An Interview With Tim Whalen, Director of External Affairs, American Conservatory Theater
At a time when for-profit theaters may be feeling the pressure to cave in to the economic pinch and roll out the revivals, San Francisco-based nonprofit American Conservatory Theater is still taking chances.
It might seem that the live theater organization founded in 1965 could rest a bit, considering it created the first actor training program in the United States accredited to award a master of fine arts degre — despite not being affiliated with a college or university. (Danny Glover, Annette Bening, Denzel Washington and Benjamin Bratt are among ACT's former students.)
But ACT is continuing to step-ball-change into its 2010-2011 season, promising premieres and esoterica, including a “reimagining of Jean-Paul Sartre's existential masterpiece, 'No Exit.'” It's how ACT is adhering to its mission to nurture the art of live theater through productions, actor training and community engagement.
Tim Whalen, ACT's director of external affairs, explains how the organization has managed to do this on a $19.6 million budget for 2010-2011, up from an $18.5 million operating budget during the 2009-2010 season. With eight of its 145 full- and part-time employees dedicated to fundraising, ACT brought in $6.4 million in contributed income during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
FundRaising Success: Please tell us about the organization’s history.
Tim Whalen: Founded in 1965 by William Ball, ACT opened its first San Francisco season at the Geary Theater in 1967. In the 1970s, ACT solidified its national and international reputation, winning a Tony Award for outstanding theater performance and training in 1979. During the past three decades, more than 300 ACT productions have been performed to a combined audience of 7 million people; today, ACT's performance, education and outreach programs annually reach more than 250,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1996, ACT's efforts to develop creative talent for the theater were recognized with the prestigious Jujamcyn Theaters Award.