San Franciscans love their theater, and along with notoriously vociferous New Yorkers, they’re probably the most passionate and opinionated theater-goers in the country. A.C.T, one of the nation’s most distinguished theaters, draws strong reactions from locals. Many adore A.C.T. for its exceptional production values, excellent talent pool (with A.C.T.’s own resident acting company at the center), and beautiful historic theater, even if it is lacking in legroom and bathroom stalls. They’re impressed by A.C.T.’s renowned MFA training program, which has produced such fine actors as Denzel Washington, Danny Glover, Annette Bening, and Anika Noni Rose. And they appreciate free events, such as the Visiting Artist Series panel discussions (featuring artists as varied as Tom Stoppard and Tracy Chapman) and Theater on the Couch, an analytical talk on the play led by members of the SF Center for Psychoanalysis.
There are detractors: some feel that although the theater’s productions always look good, A.C.T. lacks vision and soul. Or, to put it differently, they think A.C.T. is a regional theater with Broadway pretensions and very little artistic daring.
Perhaps the best way to determine which camp you’re in is to visit A.C.T. for yourself on a designated pay-what-you-wish/bring-what-you-can night, when audiences can pay whatever they want if they bring a food item to donate. Even if you don’t like what you see, you may find you want to get involved with the theater in other ways, like through the A.C.T. Studio, which offers performing-arts classes for people of all backgrounds and experience levels.
American Conservatory Theater Information
- Other Venues: Theater at Children’s Creativity Museum (221 4th Street); Hastings Studio Theater (77 Geary Street, Sixth Floor); The Costume Shop (1117 Market Street)
- Public Transportation: Very good (all venues are within a 7-minute walk from several buses, PH and PM Cable Cars, light rail lines F, J, K, L, M, N, and T, and BART trains at and around the Powell Street Station)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: 9 mainstage shows, and several conservatory performances presented throughout the year
- Ticket Prices: Single tickets are $10–$82, one Pay-What-You-Wish/Bring-What-You-Can performance for each show (bring a food item for a community-service organization, then pay what you like); discounts available for students and groups of 15 or more; shows available on Goldstar.com
- Subscriptions: Eight-Play ($80–$676); Seven-Play ($70–$593); Six-Play ($102–$510); Five-Play ($87–$427); Four-Play ($72–$272), with prices varying by date and seating selection. Subscription discounts available for Students, Educators, and Seniors. Benefits include ticket exchange, ticket insurance, restaurant benefits, free seat upgrades, class discounts, discounts on additional tickets, and more.