ACT’s 44th season boasts big heart, big ideas

American Conservatory Theater Artistic Director Carey Perloff has one answer to two questions about the company’s upcoming 44th season, which was announced today.

The questions are: What is different about the season — running Sept. 16 through July 10, 2011 — and how does the current vitriolic political climate influence her choice of plays?

Her purpose, Perloff says, is to confront “our fractured and hostile climate by producing plays with big heart, big ideas, rich language and as large casts as possible, so that we can see ourselves reflected back in lovely, complex, fully realized ways.”

She cites highly theatrical plays, filled with music, such as Moliere’s “Scapin” directed by and starring Bill Irwin (Sept. 16 to Oct. 17); a world premiere musical by the “Avenue Q” team based on Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” (May 17 to July 10, 2001); and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet,” part of the “Brother/Sister Plays Trilogy” (Oct. 29 to Nov. 21).

There also are mystery plays on the order of Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming” (March 3 to 27, 2011) and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” (April 7 to May 1, 2011).

Calling the plays “international” and “intensely local,” Perloff says they offer opportunities for the core company and talented recent alumni to collaborate with major artists.

She’s particularly thrilled about the “Tales of the City” musical. “I love Armistead’s stories so much and have wanted to bring them to the stage for a long time,” she says.

The Pinter play is of great personal interest to her. “He is a favorite writer of mine and this, his greatest play, is the one I have been waiting to direct,” she says. Her interest in Pinter goes back to when, at 19 years old and a Stanford freshman, she took Martin Esslin’s class on theater of the absurd.

“No Exit” — the play with the famous line “hell is other people” — comes in a production by Canada’s Virtual Stage and Electric Co. Theatre combining film and theater.

American Conservatory Theater 2010-11 season
415 Geary St., San Francisco
When: Sept. 16 through July 10, 2011
Tickets: $60 to $513 for subscriptions, on sale now; single tickets for most shows on sale in August
Contact: (415) 749-2250 for subscriptions,

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