Carey Perloff, artistic director of San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, announced March 23 that she will depart the nonprofit theatre organization after 25 years at the helm following the conclusion of the 2017–18 season.
“Serving as artistic director of ACT for the past 25 years has been the greatest joy of my life,” said Perloff in a statement. “It never occurred to me when I arrived in San Francisco in 1992 that I would love this job, this city, this audience, and this staff so much that I would stay here for a quarter of a century. I feel incredibly gratified that over the past five years we have realized the long-held dream of creating a second stage for ACT in which new work and new artists can flourish, and where our brilliant students can be more visible. I am equally gratified that our epic commission and production of A Thousand Splendid Suns has been met with such acclaim and is going to have a life long after I leave ACT. It is that kind of ambitious, culturally-diverse work which I believe best represents the ACT I have worked to build.
“Twenty-five years ago, The Geary Theater lay in ruins and much of this astonishing organization had to be rebuilt from the ground up. ACT now has multiple state-of-the-art performance spaces, a significant endowment, the only freestanding MFA Program in the country, and a legacy of renowned classics and ambitious new work to look back upon. Most of all, it has an audience that any artistic director could only dream of: adventurous, supportive, diverse, generous, and loyal. I will miss them enormously. At the same time, I am truly excited to finally have the chance to explore my own work—as a director, playwright, and book author—without carrying all of the administrative burdens of an institution. It's a great moment in the American theater to do the work one most believes in. That I get to direct Pinter's The Birthday Party with Marco Barricelli, Scott Wentworth, and Judith Ivey—and another soon-to-be announced favorite classic—during my final season is icing on the cake.”
Nancy Livingston, chair of ACT’s Board of Trustees, added, “Carey Perloff’s 25-year legacy at ACT is nothing short of phenomenal. Not only is she an extraordinary artistic director, but also a gifted playwright, author, producer, director, teacher, mentor, and consummate fundraiser. Her combined passion for ACT and the community it serves are revered throughout the Bay Area, as well as nationally and internationally. As a personal friend and devoted colleague, I am thrilled to celebrate her many accomplishments throughout the next season.”
Among Perloff's many accomplishments are the rebuilding of the earthquake-damaged Geary Theater, the purchase and renovation of The Strand Theater, the revitalization of ACT’s Master of Fine Arts Program, and the commissioning of the Women’s Leadership in Residential Theaters research study.
Perloff, who began as artistic director in 1992, forged intimate and important working collaborations with playwrights (Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Philip Kan Gotanda, Timberlake Wertenbaker), directors (John Doyle, Mark Lamos, Irene Lewis, Mark Rucker, Loretta Greco, Robert Wilson), actors (David Strathairn, Bill Irwin, Olympia Dukakis, John Douglas Thompson, BD Wong), and theatre companies (Theatre Calgary, Guthrie Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Stratford Festival), making ACT internationally recognized for its productions of classical works and explorations of contemporary playwriting.
Throughout the past 25 years Perloff has directed more than 50 mainstage productions at ACT, including Antigone (1993), Arcadia (1995 and 2013), Elektra (2012), The Homecoming (2011), Hecuba (1995 and 1998), Indian Ink (1999 and 2015), The Invention of Love (2000), The Orphan of Zhao (2014), Phèdre (2010), The Tempest (1996), The Threepenny Opera (1999), Travesties (2006), Underneath the Lintel (2013), and Waiting for Godot (2003).
Perloff is the recipient of France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the National Corporate Theatre Fund’s 2007 Artistic Achievement Award. In May she will receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of San Francisco; in October she will receive the Tao House Award for Sustained Excellence.
Peter Pastreich will remain as ACT’s executive director and will assist the search committee, currently being formed, to find Perloff’s successor, as well as in the search for a new executive director to succeed him.