San Francisco: A.C.T. announces 2011-12 season

Includes Bay Area premiere of David Mamet’s Broadway hit Race.

Lorenzo Pisoni in his one-man show, Humor Abuse.
Lorenzo Pisoni in his one-man show, Humor Abuse.
Lorenzo Pisoni in his one-man show, Humor Abuse.
Lorenzo Pisoni in his one-man show, Humor Abuse.

San Francisco Theater NewsAmerican Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Artistic Director Carey Perloff has announced the complete lineup and dates for the company’s 45th subscription season. The final show of the subscription season will be the acclaimed musical The Scottsboro Boys, which just received 12 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical.

Also joining the lineup is the the world premiere of Perloff’s Higher, directed by A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker at the intimate Zeum Theater.

Running from September 2011 to July 2012, the season offers a diverse collection of productions, both in content and style, bringing together international stories with plays about the San Francisco Bay Area and the best of today’s theatrical voices with sparkling new productions of celebrated classics.

The 2011–12 season opens with a new revival of the dazzling George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart 1930 comedy Once in a Lifetime, directed by Mark Rucker and featuring an ensemble cast of 14 who take on more than 60 roles. The production will incorporate period film clips and dynamic backdrops that meld the worlds of theater and film, redefining audiences’ experience with “moving pictures.”

Next up, fresh from a triumphant Broadway run, is Race, David Mamet’s wicked and scathing legal comedy, directed by Irene Lewis, the longtime artistic director of Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE. With his trademark verbal pyrotechnics, Mamet unleashes three attorneys as they scramble to represent a white man accused of assaulting a black woman.. In signature Mamet style, the play pushes buttons, exposing the dark underbelly of sexual and racial politics in the American justice system.

Perloff and Paul Walsh’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol returns during the holiday season, again featuring celebrated Bay Area actor James Carpenter as Ebenezer Scrooge under A.C.T. Associate Artist Domenique Lozano’s direction.

More:

The New Year welcomes acclaimed clown and actor Lorenzo Pisoni back to his hometown with his acclaimed one-man show, Humor Abuse, which he created with Erica Schmidt. In this love letter to the Bay Area and to the passionate, no-holds-barred life of the performer, Pisoni—the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus and son of Pickle cofounder Larry Pisoni—tells the story of his life growing up (often literally) in his father’s stage trunk. As he launches into this vivid scrapbook of poignant memories and impressive routines, Pisoni creates an unforgettable theatrical high-wire act, balancing physical pratfalls with heartfelt recollections. About bringing the show to the Bay Area, Pisoni, who last appeared on the A.C.T. stage in 2005’s hugely popular The Gamester, says: “Ever since Erica and I created Humor Abuse, I’ve wanted to do it in San Francisco. I had a wonderful experience the last time I was on the A.C.T. stage, so now I am thrilled not only to have a chance to return to A.C.T., but also to bring this piece with me. I know many A.C.T. audience members will have a deep nostalgic connection to what happens in the play because the Pickles were a part of San Francisco’s culture for so long.”

February introduces a celebrated Middle Eastern voice to the Bay Area with the West Coast premiere of Wajdi Mouawad’s haunting play Scorched. 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. The Emmy Award winner and Golden Globe– and Academy Award–nominated actor David Strathairn (Temple Grandin and Good Night, and Good Luck; The Tempest at A.C.T.) leads the cast. Scorched was also produced in Canada as the feature film Incendies, which was nominated for the 2010 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. “Scorched continues our deep relationship with the cutting edge of Canadian theater, and brings the turmoil and tribalism of the Middle East to the forefront for the first time at A.C.T.,” says Perloff. In Scorched, twin siblings Janine and Simon embark on a life-changing journey to their mother’s homeland to fulfill her dying wish: finding the father and brother they never knew they had. Mouawad weaves this riveting mystery into a complex, captivating tapestry, inviting us to slowly unravel an astonishing truth.

Also in February is the nonsubscription presentation of the world premiere of Carey Perloff’s Higher at Zeum Theater. Directed by Mark Rucker, this new play about the high-stakes drama of international architecture will be presented at San Francisco’s intimate Zeum Theater. In Higher, a high-powered Jewish architect, madly in love with an equally talented colleague, discovers that she is his rival in a competition to design a memorial in Israel. As they roam from the sleek rooms of plush New York apartments to the muddy shores of Israel, the two architects are stretched to the limits of their creativity—and sanity. Memory, desire, and design fuel this thrilling new work. Perloff, whose work as an award–winning playwright includes Luminescence Dating, The Colossus of Rhodes, and Waiting for the Flood, said: “Higher grows out of my fascination with architects and with the ego and obsession it can take to imagine and create a signature building. Of course, this process is made infinitely more complicated when love, desire, betrayal, and professional jealousy are involved. After collaborating with Mark Rucker on a site-specific reading at the Contemporary Jewish Museum last year, I’m thrilled to finally have a chance to see the play come alive in a full production in San Francisco.”

