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A.C.T. Out Loud Series Pairs Contemporary Directors with Timeless Plays

By Cicero A. Estrella

The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) will roll out its virtual A.C.T. Out Loud series later this month with Trouble in Mind. Alice Childress’ masterpiece will be the first of three play readings, with George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man and Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker rounding out the series in April and May.

The series pairs the classic works with visionary, contemporary directors, and highlights the plays’ reach across time as they speak to both the age in which they were written and today.

“I am thrilled to get these three plays, and to see performers up close,” A.C.T. artistic director Pam MacKinnon said. “Readings always strip a play down to the essentials of language, story and performance. Three visionary directors and A.C.T. bring together actors from around the Bay and the country to entertain, provoke and investigate big themes of racism, power, agency, war, money and marriage with Childress, Shaw and Wilder standing the test of time and showing the way.”

Director Awoye Timpo (In Old Age at the New York Theatre Workshop, The Homecoming Queen at the Atlantic Theater Company) is at the helm of Trouble in Mind. The cast includes Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Anthony Fusco, David Harbour, Steven Anthony Jones and Dakin Matthews.

The play-within-a-play tells the story of six actors as they gather in a Broadway theater to rehearse an anti-lynching play as written and directed by white artists. The actors’ small talk turns into a discussion on motivation and theme, and tensions between them reach a boiling point. Childress’ work would have been the first Broadway play by a Black woman had she agreed to producers’ demand that she soften its message.

Trouble in Mind will be available to stream on-demand from March 29 to April 4.

“Our incredible artistic and production teams have worked tirelessly to bring to life a virtual stage where artists—separated by continents and time zones—could safely gather, making for a truly unique and memorable A.C.T. experience,” said Jennifer Bielstein, A.C.T.’s executive director.

SAG Award nominee, Obie Award winner and Tony Award nominee Colman Domingo (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix and The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway) is the director behind Arms and the Man, which runs April 12 to 18.

The Matchmaker will be shown April 26 to May 2. Dawn Monique Williams (Moon Man Walk at A.C.T. and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) directs, and her cast includes Catherine Castellanos.

Tickets are $5 to 50 per show, or $15 to 150 for the series. They are available by calling 415.749.2228 or by visiting act-sf.org.

Photos courtesy of A.C.T.

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