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A.C.T. names Pam MacKinnon as its new artistic director

A.C.T. names Pam MacKinnon as its new artistic director
Tony-winning director Pam MacKinnon will succeed Carey Perloff, who is departing A.C.T. after 25 storied years. (Chad Batka)

Pam MacKinnon is a hot commodity on Broadway, where her work has scored Tony, Drama Desk and Obie awards, but now the director is headed west: American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco announced Tuesday that she will succeed Carey Perloff as artistic director of the critically lauded company.

"I've thought about an artistic directorship for a lot of years, and about six years ago I started to work on Broadway, and continued to work on Broadway, and enjoyed working on Broadway, and will work on Broadway more," MacKinnon said by the phone from San Francisco. "But I've circled back, and now that that part of my career is in an exciting place, I want more."

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She had been approached by headhunters before and had demurred, she said, but when the overture came from A.C.T., she took a closer look.

"I looked at the materials and got interested and said, 'Yeah, I'll throw my hat into the ring for this one,'" she said.

MacKinnon is excited by the possibilities for the twin spaces A.C.T. operates, the elegant century-old Geary Theater and the more intimate Strand Theater. She is also looking for a sense of intimacy with her audiences, she said.

"I've been wanting to make work for — and really get to know — the audience, instead of generically 'an audience,'" she said. "I've been missing that — a real artistic home, and a sense of place. Theater is a conversation, and I want to know who I'm talking to."

New York need not worry about losing MacKinnon completely, however.

"I'm convinced there will be projects that will start at the Geary that could move to Broadway, or vice versa," she said. "I am a theater director. I have no intention of being absentee."

I’ve been missing that — a real artistic home, and a sense of place. Theater is a conversation, and I want to know who I’m talking to.


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MacKinnon's record as a director includes Tony and Drama Desk awards for Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" — a production that also won the Tony in 2013 for revival of a play.

Her staging of Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park" won her a 2010 Obie Award for directing.

Currently running on Broadway is her production of Beau Willimon's "The Parisian Woman," starring Uma Thurman. Other Broadway shows have included "Amélie, A New Musical"; the world premiere of David Mamet's "China Doll," with Al Pacino; Wendy Wasserstein's "The Heidi Chronicles," starring Elisabeth Moss; and Albee's "A Delicate Balance," featuring Glenn Close and John Lithgow.

MacKinnon will officially take up residence in San Francisco on July 1.

"San Francisco has a wildly educated theatergoing audience," she said. "It's a city that values its culture. And it's small compared to New York, which interests me — the idea of being able to wrap my head around the city is really appealing. I'm excited to move here and learn more."

MacKinnon's appointment concludes a nationwide search to replace Perloff, who is leaving after 25 years in the role. She and MacKinnon will begin work immediately on planning the 2018-19 season, A.C.T. said.

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