“ONCE IN A LIFETIME” – 1930 Comedy Open’s 2011-12 Season at A.C.T.

A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker stages the ultimate Hollywood hustle using film and multimedia.

Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) 2011–12 season opens with a new revival of the dazzling George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart 1930 comedy Once in a Lifetime. This witty satire by the Broadway luminaries behind such comedy classics as The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can’t Take It with You will be directed by A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker and will feature an ensemble cast of 15 who will take on 70 roles. This unique production will incorporate period film clips and dynamic cinematic backdrops that meld the worlds of theater and film, redefining audiences’ experience with “moving pictures.” In Once in a Lifetime, a trio of down-on-their-luck vaudevillians head west to pull off the ultimate con: posing as vocal coaches to help Hollywood stars make their speaking voices as beautiful as their glamorous mugs as silent films evolve into “talkies.” Once in a Lifetime performs September 22nd – October 16th at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco).

George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart

“I have been an early Hollywood enthusiast since my teenage years—like many people from my generation, I got introduced to the brilliance of Kaufman and Hart’s writing in high school. I’ve had this play in mind for all those decades and it’s an honor to get to finally direct it at A.C.T.,” said Rucker. “I’m especially excited to bring this amazing era to life using original black-and-white film clips to make ‘moving’ cinematic backdrops, creating a juxtaposition of the worlds of theater and film.” A.C.T. associate artist Alexander V. Nichols, who recently collaborated with Rucker on the evocative video sequences for last season’s Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet, will take on the ambitious video design, which includes rare clips from period films and large-scale cinematic backdrops that enhance the beautiful scenic design by Tony Award nominee and A.C.T. associate artist Daniel Ostling (The Homecoming, War Music, and Brainpeople at A.C.T. and Metamorphoses on Broadway).

Rucker directed a version of this play with the Master of Fine Arts Program in 2010, and the artistic team was quick to realize that his vision for the play would be a great match for the majesty of A.C.T.’s historic home. Artistic Director Carey Perloff says: “One of the things I love about Mark Rucker is his fascination with vintage American comedy. When he directed Once in a Lifetime with our M.F.A. Program students last year, I found his approach so delightful and original that I immediately asked him to bring it to the mainstage.”

The cast will feature René Augesen (Helen Hobart), Julia Coffey (May Daniels), Alexander Crowther (Lawrence Vail), Marisa Duchowny (Ensemble), Jason Frank (Ensemble), Nick Gabriel (Miss Leighton), Margo Hall (Mrs. Walker), Jessica Kitchens (Florabel Leigh), Patrick Lane (George Lewis), Will LeBow (Herman Glogauer), Kevin Rolston (Rudolph Kammerling), Patrick Russell (Ensemble), John Wernke (Jerry Hyland), and Ashley Wickett (Susan Walker).

A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker. Photo, Kevin Berne


RACE — October 21st – November 13th
A Bay Area Premiere
By David Mamet. Directed by Irene Lewis


Fresh from a triumphant run on Broadway, David Mamet’s wicked and scathing courtroom comedy makes its Bay Area premiere at A.C.T. With his trademark verbal pyrotechnics, Mamet unleashes three attorneys as they scramble to represent a white man accused of assaulting a black woman. A captivating story that boldly confronts the most incendiary issues of our time, Race lures us into an enthralling web of tangled sexual and racial politics.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL – December 1st –24th
A special non-subscription event
By Charles Dickens. Directed by Domenique Lozano
Adapted by Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh
, music by Karl Lundeberg, choreography by Val Caniparoli.
Featuring a lively cast of dozens, gorgeous costumes, and those deliciously spooky ghosts, the Bay Area’s favorite holiday tradition returns with a sparkling, music-infused production of A Christmas Carol. A show for all ages and check your “humbugs” at the door!

HUMOR ABUSE — January 12th – February 5th, 2012
Created by Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt in association with Seattle Repertory Theatre
A Bay Area Premiere


In this theatrical high-wire act and love letter to the Bay Area, Lorenzo Pisoni – the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus and son of cofounder Larry Pisoni –tells the story of growing up (often literally) in his father’s stage trunk. As he balances physical pratfalls with heartfelt recollections, Pisoni becomes “a one-man whirlwind” (WOR Radio), creating a vivid, living scrapbook of poignant memories and mesmerizing routines.

SCORCHED — February 16th – March 11th
By Wajdi Mouawad, as translated by Linda Gaboriau

A West Coast Premiere
Directed by Carey Perloff


To fulfill their mother’s dying wish, Janine and Simon embark on a journey to the Middle East to find the father and brother they never knew they had. Featuring Academy Award nominee David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck), Scorched weaves its riveting mystery into a captivating tapestry, inviting us to slowly unravel an astonishing truth. The chaos of conflict has never been so immediate—or so human.

HIGHER – February 1st –18th
By Carey Perloff
At Zeum Theater (221 4th Street, San Francisco)
A World Premiere and Special Non-subscription Event
Directed by Mark Rucker

Artistic Director Carey Perloff. Photo, Kevin Berne

A high-powered Jewish architect, madly in love with an equally talented colleague, discovers that she is his rival in a competition to design a memorial in Israel. As they roam from the sleek rooms of plush New York apartments to the muddy shores of Israel, the two architects are stretched to the limits of their creativity and sanity.

TWELFTH NIGHT – May 10th – June 9th
By William Shakespeare. Directed by Carey Perloff

For the first time in 15 years, A.C.T. returns to the work of one of the world’s most enduring playwrights. Set sail for the romantic land of Illyria with Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s most stirring comedies. When Viola is shipwrecked and loses her brother on an unfamiliar shore, she masquerades as a young man to serve the dashing duke. This joyous production swirls to life with evocative music, vibrant costumes, and some of the most exquisite love poetry in the English language.

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS – June 19th – July 15th
Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb

Book by David Thompson
Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman
12 Tony Award nominations, including best musical

A Bay Area premiere, this daring and visionary musical staged by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman transforms the true story of nine young African American men —unjustly accused of a shocking crime — into a vivid theatrical event. The final collaboration between the legendary songwriting team behind Chicago and Cabaret, this rousing production whirls through a mesmerizing chapter of history with an explosion of song and dance.

The Scottsboro Boys. Broadway Cast.
Photo, Paul Kolnik

Click here for ticket information: American Conservatory Theater


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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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