CAREY PERLOFF is a director, playwright, producer, book author and educator who served as Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for 25 years (1992 to 2018). The youngest person ever chosen to lead a LORT theater, Perloff inherited an earthquake destroyed theater, a huge deficit, a struggling MFA program and a need to completely re-imagine the future of A.C.T. In addition to rebuilding the Geary Theater, reanimating ACT's educational programs and creating decades of vigorous, culturally diverse programming saw ACT's audiences grow and its work presented around the country, Perloff oversaw the creation of ACT's second stage, The Strand, a multi-venue performance space that provides a home for new artists, new work, new audiences, and the many aspects of A.C.T.'s training programs. Her highly acclaimed book Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater (City Lights Press, 2015) explores many of the ideas and issues that emerged during her tenure at A.C.T. and shares the journey of a woman in a leadership field often dominated by men. Beautiful Chaos was selected as the One City One Book “Big Read” by the San Francisco Public Library and was featured in programs and discussions across the Bay Area and around the country throughout 2016. Her new book Pinter and Stoppard: A Director's View (Bloomsbury Methuen, February 2022) reveals the inner workings of the rehearsal process with two master playwrights, gleaned from decades of collaboration with Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard.
Perloff is also an award-winning playwright. Bastiano or the Art of Rivalry was written on a Writing Residency at the Bogliasco Foundation and has been workshopped at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, WTF, and New York Stage and Film, directed by Vivienne Benesch, in spring 2021. Edgardo or White Fire was commissioned by the Williamstown Theater Festival where it will be developed. Kinship premiered at the Théâtre de Paris in October 2014 in a production starring Isabelle Adjani and Niels Schneider and was produced at the Williamstown Theater Festival in 2015, starring Cynthia Nixon and directed by Jo Bonney. The Fit (workshopped at New York Stage and Film, WTF and Kansas City Rep) premiered at San Francisco Playhouse in May 2019. Higher was developed at New York Stage and Film, won the 2011 Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Theatre Visions Fund Award, was developed at the La Jolla Playhouse's DNA series and received its world premiere in February 2012 in San Francisco. Waiting for the Flood was developed at A.C.T., New York Stage and Film, and Roundabout Theatre. Luminescence Dating, which won the Bay Area Theater Critics' Best Original Script in 2007, premiered in New York at The Ensemble Studio Theatre, was coproduced by A.C.T. and Magic Theatre, and is published by Dramatists Play Service. The Colossus of Rhodes was workshopped at the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, premiered at Lucille Lortel's White Barn Theatre, was a Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, and was produced at A.C.T. in 2003.
A longtime collaborator of Tom Stoppard's, Perloff staged the New York premiere of Indian Ink at Roundabout Theatre Company (nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Revival) before bringing the show to A.C.T. She has collaborated with Stoppard on the West Coast premiere of The Hard Problem and the American premieres of Indian Ink and The Invention of Love as well as Arcadia (twice), Rock 'n' Roll, Travesties, The Real Thing, and Night and Day. Perloff is also a notable interpreter of Harold Pinter's work; productions include The Birthday Party (with Judith Ivey), The Homecoming, Old Times, Celebration and The Room (American Premiere), Mountain Language (American Premiere, CSC), and The Collection (Center Theater Group). Perloff's dance background has led to several movement-theater collaborations including Tosca Café and Jekyl & Hyde (created with choreographer Val Caniparoli) and Fatherville (created with Basil Twist, Stephen Buescher and Darron L. West) for The Strand.
