American Conservatory Theater

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American Conservatory Theater  - Theater in San Francisco.
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INFO The American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco (A.C.T.) was founded by William Ball circa 1965 in Pittsburgh, PA before San Franciscan philanthropists invited Ball to relocate his company to the Bay Area. His company... ... read more

American Conservatory Theater Information

American Conservatory Theater  - Theater in San Francisco.

The American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco (A.C.T.) was founded by William Ball circa 1965 in Pittsburgh, PA before San Franciscan philanthropists invited Ball to relocate his company to the Bay Area. His company then bought what was known as the Columbia Theater, a theater which had been designed and built in 1910. In 1967 the A.C.T opened its inaugural season with Tartuffe starring Rene Auberjonois.

Though the original theater went through a series of management teams, each renaming the building; the building was finally named the A.C.T. in 2006, honoring the company's 40th-anniversary season in San Francisco.

During his first season in 1967, William Ball mounted an impressive 16 productions, which marked it as one of San Francisco's first theater companies to produce performances year-round. In the twelve years that followed, A.C.T stormed the thespian scene and solidified its ongoing success, winning a Tony Award for outstanding theater performance and training. Over the past 40 years, more than 300 productions at the American Conservatory Theater have played to a combined audience of nearly 7 million people, entertaining 250,000 people every year in the Bay Area. Its theatrical offerings range from classical works (like Tennessee Williams and Samuel Beckett) to new explorations of contemporary playwriting. The A.C.T boasts a lengthy lineage of 20th-century drama bigwigs, including George Arliss, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore, Boris Karloff, Paul Robeson, Alfred Lunt, Fanny Brice, Helen Hayes, Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, and Tallulah Bankhead, among many others.

The A.C.T had a tumultuous past, but has risen like a phoenix from the ash. Fewer than two hours before the 1989 performance of George Coates's Right Mind, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck, collapsing the proscenium arch and leaving a gaping two-thousand-square-foot hole in the ceiling. The theater was able to obtain the $28.5 million to complete the renovation, through donations from various charitable organizations and foundations. The theater reemerged in 1996 and now houses approximately 1,000 people, including balcony, mezzanine, orchestra, and premiere seating sections, each with approximately 500 seats.

Parking is available for A.C.T at the Mason/O’Farrell Garage at the corner of Mason and O'Farrell streets. Theater patrons can park for up to five hours for $12 if you show your ticket stub.

American Conservatory Theater User Reviews

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The BEST Concert Experience You'll Ever Have
Rosie B. Jun 8, 2013
A girlfriend and I went to see Tristan Prettyman perform live at the American Conservatory a couple months ago. It was our first time going, and we couldn't have asked for a better experience. The parking was cheap and easy to find (the movie theater/mall's parking garage is just across the street and is super cheap; not to mention, the BART is nearby). We also bought tickets in advance, but purchasing from the box office would have been just as easy, as the line was short and the prices didn't rise. Once we went inside, it felt like we were transported into a 1920s Art Deco dream of a bar. The drinks were great and typically priced for SF, and the fries hit the spot while my friend and I mingled with other music lovers before the show. The theater is a giant open 'dance floor' with chairs and tables lining the edge of the room in the more dimly lit areas for private conversations. I don't know if it was the Art Deco, the soft lighting, or the personable bartender, but the moment Tristan came on the stage and crooned to us, I felt like the concert was more of a privileged viewing of some behind-the-scenes acoustic jam session. After the concert we waited and talked to the musician, who was friendly. Maybe it was the artist, or maybe it was the theater, but the whole experience captured the essence of the San Francisco music scene -- where every musician is your best friend, playing for the love of the art and willing to talk to you about life.
The Best Part of the Holiday Season
Sheree W. May 2, 2013
Charles Dickens' holiday tale, A Christmas Carol, has been produced by more theater companies than shows about catty housewives have been put on Bravo. But the American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco's annual production of the classic is worth abandoning a night of trash t.v. and going more high-class. Yes, Scrooge has a change of heart thanks to a slew of ghosts, but the theater company stages the most beautiful production I've ever seen, every year. When it isn't terrifying and mystifying attendees with the graveyard scene in A Christmas Carol, the theater houses some of the most innovative and exceptionally produced productions in the Bay Area. No matter what I'm seeing, I know a trip to A.C.T. will include quality acting and an all-around beautiful production. Just beware the ushers: they take their jobs very seriously, and sneaking snacks in from the lobby will result in a verbal lashing.
ACT: Broadway without the Broadway
Corbin W. Mar 29, 2013
Here's the thing: I love theater. ACT is the best theater in the city, and it is so terribly comfortable with that fact, that the majority of the shows here are lackluster at best and perplexingly hollow at worst. Once in a while there will be a world premier new play from the conservatory program that will brighten up the otherwise rather dark and seedy Tenderloin section of downtown where you can see RENT and then trip over a junkie on the walk to the Muni station. The shows aren't awful, they just aren't as inventive as they should be for a theater conservatory program putting out new actors and new work into the world. If you want to see a Broadway show, head to one of the ones on tour; if you want to see a daring piece of theatre, check out the Exit Theater or the Magic Theater, both of which put on consistently challenging work that may not have as many light cues as ACT, but will firmly show you something important. If you're going to see a show, consider whether you're going for the art, or for the velvet curtains and proscenium arch. If it's the latter, ACT will treat you well.
Good quality theater in an intimate venue
Lauren W. Feb 22, 2013
If you're looking for a gaping, plush, rococo theater, ACT is not your best bet. But if you're looking for the intimacy of a Broadway theater and high-caliber performances to match, you've found your venue. Featuring a wide variety of performances throughout its season--from the cerebral to the crowd-pleasers--ACT also encourages connection through lectures and discussions, including an post-performance forum on archetypes in the characters of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, with panel members from various relevant fields moderating the conversation. There are plentiful and diverse performances in San Francisco, from spoken word to concerts to revues, but ACT might take the prize for the best quality, most honest mainstream theater in town.
Theater Goer-s
Rachel G. Nov 7, 2012
This is one of the best theater's around the town. I have seen some of the most amazing pieces of theater here. Well known, but many people have yet to see a production at this gorgeous venue. If you ever get the chance to see a piece of theater or dance here, I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU TAKE THAT OPPORTUNITY. This is some of the best type of theater being produced in the city.
Broadway on the West Side
Jayson M. Sep 4, 2012
SF is a great theater town. It avoids the avalanche of eye-bleeding sewage that pervades most small theaters in Los Angeles because nobody here is trying to be a movie star – they are doing a show because they love to do a show. Period. A.C.T. is no black box, obviously, but it represents one of the top spots in town to see big time productions surrounded by an audience of die-hard theater lovers. I adore this venue. Not only do they put up major showcases, they also don’t shy away from more controversial stuff, so you never know what you’re going to find. I got season tickets even back when I was a broke college student. Don’t regret a single dollar spent. Can’t imagine I ever will. Pretty sure the same pack of guys who sing outside on the street have been there for the last hundred years…they should learn new songs.
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