On Thursday, San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater ceremoniously opens The Strand, a new theater and education space on Market Street, and company artistic director Carey Perloff is giddy with excitement about the ribbon-cutting and the renovated building.
“It’s welcoming and transparent and open,” said Perloff, wearing a hard hat during a recent tour of the site as workers busily finished installing a 28-foot by 18-foot, 126-panel translucent LED screen in the lobby.
The state-of-the-art screen, the only indoor example of its type, will showcase video art and provide information about the many and varied offerings at the two-story facility: a 283-seat proscenium theater (where “every seat is a great seat”) that transforms into a cabaret-style space with 175 seats; an upper-level 140-seat space for performances or events such as classes or rehearsals; and a ground floor café that will open at 7 a.m. and serve coffee and snacks to the general public.
Pointing to the white perforated metal fixtures and railings in the airy lobby, and then to the bold, “Strand red” on the façade as well as repurposed letters from the old marquee and the intact masonry of the original 1917 building, Perloff said, “The design mixes old and new. There’s a bit of urban archeology that went on.”
Michael Duncan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was the lead architect of the $34.4 million project, which began when ACT bought the building, which had been vacant since 2003, in 2012. (Previously named Jewel, College, Francesca and Sun before it became The Strand, the theater in recent memory was known as a porn house and stomping ground for drug dealers and pimps before police shut it down.)
Noting that ACT’s board members bravely decided to lead the charge, Perfoff says the new Strand, which is hosting an open house for the public on June 13, is in a vortex.
Upon announcing that English post-modernist playwright Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” opening June 3 appropriately will be the first ACT production in the new space, Perloff said, “Sitting as it does at the epicenter of a radically changing neighborhood, the Strand aspires to create a bridge linking longtime neighbors, Bay Area theater lovers, newly arrived tech workers, and first-time audiences in a richly intimate theatrical home.”
IF YOU GO
Where: 1127 Market St., S.F.
When: Open house from 9 a.m. to noon June 13
First American Conservatory Theater show: “Love and Information” opening June 3