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American Conservatory Theater Announces Season Lineup Including the World Premiere of SOUL TRAIN and More


Lineup Includes Both Virtual and In-Person Programming

American Conservatory Theater Announces Season Lineup Including the World Premiere of SOUL TRAIN and More

Today, American Conservatory Theater unveiled the diverse lineup that will make up San Francisco's premier nonprofit theater organization's new season. Extending through spring 2022, the season will include A.C.T.'s recently launched InterACT at Home initiative with a wide array of virtual programming, including an original film of singer-songwriter-soothsayer Heather Christian's musical séance Animal Wisdom; A Christmas Carol: On Air, an enthralling radio play of the Bay Area's favorite holiday tradition; Virtually Speaking, a new conversation series with icons of the industry; an encore performance of Madhuri Shekar's In Love and Warcraft; A.C.T. Out Loud, a new series of play readings; and more. Then, when theaters can reopen safely, there will be five in-person productions, including the West Coast premiere of Obie Award-winning Bay Area playwright Christopher Chen's new San Francisco-set play, The Headlands; Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, and Bay Area-based Anthony Veneziale's hip-hop improv sensation, Freestyle Love Supreme; the world premiere of the pre-Broadway musical, Soul Train; William Shakespeare's masterpiece on tyranny, jealousy, and reparation, The Winter's Tale; and the previously announced critically acclaimed, smash-hit production from Broadway and the West End, The Lehman Trilogy. A full performance calendar for in-person and virtual performances will be available at a later date.

"As we imagine a better future, we are reconceiving how to pull forward our best selves, challenge our practices, and place artists at the center," says MacKinnon. "This historic moment of disruption brings us to this bold and exciting season, spanning the virtual and the in-person, the celebratory and the reflective."

Adds Bielstein: "The arts have been particularly challenged by the impact of COVID-19. We are shifting the way our season looks in response, and are also gearing up for when we can all safely gather together again in person. We are committed to our core value of inclusion and embracing a diversity of voices and perspectives in all that we do."


Expanding on A.C.T.'s recently-launched InterACT at Home initiative, the season will feature a rich menu of live streamed (fixed viewing dates) and on-demand (flexible viewing dates) virtual programming that gives patrons a new way to access and experience A.C.T. from the comfort and safety of their home.

This fall, A.C.T. will present an encore virtual performance of Madhuri Shekar's In Love and Warcraft (Live Streamed: September 4-12, 2020; On-Demand: September 18-25, 2020). College senior Evie prefers the online role-playing game World of Warcraft to real life. In the game, she's a fearless warrior with a boyfriend. In real life, she ghostwrites love letters for people, even though she's never been in love. When Evie becomes attracted to her client Raul, she must decide whether to let her powerful and sexy warrior character out in the real world. Directed by Peter J. Kuo and featuring students from A.C.T.'s Master of Fine Arts program, In Love and Warcraft is a cosplay-loving romantic comedy about intimacy and love in the digital age. In Love and Warcraft is a coproduction with Alaska's Perseverance Theatre.

Says MacKinnon: "Peter Kuo, Associate Conservatory Director and fabulous director, is rapidly becoming an artistic leader in a New Medium-virtual live theater. We are all especially excited for this encore presentation. I have always found that revisiting something you love is where the best art lies."

In addition, A.C.T. will present three contemporary American plays, performed by students from A.C.T.'s Master of Fine Arts program and directed by the Bay Area's own Shannon R. Davis, Dawn Monique Williams, and Jessica Holt. A.C.T. will also present a canonical Spanish play in an exciting new bilingual adaptation directed by A.C.T. Conservatory Head of Voice Christine Adaire. Show titles and performance schedules will be announced at a later date.

Says MacKinnon: "I'm so happy to be putting our M.F.A. Conservatory work front and center. It's a great opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow today and experience their artistry that is pushing the field forward."

Beginning in November 2020, Tony Award winner and A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon will host Virtually Speaking, a new series of in-depth conversations with prominent icons of the industry. First up, MacKinnon chats with four-time Academy Award nominee and A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts alum, Annette Bening (Live Streamed: November 20, 2020; On-Demand: Open-Ended). Additional artist conversations will be announced at a later date.

