Artistic Director - American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), San Francisco, CA

The application period for this position is now closed.

For the past 50 years, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) has held a key position in this country’s nonprofit theatrical field.  One of the United States’ most important regional theaters, it also has the unique position of being the only free-standing theater with a fully-accredited MFA acting program, nurturing the next generation of actors, allowing them to work with some of today’s most accomplished artists, and engaging the community as “citizen artists” (“artists making theater to effect social change”).  A.C.T.’s performing spaces include the Geary Theater, the Rembe at the Strand Theater, and three smaller venues, the Garret (in the Geary), the Rueff (in the Strand), and the Costume Shop. Innovative programming, actor training, and community engagement define the organization’s mission and its activities.

Since settling in San Francisco in 1967, A.C.T. has been known for artistic risk-taking and commitment to a rich variety of programming. Legendary productions such as The Taming of the Shrew and Cyrano de Bergerac were televised nationally; it has produced 12 plays by Tom Stoppard, many staged with the playwright’s active participation.  A.C.T. pioneered the commissioning of new American translations of great works of world literature, including Mary Stuart, Hecuba, and A Doll’s House; and its acclaimed 2016 adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel A Thousand Splendid Suns will embark on a tour later this year.  Alongside the work of internationally renowned directors such as Peter Brook, Robert Wilson, and Robert Lepage, A.C.T. has presented important plays by leading contemporary American playwrights such as Anne Washburn, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Annie Baker.  A.C.T. has been recognized with the Tony and Jujamcyn Theater Awards for its artistic achievements and excellence in actor training. A.C.T. continues to engage and serve diverse communities through all of its work, aiming to reflect the energy, innovation, and culture of its home. 

San Francisco is one of the country’s most beautiful cities, and one of the top travel destinations in the world. The Bay Area, a center of global innovation, is a uniquely diverse and progressive community, and home to a robust arts and cultural community, including the San Francisco Opera, Ballet, and Symphony, 300 theater companies, as well as several world class museums, and two great universities, Stanford, and the University of California-Berkeley.  The city has also attracted some of the most entrepreneurial and innovative tech companies, including Airbnb, Cisco Systems, Intuit, Square, Lucasfilm, Google, Twitter, Uber, and Salesforce.


For fully half of its existence, A.C.T. has been guided by Artistic Director Carey Perloff.  She is only the third person to hold the position, following founder William Ball (1965-86) and Edward Hastings (1986-91).  Ms. Perloff has established an artistic platform of innovative presentations of the classics as well as contemporary work and world premieres.  Under her leadership, the company has seen substantial growth, consistent artistic achievement, and the acquisition of an important second performance space.  She recently announced her decision to step down from her post at the end of the 2017-18 season.

Peter Pastreich has served as A.C.T.’s Executive Director for the past year, after a 50-year career in orchestra management, including 21 years as Executive Director of San Francisco Symphony.  He has committed to remain at A.C.T. until June 2018; the Board, working with the new Artistic Director, hopes to have a new Executive Director engaged by then.

A.C.T. is governed by a 43-member Board of Trustees led by Chair Kirke Hasson and President Kay Yun, and populated by business and community leaders and artists.  Both the Artistic Director and Executive Director hold ex-officio positions on the Board.


A.C.T. operates on an annual budget approaching $23 million; it is a LORT A theater employing approximately 800 people annually.  The 2017-18 season consists of eight productions, six in the Geary and two in the Strand, each with a four-to-eight week run, as well as the “New Strands Festival” of contemporary work in development, and a large number of productions by A.C.T.’s MFA Program and the Young Conservatory.

The Geary Theater, a beautiful 1040-seat Beaux Arts–style venue in the heart of the downtown Union Square district, built in 1910 and a San Francisco institution for over a century, is host to the largest portion of A.C.T.’s annual productions.  Significantly damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, it was elegantly renovated with the help of $30 million raised by the community.

In 2015, A.C.T. opened the Strand, an award winning and elegantly renovated former movie house, as an important second space with a 283-seat theater (the Rembe), a 120-seat multi-use space (the Rueff), and a spacious lobby with a café.  The Strand is used to present main stage productions as well as work by students in the MFA Program, the Young Conservatory (professional training for late primary through high school students), and A.C.T.’s expansive arts education and community programs.  It is also used by other theater groups, and rented for events.

A.C.T.’s Conservatory, considered one of the top five graduate acting programs in the U.S., offers a three-year program to prepare fully trained actors who are also “citizen artists,” capable of harnessing their skills and passion as tools of change.  Alumni of this prestigious program include Denzel Washington, Anika Noni Rose, Benjamin Bratt, and Elizabeth Banks. A.C.T.'s Conservatory facility includes ten studios and classrooms. A.C.T. is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Beyond its training of professional actors, A.C.T. is committed to the young people and adults in the San Francisco community.  Education programs include student matinees, year-long school residencies, community engagement including intensive work with under-served and at-risk high school students, teacher professional development, the Young Conservatory, Studio A.C.T. (adult acting training), the “Will on Wheels” program that brings Shakespeare to nearly two dozen Bay Area schools, the Summer Training Congress, the SF Semester (a program for undergraduates in residence at A.C.T.), and various workshops.  These programs serve nearly 30,000 people, many in communities that are lower income and largely of color.


