, Ambassador James C. Hormel and Michael P. Nguyen, Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation, Burt and Deedee McMurtry, Patti and Rusty Rueff, Mary and Steven Swig, Doug Tilden, and Jeff and Laurie Ubben.
Once in a Lifetime is just the beginning! A.C.T.'s 2011-12 season continues with Race (October 21-November 13, 2011), David Mamet's wicked and scathing legal comedy, fresh from a triumphant Broadway run. Directed by Irene Lewis, the longtime artistic director of Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE, Race lures us into an enthralling web where "the dialogue is tasty, the confrontations spiky, and the observations more than occasionally biting" (Variety). The holidays wouldn't be the same without A.C.T.'s annual holiday treat, A Christmas Carol (December 1-24, 2011), featuring Bay Area veteran James Carpenter as everyone's favorite curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. The New Year welcomes acclaimed clown and actor Lorenzo Pisoni back to his hometown with his triumphant one-man show, Humor Abuse (January 12-February 5, 2012), which he created with Erica Schmidt. Presented in association with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Pisoni's stage memoir about growing up as the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus is a love letter to the Bay Area and to the passionate, no-holds-barred life of the performer. February introduces a celebrated Middle Eastern voice to the Bay Area with the West Coast premiere of Wajdi Mouawad's haunting play Scorched (February 16-March 11, 2012), starring Emmy Award winner David Strathairn. After receiving more than 100 productions (in several languages) worldwide, the Lebanese-Canadian writer's haunting new play will be directed at A.C.T. by Carey Perloff in a beautiful translation from the original French by distinguished Canadian author Linda Gaboriau. Also in February is the world premiere of Carey Perloff's Higher (February 1-18, 2012), a new play about the high-stakes drama of international architecture directed by Mark Rucker at The Theater at Children's Creative Museum (formerly Zeum Theater), the intimate 160-seat venue at Yerba Buena Gardens. The season continues with the West Coast premiere of a brand-new work fresh from the esteemed Humana Festival of New American Plays: Jordan Harrison's hilarious and touching Maple and Vine (March 29-April 22, 2012), directed by Mark Rucker. May will be filled with love and William Shakespeare at A.C.T. with a new production of Twelfth Night (May 10-June 10, 2012) directed by Carey Perloff-the first Shakespeare play to grace the American Conservatory Theater stage in 15 years. The 2011-12 season culminates with five-time Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Susan Stroman's (The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Contact on Broadway) production of The Scottsboro Boys, which received 12 Tony Award nominations this year, including Best Musical, Best Direction, and Best Choreography. The final collaboration between the legendary songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago and Cabaret), The Scottsboro Boys features a book by Tony Award-nominated writer David Thompson (1996 revival of Chicago and Steel Pier on Broadway) and will showcase many of the original Broadway cast members in a coproduction with The Old Globe. To subscribe or to receive a season brochure, please call 415.749.2250 or visit act-sf.org.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1889, American dramatist, journalist, screenwriter, and theater producer GEORGE S. KAUFMAN (Playwright) was influential in raising the standards of theatrical criticism as drama editor for The New York Times. It was during his newspaper tenure that he began experimenting with playwriting. Often dubbed "the great collaborator," Kaufman joined with 16 other playwrights, most notably Moss Hart and Edna Ferber, to create more than 40 plays and musicals. Many of these works were wildly successful, and they varied in mood from the boisterous farces of Kaufman's earlier days to his later more sophisticated comedies. With Edna Ferber, he wrote the popular plays The Royal Family (1927), Dinner at Eight (1932), and Stage Door (1936). Many of his most famous works, such as Once in a Lifetime (1930), You Can't Take It With You (1936), and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939), were penned with Moss Hart and included some of Kaufman's best wisecracking humor. Kaufman also provided fuel for the Marx Brothers, cowriting their hits The Cocoanuts (1929), A Night at the Opera (1935), and Animal Crackers (1935) with Morrie Ryskind. During his abundant career, Kaufman was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for You Can't Take It With You and Of Thee I Sing (1931), which he wrote with Morrie Ryskind, and which was the first musical to win the Pulitzer. In addition to his writing, Kaufman also directed several profitable plays, including The Front Page (1928), My Sister Eileen (1940), and Guys and Dolls (1950). Because many of his pieces were big hits (18 of his works ran for more than 200 performances on Broadway), his prolific activity made him one of American theater's biggest moneymakers, and his body of work has contributed tremendously to theatrical history. Hart said at Kaufman's funeral in June 1961 that "no history of these 40 years in the American theater can be written without George S. Kaufman's name and influence on it looming large and clear."
Playwright, director, actor, and producer MOSS HART (Playwright) is considered one of the brightest stars of Broadway's golden age. Born in a tenement in New York City on October 24, 1904, Hart was plagued by sickness and poverty during his childhood, and he also struggled with manic depression throughout his life. Despite suffering from chronic health problems and being forced by his father to quit school while he was in eighth grade to work full time to help support his family, Hart became a flourishing theater artist who was often considered the "Prince of Broadway." He also succeeded in Hollywood, becoming a notable screenwriter. Among his many accolades are the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for You Can't Take It With You (written with George S. Kaufman), an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and a Best Director Tony Award for My Fair Lady (1957). Some of Hart's other notable works are the play Light Up the Sky (1948); the screenplay of A Star Is Born (1954); and his direction of some of the most popular Broadway plays of the era, including Lady in the Dark (1941) and Camelot (1960). Act One (1959), Hart's classic autobiography, is also considered to be among the best theatrical memoirs ever written. Described as a "love letter to the theater," the book was a best seller on The New York Times list for almost a year after its initial publication and is still in print more than four decades later. Sadly, Hart did not have a chance to write an Act Two; he died of a heart attack on December 20, 1961, a few months after delivering a moving address at George S. Kaufman's funeral.
MARK RUCKER (Director) is associate artistic director at A.C.T. and has directed Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet, The Rainmaker, and The Beard of Avon at the American Conservatory Theater and A.C.T.'s production of Luminescence Dating at Magic Theatre. He is an associate artist at South Coast Repertory, where he has directed more than 20 productions, including world premieres by Richard Greenberg, Christopher Shinn, Annie Weisman, and Culture Clash. Other regional theater credits include work at Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage, Intiman Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Syracuse Stage, The Old Globe, Ford's Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, The Acting Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and Asolo Repertory Theatre. Rucker's feature film, Die, Mommie, Die! won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.