For the first time in its 44-year history, the Bay Area's favorite holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, will come to life as A Christmas Carol: On Air (available December 4-26, 2020), an enthralling radio play that the whole family can enjoy from the comfort of their home. Masterfully directed and adapted by Peter J. Kuo-using the original Dickens text and adaptation by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff-this timeless story of optimism and redemption will feature the delightful music, deliciously spooky ghosts, and cast that has made it a beloved Bay Area holiday classic. To make spirits even brighter, A.C.T. is partnering with Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream on a custom ice cream flavor inspired by A Christmas Carol that will be available at all Bay Area locations during the month of December. In addition, A.C.T. will present a number of themed activities and events that families can participate in together at home.

Says MacKinnon: "I'm thrilled to be building on the A.C.T. tradition, making something new to spark the imagination. Actors will voice as many as five characters in a lush musical and atmospheric soundscape with room for audience participation. I love picturing families around the Bay gathering 'round 'the radio'."

In early 2021, A.C.T. launches A.C.T. Out Loud, a new series of play readings featuring enduring works by some of the greatest minds of generations past. These plays have the power to reach across time, speaking both to the age in which they were written and the ever-changing currents of today, and include works that have been long-celebrated as well as those that have not received the attention they are due because of societal bias. Upcoming readings include Alice Childress's Trouble in Mind (Live Streamed: January 29, 2021; On-Demand: February 12-26, 2021), directed by Awoye Timpo; George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man (Live Streamed: February 19, 2021; On-Demand: March 5-19, 2021), directed by Obie Award winner and Tony Award nominee Colman Domingo; and Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker (Live Streamed: March 26, 2021; On-Demand: April 9-23, 2021), directed by Dawn Monique Williams.

"My Uncle Thornton adored merriment," says Tappan Wilder, Literary Executor. "But before putting pen to paper, he immersed himself in the traditions of farce going back to Plautus. How wonderful that A.C.T. has chosen, in our locked-down time, to feature a great big piece of the tradition of juicy merriment, dropped on top of Yonkers up the Hudson and 14th Street down in Manhattan. And, thank you, Dolly Gallagher Levi, for reminding all of us of what really matters."

A.C.T. will next present an original film of the acclaimed musical séance, Animal Wisdom (Early Spring 2021). Do you believe in ghosts? Take a virtual front row seat as singer-songwriter-soothsayer Heather Christian lays to rest the souls that haunt her. Coming from a family of women who talked to ghosts, Christian summons a few of her own: her grandmothers whose spirits live in gardens and birds, an occupant of her family home who wouldn't leave, and a playmate no one else could see. A virtual experience where a concert becomes a mass, a mass that becomes a séance, as Christian shapeshifts between rock star, folklorist, and high priestess. With their raucous, ferocious music that fuses blues and gospel and folk, Heather Christian & the Arbornauts invite you to raise a glass to the unseen forces that shape our lives. Fresh from a sold-out run at innovative Brooklyn theater The Bushwick Starr, Animal Wisdom will make you feel as though you are in the theater with these artists. The film version of The Bushwick Starr's production of Animal Wisdom is being created by American Conservatory Theater in association with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Says MacKinnon: "The times demand we keep experimenting with form, so alongside Washington D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre and Brooklyn's Bushwick Starr, we are making an original hybrid of stage play, live performance, concert recording and intimate film. Heather Christian is a singular artist, who builds an uncannily personal relationship with an audience through song, confession, ghost story and sermon. Animal Wisdom deserves to be seen up close."

Additional InterACT at Home offerings will be announced at a later date.


When it is safe to gather in person, A.C.T. will reopen its doors for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic with the West Coast premiere of Obie Award-winning Bay Area playwright Christopher Chen's striking, thought-provoking 21st-century noir, The Headlands (May 27-June 20, 2021). For true crime fan Henry Wong, his father's unexplained death is the ultimate cold case. But as he digs into the SFPD evidence, he's haunted by the myths and misdirections of his own family history. How did his Chinese American parents really meet? What's behind a detective's warnings? And what is hidden in the Marin Headlands? After its acclaimed world premiere at New York's Lincoln Center Theater in 2020, The Headlands comes home to San Francisco in a new production directed by Tony Award winner and A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon. Utilizing cutting-edge projection design that glitters with Bay Area visions, Chen creates a shadowy and compelling mystery that explores the hidden power of stories untold and the flawed narratives we tell ourselves. Performances of The Headlands will take place at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater.

Says MacKinnon: "I am struck that Chris Chen has written a complicated love letter to our city. The play combines two fascinating genres, the SF noir and the adult child who must integrate the messy past to have a stronger future. I have spent much of my career investigating the latter and love the opportunity to dive into the former, building this world with this amazing hometown playwright."

