A.C.T. to Award Mary Birdsong and Jonathan Moscone Honorary MFA Degrees, 5/22


American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Conservatory Director Melissa Smith announced today that honorary master of fine arts degrees will be conferred on acclaimed actress and comedian Mary Birdsong and California Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone.

Birdsong was most recently seen as Mona Ramsey in A.C.T.’s world premiere musical Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. Director Jonathan Moscone has long been part of the A.C.T. artistic family as a teacher in the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program and has directed productions for A.C.T.’s mainstage and the A.C.T. Conservatory. He was nominated for a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle award for his direction of A.C.T.’s 2011 hit Clybourne Park.

Birdsong and Moscone will receive their degrees at the graduation ceremony for the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2012 on Tuesday, May 22, 2012, at 11 a.m., at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco).

Says Melissa Smith: “In selecting recipients for A.C.T.’s honorary degree, we look for candidates who reflect A.C.T.’s mission to reinvent and conserve the classics while nurturing the future of the art form. Jonathan Moscone has reinvented California Shakespeare Theater during his brilliant tenure there as artistic director, and in so doing, has expanded the appetite of Bay Area audiences for a wide range of dramatic literature. His brilliant productions—many that have included A.C.T. MFA Program students and alumni—have galvanized the theater scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. As an inspirational teacher and a champion of young talent, Moscone is committed to developing actors of the next generation both in the classroom and on the professional stage. Mary Birdsong has established the kind of career and reputation our M.F.A. Program graduates aspire to—she is a charismatic, dynamic presence on big and small stages and big and small screens. An actor, singer, and dancer, Mary is an exceptionally gifted and versatile performer, one who embodies the spirit of the core values of the M.F.A. Program: instrumental flexibility, professionalism, collaboration, and transformation. She is a true mover and shaker, yet a generous soul in an ensemble—a living light in all performance arenas.”

Mary Birdsong recently appeared opposite George Clooney in the Academy Award–winning film The Descendents. Other film credits include Adventureland, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Killers, and Made of Honor. On the small screen, she is best known as Deputy Kimball on Reno 911! and as a special correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Other television credits include Mad Love, Shake It Up!, and Svetlana. Birdsong won a Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut in the hit musical Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me; also on Broadway, she appeared as Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray. Off Broadway, Birdsong has appeared in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, Adult Entertainment, and as Judy Garland in Judy Speaks, a biographical one-woman musical written by Birdsong. Other one-woman shows penned by Birdsong include 3 Days in the Tub: A Mama Drama (Joe’s Pub) and The Janet Lamé Film Festival. Some fans may be familiar with the music of her rock band and alter-ego, 99 Cent Whore.

Says Mary Birdsong: “I’m pretty sure a master’s degree from an institution as distinguished as A.C.T. automatically entitles me to a Tony, an Emmy, and an Oscar. In all seriousness, I am honored beyond belief, and thrilled especially that this honor is being bestowed by A.C.T. A.C.T. is more than a conservatory or a theater to me. It is a home. It is a place I can be fully myself as an artist, and feel supported, and challenged, and guided.”

Currently in his 12th season as artistic director of California Shakespeare Theater, Jonathan Moscone’s credits include As You Like It, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Seagull, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. At A.C.T. Mosconehas directed numerous productions for the A.C.T. Conservatory, including, most recently, Her Naked Skin at Zeum Theater with the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2010. Moscone made his mainstage directorial debut at A.C.T. with the West Coast premiere of Bruce Norris’s critically acclaimed Clybourne Park during A.C.T.’s 2010–11 season. Moscone’s work at Cal Shakes has earned him Bay Area Critics Circle and Dean Goodman Choice awards for Best Direction and Production. His productions of Man and Superman, Nicholas Nickleby, Ghosts (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Twelfth Night, and The Seagull were all named among the ten best productions by the San Francisco Chronicle and other area newspapers. His regional credits include Berkeley Rep, Intiman Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theater, Dallas Theatre Center, Goodspeed Musicals, Triangle Opera, Portland Stage Company, and Magic Theatre. He is the recipient of a Stanford Graduate School of Business Center for Social Innovation Fellowship and currently serves on the board of LoveLife Foundation and on the advisory boards of Redwood High School, both in Oakland. He has also served as a grant review panelist for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Theater Communications Group, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Says Jonathan Moscone: “This is a great honor. I have so cherished my time as a member of A.C.T.’s professional training community. It has not only revived my passion for the art form, but has brought me in profound contact with a new generation of theater makers whom I hope will consider the Bay Area a rich and fulfilling artistic home for them as they embark on their careers.”

Past recipients of the A.C.T. honorary M.F.A. degree include Annette Bening, Benjamin Bratt, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown, Jr.,former Theatre Communications Group Executive Director Ben Cameron, Grammy Award–winning musician Tracy Chapman, Olympia Dukakis,Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia, playwright John Guare, actor Marco Barricelli, playwright David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Seana McKenna, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Mark Leno, 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.

For more information about the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program, visit act-sf.org/mfa.

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