By Broadway Way World, April 9, 2009
A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith announced today that honorary master of fine arts degrees will be conferred upon Grammy Award-winning musician Tracy Chapman and master playwright John Guare. Both honorees are a part of the A.C.T. family of artists: Chapman composed the music for last season’s production of Blood Knot and Guare’s Rich and Famous received its first revival in A.C.T.’s 2008-09 season. Chapman and Guare will receive their degrees at the graduation ceremony for the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2009 on Monday, May 11, 2009, at 11 a.m. at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94108).
“Both John Guare and Tracy Chapman are artistic eminences that have been able to harness and protect their original voices while making lasting marks on their fields,” says Melissa Smith, A.C.T. Conservatory Director. “Guare is one of the great American playwrights, and what makes him truly special to our school is his appreciation for the craft and contribution of the actor in creating a play. Chapman is an incredible musician and storyteller, who showed that it is possible to cross genres with her stunning score for last season’s production of Blood Knot–something that we encourage our students to aspire to. They are both exemplary artists and true inspirations to our graduating class, and we are thrilled to honor them with degrees this year.”
A singer-songwriter and Atlantic Records recording artist, Tracy Chapman has made seven albums since her debut in 1988, including Tracy Chapman, Crossroads, Matters of the Heart, New Beginning, Telling Stories, and Let It Rain. Her most recent record is Where You Live, released in 2005. She has toured extensively, both nationally and internationally, and collaborated with such musicians as B. B. King, Bob Dylan, Youssou N’Dour, Emmylou Harris, and Wynton Marsalis. She has lent her voice in support of a wide range of social and humanitarian causes, including the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, Tibetan Freedom Concerts, Farm Aid, the Special Olympics, and amfAR.
Past recipients of an A.C.T. honorary M.F.A. degree include Annette Bening, Benjamin Bratt, former Theatre Communications Group Executive Director Ben Cameron, Olympia Dukakis, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia, playwright David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Emeritus of the A.C.T. Foundation Alan Stein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Denzel Washington, and Charles Randolf Wright. Recipients of the conservatory’s honorary degrees are selected by the Conservatory Committee, a subcommittee of the A.C.T. Board of Trustees. Selections are based on an individual’s contribution to the advancement of the mission and educational goals of American Conservatory Theater and the arts in America.