A.C.T. Grants Honorary MFA Degrees To Tracy Chapman & John Guare 5/11

A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith announced today that honorary master of fine arts degrees will be conferred upon Grammy Award-winning musician Tracy Chapman and master playwright John Guare. Both honorees are a part of the A.C.T. family of artists: Chapman composed the music for last season's production of Blood Knot and Guare's Rich and Famous received its first revival in A.C.T.'s 2008-09 season. Chapman and Guare will receive their degrees at the graduation ceremony for the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2009 on Monday, May 11, 2009, at 11 a.m. at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94108).

"Both John Guare and Tracy Chapman are artistic eminences that have been able to harness and protect their original voices while making lasting marks on their fields," says Melissa Smith, A.C.T. Conservatory Director. "Guare is one of the great American Playwrights, and what makes him truly special to our school is his appreciation for the craft and contribution of the actor in creating a play. Chapman is an incredible musician and storyteller, who showed that it is possible to cross genres with her stunning score for last season's production of Blood Knot--something that we encourage our students to aspire to. They are both exemplary artists and true inspirations to our graduating class, and we are thrilled to honor them with degrees this year."
A singer-songwriter and Atlantic Records recording artist, Tracy Chapman has made seven albums since her debut in 1988, including Tracy Chapman, Crossroads, Matters of the Heart, New Beginning, Telling Stories, and Let It Rain. Her most recent record is Where You Live, released in 2005. She has toured extensively, both nationally and internationally, and collaborated with such musicians as B. B. King, Bob Dylan, Youssou N'Dour, Emmylou Harris, and Wynton Marsalis. She has lent her voice in support of a wide range of social and humanitarian causes, including the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, Tibetan Freedom Concerts, Farm Aid, the Special Olympics, and amfAR.

John Guare was born in 1938 and educated at Georgetown and Yale universities. His plays include To Wally Pantoni, We Leave a Credenza (1964), his off-off-Broadway debut; Muzeeka (1968, OBIE Award), his breakthrough play; Cop-Out (1968); The House of Blue Leaves (1971, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play; 1986 revival, four Tony Awards); Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971); Marco Polo Sings a Solo (1973); Rich and Famous (1974); Landscape of the Body (1977); Bosoms and Neglect (1979); Moon Over Miami (1988); Six Degrees of Separation (1990, OBIE Award, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, Olivier Award for Best Play), which became a film in 1993; Four Baboons Adoring the Sun (1992, Tony nom. Best Play); Lake Hollywood (1999); Chaucer in Rome (2001); A Few Stout Individuals (2002); and an adaptation of His Girl Friday, which premiered to great acclaim at London's National Theatre in 2003. Guare's series of plays on 19th-century America-Gardenia (1982), Lydie Breeze (1982), and Women and Water (1984)-have been performed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London, and Australia. His libretto (written with Mel Shapiro) for Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971) won a Tony Award; the musical itself won the Tony and New York Drama Critics' Circle awards for best musical in 1972. He collaborated with Czech director Milos Forman on the screenplay Taking Off (1971), which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. His screenplay Atlantic City (1981), directed by Louis Malle, won the New York, Los Angeles, and National Film Critics' Circle awards for best screenplay and was nominated for an Academy Award. His narration for Psyche, a tone poem by César Franck, premiered at Avery Fisher Hall in 1997, conducted by Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic. Guare was a founding member in 1965 of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference and in 1976 was resident playwright at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1989 and to the Theater Hall of Fame in 1993. He received the New York State Governor's Arts Award in 1996 and the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. The Signature Theatre Company in New York City honored Guare by devoting its 1998-99 season to his plays. He has served as a trustee of the PEN American Center, co-edits the Lincoln Center Theater Review, teaches playwriting at Yale School of Drama, and is a council member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Past recipients of an A.C.T. honorary M.F.A. degree include Annette Bening, Benjamin Bratt, former Theatre Communications Group Executive Director Ben Cameron, Olympia Dukakis, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia, playwright David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Emeritus of the A.C.T. Foundation Alan Stein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Denzel Washington, and Charles Randolf Wright. Recipients of the conservatory's honorary degrees are selected by the Conservatory Committee, a subcommittee of the A.C.T. Board of Trustees. Selections are based on an individual's contribution to the advancement of the mission and educational goals of American Conservatory Theater and the arts in America.

 

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