Next, A.C.T. will present the hip-hop improv sensation, Freestyle Love Supreme (July 29-August 22, 2021). Before Hamilton, before In the Heights, there was Freestyle Love Supreme. Now, more than 15 years after its inception, the original phenomenon from Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Bay Area-based Anthony Veneziale arrives at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater. Every performance, the crew takes the audience on a freestyle, hip-hop, improvisational, never-before-seen-and-never-to-be-seen-again comedy ride. See Freestyle Love Supreme for the first time every time as the performers take suggestions from the audience and spin them into instantaneous riffs and full-length musical numbers. And with special, spontaneous guest appearances by local and national performers, every performance brings the unexpected. The highly acclaimed recent Broadway engagement of Freestyle Love Supreme (New York Times Critics' Pick) played to sold-out houses during its strictly limited engagement and recouped its investment after only 14 weeks. The recently-released Hulu documentary, "We Are Freestyle Love Supreme," earned rave reviews when it premiered at Sundance Film Festival in early 2020. Performances of Freestyle Love Supreme will take place at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater.

Says MacKinnon: "We are presenting this open hearted show to reopen the Geary for our beloved devoted audiences as well as first timers for whom theater is something less known, but, I predict, easy to fall for. I am especially looking forward to welcoming to the Geary stage surprise guest artists each night-both locally, and from afar but with deep Bay connections-so they can feel as well as generate the love and joy of coming home."

In fall 2021, A.C.T. will present the world premiere of the pre-Broadway musical, Soul Train (September 24-October 31, 2021), based on the iconic television show that brought Black music, dance, and style into every living room in America. In 1971, at a time of revolutionary cultural change, Black entrepreneur and visionary Don Cornelius created Soul Train. For the next four decades, he wrote, hosted, produced, and owned the series-turning it into a cultural institution, and the longest-running show on US television. Inspired by the series and Cornelius's personal journey, Soul Train is the brand new, Broadway-bound musical featuring an acclaimed creative team, including 2019 Tony Award-nominated and MacArthur Genius Grant-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau (Ain't Too Proud; The Detroit Project), 2019 Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown (A.C.T.'s Toni Stone; Tony Award-winning revival of Once on This Island) as choreographer, and the Apollo Theater's Kamilah Forbes (upcoming HBO adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me; By The Way, Meet Vera Stark) as director.

Elegant, determined, and complicated, Cornelius set trends for 40 years, and launched the careers of artists who created the soundtracks for generations-from Tina Turner, to Whitney Houston, to the Jackson 5. He also introduced dancers such as Rosie Perez and Jody Watley, whose attitude, steps, and style continue to influence the world today. The musical is produced by Tony Award-nominee Matthew Weaver (Rock of Ages), Jeffrey Tick (former owner of Broadway's Helen Hayes Theater), and Richard Gay (5Pack Entertainment founder, and former EVP of Viacom's Music Networks & BET Networks). Serving as executive producers are: four-time Grammy Award-winning artist and author of Soul Train: The Music, Dance and Style of a Generation Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson; Don Cornelius's son Tony Cornelius; Emmy Award nominated CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker; Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee, and Broadway veteran Devin Keudell (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical). Performances of Soul Train will take place at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater.

Says MacKinnon: "Choreographer Camille A. Brown is one of my most cherished collaborators. I cannot wait to see what she and the rest of this team of world-class thrilling artists bring. I love a musical that lets performers surprise even themselves. We are charged with creating a safe and brave Black space in the Geary so that this story about a brave Black space can soar. I cannot wait to be in the room."

In time for the holiday season, A.C.T. welcomes back in-person performances of the Bay Area's favorite tradition, A Christmas Carol (November 30-December 26, 2021). Featuring a lively cast of dozens, delightful music, gorgeous costumes, and 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 cornerstone of the A.C.T. repertory, A Christmas Carol has become a holiday tradition for families around the Bay Area. Performances of A Christmas Carol will take place at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater.