One of Perloff's most significant directorial accomplishments has been A Thousand Splendid Suns, a world premiere commissioned by Perloff, co-produced with Theater Calgary, and adapted by Ursula Rami Sarna from the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseni. Suns has played to sold-out houses at A.C.T., The Old Globe, Seattle Rep, the Arts Club Vancouver, the Grand Theater (London, Ontario) and Arena Stage, and will tour Canada in 2022. Most recently, Perloff directed the Ghosts at Williamstown with Uma Thurman (upcoming at Seattle Rep in February 2022), Private Lives at the Stratford Festival (starring Geraint Wynn-Davies and Lucy Peacock), Merchant of Venice at the Shakespeare Company, Calgary (starring Seanna McKenna as Shylock), Pale Sister by Colm Toibin at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, the West Coast premiere of 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winner Martyna Majok's Queens at the La Jolla Playhouse. Favorite productions include Hamlet (with John Douglas Thompson), Testament (with Seanna Mackenna), Underneath the Lintel (with David Strathairn), Elektra (Getty Villa), Beckett's Endgame and Play (with Bill Irwin), Wajdi Mouawad's Scorched. For the Stratford Festival, she has also staged Racine's Phedre and Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman.
Known for directing innovative productions of classics and championing new writing for the theater, Perloff has also directed José Rivera's Boleros for the Disenchanted; the world premieres of Philip Kan Gotanda's After the War, David Lang/Mac Wellman's opera The Difficulty of Crossing a Field (with Julia Migenes); her own adaptation (with Paul Walsh) of A Christmas Carol; newly-commissioned translations/ adaptations of Hecuba, The Misanthrope, Enrico IV, Mary Stuart, Uncle Vanya, A Mother and The Voysey Inheritance (adapted by David Mamet); and major revivals of 'Tis Pity She's A Whore, The Government Inspector, Happy End (including a critically lauded cast album recording), A Doll's House, Waiting for Godot, The Three Sisters, The Threepenny Opera, The Rose Tattoo, Antigone, Creditors, Home and The Tempest. Perloff's work for A.C.T. also includes Marie Ndiaye's Hilda, the world premieres of Marc Blitzstein's No for an Answer and the West Coast premiere of her own play The Colossus of Rhodes.
Before joining A.C.T., Perloff was artistic director of Classic Stage Company in New York, where she directed the world premiere of Ezra Pound's Elektra (published by New Directions Press with Perloff's Introduction), the American premieres of Pinter's Mountain Language and Tony Harrison's Phaedra Britannica and many classic works. Under Perloff's leadership, CSC won numerous OBIE Awards, including the 1988 OBIE for artistic excellence. In 1993, she directed the world premiere of Steve Reich and Beryl Korot's opera The Cave at the Vienna Festival and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Perloff has collaborated with some of the finest actors in America including Olympia Dukakis, John Douglas Thompson, BD Wong, David Strathairn, Uma Thurman, Anika Noni Rose, Peter Reigert, Joe Morton, Wendell Pierce, Seana Mackenna, Marco Barricelli, Firdous Bamji, Judith Ivey, Art Malik, Bill Irwin, and many more. She has developed relationships with great international artists such as Robert Wilson, Peter Brook, Robert Lepage, Kim Collier and Morris Panych, introducing Bay Area artists to imaginative and experimental work from around the world.
A recipient of France's Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the National Corporate Theatre Fund's 2007 Artistic Achievement Award, Perloff received a B.A. Phi Beta Kappa in Classics and Comparative Literature from Stanford University and was a Fulbright Fellow at St. Anne's College, Oxford. She received an Honorary Doctorate from University of San Francisco in 2017 and Honorary MFA from A.C.T. in 2018. She was on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University for seven years, taught and directed in the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program for twenty-five years, and continues to teach in theater programs and at universities across the country. Perloff is on the board of the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Sarasota, Florida and frequently writes about and lectures on arts and culture, including at the Aspen Ideas Festival and at TedX San Francisco. Currently, Perloff is collaborating with the Ancient Art Council of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco on a series of readings and rehearsals of ancient Greek tragedy. She received a 2020 Director Commission from Seattle Repertory Theater to begin developing a major new staging of the Oedipus cycle with John Douglas Thompson. Perloff lives in San Francisco, is married to attorney Anthony Giles and has two children, Alexandra and Nicholas (aka Wingtip).