The season continues with the West Coast premiere of a brand-new work fresh from the esteemed Humana Festival of New American Plays: the West Coast premiere of Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine, directed by Mark Rucker. Katha and Ryu, overwhelmed by the infinite choices of the modern world, stumble upon an enticing escape route: ditching the urban frenzy of New York to leap into a charming community of 1950s re-enactors, where life is simpler, passion is risqué, and a sparkling cocktail is a daily accessory. This provocative comedy transports us to the peaceful, tree-lined streets of a carefully constructed 1955, where Katha and Ryu exchange high-rises for hi-fis and sushi lunches for Tupperware parties. But in this aggressively “authentic” world, strictly enforced gender roles and shockingly retro attitudes about race and sexuality create complicated situations for the couple and their clean-cut neighbors Ellen and Dean.

May will be filled with love and Shakespeare at A.C.T. with a new production of Twelfth Night directed by Carey Perloff—the first Shakespeare play to grace the American Conservatory Theater stage in 15 years. One of Shakespeare’s most rambunctious and stirring comedies, Twelfth Night follows the story of Viola, who is shipwrecked and loses her twin brother, Sebastian, on an unfamiliar shore. She masquerades as a young man to serve the dashing Duke Orsino, with whom she promptly falls in love. Flummoxed by mistaken identities and clever gender-switching, the star-crossed lovers dive with abandon into some of the most beautiful love poetry in the English language.

The 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.

A.C.T. 2011–12 SEASON IN ORDER OF PERFORMANCE

Once in a Lifetime

by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Directed by Mark Rucker

September 22–October 16, 2011

As silent films evolve into “talkies” in 1930, a trio of down-on-their-luck vaudevillians decide to try their luck out west, coaching Hollywood stars to make their speaking voices as beautiful as their glamorous mugs. Incorporating period film clips and dynamic backdrops to meld the worlds of theater and cinema, A.C.T.’s visually inventive new take on this backstage comedy will redefine your experience with “moving pictures.”

Race

by David Mamet
Directed by Irene Lewis

October 21–November 13, 2011

Fresh from a triumphant run on Broadway, David Mamet’s wicked and scathing courtroom comedy makes its Bay Area premiere at A.C.T. With his trademark verbal pyrotechnics, Mamet unleashes three attorneys as they scramble to represent a white man accused of assaulting a black woman. A captivating story that boldly confronts the most incendiary issues of our time, Race lures us into an enthralling web of tangled sexual and racial politics.

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens
Adapted by Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh
Music by Karl Lundeberg
Choreography by Val Caniparoli
Directed by Domenique Lozano
Based on the original direction by Carey Perloff

Featuring James Carpenter as Scrooge

December 1–24, 2011

Featuring a lively cast of dozens, gorgeous costumes, and those deliciously spooky ghosts, the Bay Area’s favorite holiday tradition returns with a sparkling, music-infused production of A Christmas Carol. Bring your family, bring your friends, and check your “humbugs” at the door!

Humor Abuse

Created by Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt

January 12–February 5, 2012

In this theatrical high-wire act and love letter to the Bay Area, Lorenzo Pisoni—the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus and son of cofounder Larry Pisoni—tells the story of growing up (often literally) in his father’s stage trunk. As he balances physical pratfalls with heartfelt recollections, Pisoni becomes “a one-man whirlwind” (WOR Radio), creating a vivid, living scrapbook of poignant memories and mesmerizing routines.

Scorched

by Wajdi Mouawad
Translated by Linda Gaboriau
Directed by Carey Perloff

February 16–March 11, 2012

To fulfill their mother’s dying wish, Janine and Simon embark on a journey to the Middle East to find the father and brother they never knew they had. Featuring Academy Award nominee David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck), Scorchedweaves its riveting mystery into a captivating tapestry, inviting us to slowly unravel an astonishing truth. The chaos of conflict has never been so immediate—or so human.

Higher

by Carey Perloff
Directed by Mark Rucker

February 1–18, 2012, at Zeum Theater (221 Fourth Street, San Francisco)

A high-powered Jewish architect, madly in love with an equally talented colleague, discovers that she is his rival in a competition to design a memorial in Israel. As they roam from the sleek rooms of plush New York apartments to the muddy shores of Israel, the two architects are stretched to the limits of their creativity—and sanity.

Maple and Vine

by Jordan Harrison
Directed by Mark Rucker

March 29–April 22, 2012

Overwhelmed by the infinite choices of the modern world, Katha and Ryu discover an enticing escape route: leaping into a community of 1950s re-enactors, where life is simpler, passion is risqué, and a sparkling cocktail is a daily accessory. They gamely exchange high-rises for hi-fis and sushi lunches for Tupperware parties, but in this provocative comedy, retro attitudes about gender, race, and sexuality stir up powerful questions. How much are they willing to sacrifice for happiness?

Twelfth Night

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Carey Perloff

May 10–June 9, 2012

For the first time in 15 years, A.C.T. returns to the work of one of the world’s most enduring playwrights. Set sail for the romantic land of Illyria with Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s most stirring comedies. When Viola is shipwrecked and loses her brother on an unfamiliar shore, she masquerades as a young man to serve the dashing duke. This joyous production swirls to life with evocative music, vibrant costumes, and some of the most exquisite love poetry in the English language.

The Scottsboro Boys

Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb
Book by David Thompson
Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman

June 19–July 15, 2012

Staged by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, this daring and visionary musical transforms the true story of nine young African American men—unjustly accused of a shocking crime—into a vivid, unforgettable theatrical event. The final collaboration between the legendary songwriting team behind Chicago and Cabaret, this rousing production whirls through a mesmerizing chapter of history with an explosion of exuberant song and dance that will thrill—and change—you.

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