The next Artistic Director will join an organization with a remarkable foundation and credibility based on its hard-earned artistic bona fides. Among the opportunities are:

• Aligning, strengthening, and further integrating its three core components of innovative programming, actor training, and community engagement.

• Building on the leadership position that A.C.T. currently holds in the professional theater and training fields;

• Utilizing the institution’s position as a thought leader and active public citizen of the Bay area to continue to assert the importance of the arts to the communities of the region;

• Finding the best and most productive use of the still new Strand Theater; and

• Continuing A.C.T.’S leadership in new work development, with the potential for expanded / new partnerships in co-production and touring.

Along with these opportunities, there are notable challenges that the next AD must embrace:

• Maintaining the MFA program in a highly competitive training environment; 

• Programming in a way that will rebuild the gradual loss of season subscribers that A.C.T., like many performing arts institutions, has experienced; and

• Responding to the organization’s space needs in an increasingly expensive real estate market.

More information can be found on A.C.T.’s website:


The Artistic Director and Executive Director will be expected to form a co-equal working relationship, in which both report to the Board through its Chair and President.  Peter Pastreich, A.C.T.’s Executive Director, has agreed to remain through June of 2018 and will assist with the search, to begin as soon as the new Artistic Director is appointed, for a new Executive Director.

Programmatic Leadership – the Artistic Director will be expected:

• To be the company’s artistic guide in choosing plays and other programs it will present, in ways that recognize the company’s distinguished history and its interest in making theater even more relevant to today’s audiences; to choose creative teams for the productions; and to assure high standards of excellence;

• To establish and maintain strong relationships with upcoming and established playwrights, directors, actors, and designers, to keep A.C.T. at the forefront of American regional theater; 

• To broaden A.C.T.’s impact in the United States and abroad, through co-productions, joint commissions, transfers, and by all other appropriate means;

• To make choices in content and performance that attract an audience that looks like the increasingly diverse and young population of the region in which A.C.T. operates;

• To work closely with the Conservatory’s leadership to expand the visibility of its acting students and faculty, including its “citizen artist” program;

• To assist in forming and maintaining authentic and lasting relationships in diverse communities through A.C.T.’s community education programs, so that A.C.T. remains an institution that matters in the Bay Area; and

• To consider all ways that will energize even larger audiences to take part in the many aspects of the theater’s work.

Organizational Leadership – the Artistic Director will be expected:

• To be a deeply committed organizational leader of the artistic and administrative staff, managing the positions that report to the Artistic Director and setting a culture of respect and collaboration;

• To be a leader and resource to the Board of Trustees, assuring that these volunteers have the information and motivation to function effectively as trustees;

• To embody A.C.T.’s mission and values, and to inspire others to do the same, continuing the theater’s efforts to create a more diverse organization on its stages, in its communities, and its staff, artists, Board, and audiences, enhancing A.C.T.’s position as a good public citizen of the Bay Area;

• To help develop a vision for the theater that recognizes the importance of its mission, and excites the artists, Board, and Staff of A.C.T.;

• To serve as the public face and spokesperson of the institution, including taking part in selective cultivation of major donors; and

• To help develop the resources to energize even larger audiences, to make A.C.T. one of the most diverse theaters in America, and to clearly establish A.C.T. as one of the major theater companies in the country.


No one person will fully meet all these qualifications.  The Search Committee will assess the degree to which each individual comes close to their expectations by evaluating the following factors:

Professional Experience

• Demonstrated capacity to articulate a strong aesthetic and overall vision that inspires others.

• A known breadth of interests to explore a full range of theater in both a national and international context; a role in the world of new play development will be welcomed.

• A proven leader, not necessarily of companies at comparable scale to A.C.T., who demonstrates a grasp of how artistic choice and the operational, financial, and producing elements of the theater must work together.

• While the Committee will not exclude other candidates, there is a bias toward someone who has demonstrated artistic achievement in the theater world.

• Prior experience in an organizational leadership role or at least oversight of important projects, will be preferred, but not absolutely required.

Personal Qualities and Values

• Delight at the prospect of fulfilling A.C.T.’s mission and values; this includes a demonstrable belief in training and education, as well as in professional theater producing.

• A proven commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion that will be even more compelling if the candidate has had the opportunity to demonstrate this within organizational life.

• A desire to engage with the variety of A.C.T.’s communities and a lively curiosity about people and their concerns.

• The interest and the capability to build relationships with major donors and community leaders.


The Search Committee hopes to make its final decision no later than early in calendar year 2018.  The start date for full time employment will be as soon as possible thereafter.  The 2018-19 season will be planned by Carey Perloff and her team, although the possibility may exist for the new Artistic Director to influence that season.  The intention is to provide the new leader with an extended period of engagement with the staff, Board, shops, theaters, audiences, and communities before preparing the following season.


Interested and qualified candidates are encouraged to submit in complete confidence a cover letter, resume, and professional references to the consulting firm retained to conduct the search.  The letter of no more than 1½ pages should describe why this post and theater is attractive to the applicant and what about them and their work makes them a potentially strong contributor as a leader of A.C.T.  Application materials should be sent electronically – Word or PDF only, please – with the applicant’s name included as part of each file name:

Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn:  Greg Kandel or David Mallette

Email only:     This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject Line:   ACT AD Search

A.C.T. very much encourages applications from women and from persons of color.

Last modified on Friday, 05 January 2018 07:19