Kicking off 2022, Tony Award winner and A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon will direct William Shakespeare's masterpiece on tyranny, jealousy, and reparation, The Winter's Tale (February 10-March 6, 2022). The King of Sicilia, Leontes, recklessly acts on his false suspicion that his wife Hermione is unfaithful. Defying his friends, advisors, and even the gods, Leontes abandons his newborn daughter and throws Hermione in jail, ripping families and kingdoms apart. Can hope emerge from this long winter of destruction and despair? Is redemption possible, and what will it take? And what really happened to Leontes's wife and daughter? The Winter's Tale spans 16 years, two nations, and two generations, and chronicles the cycle of betrayal, repentance, and reconciliation. Performances of The Winter's Tale will take place at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater.

Says MacKinnon: "This late Shakespeare play feels perfect for our moment of reckoning with glimmers of hope. It is a play of scary emotions and psychology as well as music and the sense that anything is possible, if one only stops to truly listen. As director, I am excited to work with the glorious local talent I am quickly getting to know and adore. This is a thorny play that stands the test of time and is for here and now."

Closing out the season, A.C.T. will present The National Theatre and Neal Street Productions' critically acclaimed, smash-hit production, The Lehman Trilogy (April 20-May 22, 2022). The Lehman Trilogy is the story of a family and a company that changed the world, told in three parts on a single evening. On a cold September morning in 1844, a young man from Bavaria stands on a New York dockside dreaming of a new life. He is soon joined by his two brothers and an American epic begins with a small store in Alabama. One hundred and sixty-three years later, the firm they establish-Lehman Brothers-spectacularly collapses into bankruptcy, and triggers the largest financial crisis in history. The Lehman Trilogy is written by Stefano Massini, adapted by Olivier Award-nominated Ben Power, and directed by multiple Olivier Award, Tony Award, and Academy Award winner Sam Mendes (The Ferryman, Skyfall, 1917). Casting to be announced at a later date. Performances of The Lehman Trilogy will take place at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater.

Says MacKinnon: "We announced this months ago and continue to look forward to bringing this evolving new play to A.C.T. Adapter Ben Power and director Sam Mendes continue to work on this epic to this day, making sure that the devastating and ever-changing complicated history of our country is told through this family saga."

If scheduled in-person productions cannot take place, patrons will be eligible for a refund of the value of their tickets.

Coinciding with the season, A.C.T. is unveiling three new season pass options providing patrons with flexibility and convenience, offering a blend of virtual performances and in-person performances. Becoming a season pass holder is a great way for San Francisco Bay Area theater lovers to show their support and play a vital role in supporting A.C.T. as it emerges out of this difficult time stronger than ever.

A.C.T. All-In ($240-$650) gives patrons access to all InterACT at Home offerings, including virtual live-streamed (fixed viewing dates) and on-demand (flexible viewing dates) streaming theater and more, plus reserved seats at the best prices to the five in-person mainstage productions. Additional benefits include:

- Unlimited flexible ticket exchanges with no fees

- Discounts on concessions

- Discount on additional tickets

- Discount on merchandise

- Post-show talkbacks with artists

- Digital subscription to Words On Plays: Act II

- Access to discounts on actor training classes

- Access to partner benefits

- Dedicated customer service representative

- And more!

A.C.T. Anywhere ($199) gives patrons access to all InterACT at Home offerings, including virtual live-streamed (fixed viewing dates) and on-demand (flexible viewing dates) streaming theater and more. Additional benefits include:

- Priority access to in-person season ticket packages

- Access to presales on non-season shows and patron events

- And more!

A.C.T. In Person ($99-$499) gives patrons reserved seats at the best prices to the five in-person mainstage productions. Additional benefits include:

- Flexible ticket exchange policy

- Discounts on concessions

- Discount on merchandise

- Post-show talkbacks with artists

- Digital subscription to Words On Plays: Act II

- Access to discount on classes

- Access to partner benefits

- Dedicated customer service representative

- And more!

To become a new A.C.T. season pass holder, or renew as a subscriber for the upcoming season, visit or call the A.C.T. Ticketing Office at 415-749-2228. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public at a later date.

A.C.T. will offer numerous in-person InterACT events for each in-person mainstage production during the season that give patrons opportunities to get closer to the action while having an entire night out at the theater. InterACT events include Drinks & Drama Fridays, a preshow evening of specialty cocktails, pop-up food, a DJ, and specially priced tickets to the performance; Prologue, featuring a preshow sneak peek at the artistic process with members of the artistic staff; Audience Exchanges, featuring lively Q&As with the actors and artists who create the work onstage; Pride Night, a revamped pre- and postshow party celebrating community pride; and PlayTime, a preshow interactive theater workshop with the artists who make each production happen.

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