American Conservatory Theater is celebrating its 50th season this year, and for half of its existence, Carey Perloff has been Artistic Director. She’s announced that she’ll be leaving that job at the end of next season, to allow her to take on other projects without having the administrative responsibilities she’s held as the public face of the theater. Among her many achievements was acquiring and renovating the Strand Theater into A.C.T.’s more intimate second stage.
Perloff says no one is more surprised than she is that she’s been in the job for 25 years. “I was such a maverick… when I came to ACT, I was 32 years old, and I’d run a tiny theater, under a million bucks. Nobody knew who I was here, and it was the strangest hire. And for so long I thought ‘What were they thinking?’ And it never in a million years occurred to me that I would stay 25 years, and that I would sort of become so profoundly associated with ACT.” But she says it was a perfect fit: “I think it’s because the DNA of this theater was so suitable for me. It was Bill Ball’s big idea, to create a great theater where training and performance are always linked. That’s always about the future, that’s always got young people at the core, that’s a school and a producing company… which sounds obvious, but it’s the only one left in America.” Having that kind of interaction between the various parts of the organization was the goal. “I longed to have a whole ecosystem here where we could do plays like A Thousand Splendid Suns. Beautiful, big, important, epic plays at the Geary, and we could do cutting edge new work like Annie Baker’s John at the Strand. Or put our students on display, and our downtown high school students, and we could give the space away through our space sharing program, and really help the community keep theater going in the Bay Area.”