American Conservatory Theater Notable Alumni

Last Updated on July 29, 2023

Since it was founded in 1965, the American Conservatory Theater has been a pillar of the San Francisco theater scene. Its notable alumni include:

Sue Duncan, actress and director. Duncan is known for her roles in The X-Files, Blue Velvet, and Die Hard. She also directed the cult classic Only You and Me and the Coffee Shop.

Jane Lynch, comedian and actress. Lynch is a household name thanks to her work in Glee, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Wreck It Ralph. She has also hosted the Emmy Awards for three years running.

Matthew Morrison, actor and singer. After winning a Tony Award for his role in Hairspray, Morrison went on to star in Glee as Will Schuester. He continues to perform his own music today with his band Matthew Morrison & The Lonesome Trio.

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Training | American Conservatory Theater

Every year, a new group of actors joins the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) family.

Many of them go on to become the cream of the crop in Hollywood, Broadway, and beyond.

Here are some of ACT’s most notable alumni:

  1. Spalding Gray

Gray is known for his unique monologues, many of which have been turned into films. He was born in Rhode Island but was educated at ACT, where he was introduced to his signature monologue style.

  1. John Lithgow

Lithgow has performed with ACT in numerous productions and is one of their most recognizable alumni. He’s also done voice acting work on television and film, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The World According To Garp. He has also won multiple Tony awards for his work on Broadway and has appeared in many television shows throughout his career.

  1. Joan Van Ark

Van Ark is best known for her work as Valene Ewing on Knots Landing, but she also starred in the stage production of Love Letters at ACT in 1986. She was nominated for two Tony Awards during her career and has continued to act in film and television throughout the years. Her more recent credits include Desperate Housewives,

American Conservatory Theater Notable Alumni

The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) is a major nonprofit theater company in San Francisco, California, United States, that offers the public both classical and contemporary theater productions. It also has an attached acting school.


A.C.T.’s primary home in San Francisco is the Geary Theater,[5] located at 415 Geary Street near the corner of Mason Street in the Theatre District of San Francisco. Built in 1910 and designed by Bliss and Faville (Walter D. Bliss and William B. Faville) in the Classical Revival and Late Victorian styles, it was previously known as the Columbia Theater. The Geary Theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 27, 1975, and was designated an official San Francisco Landmark on July 11, 1976.[3]

In 2015, A.C.T. opened the Strand Theater at 1127 Market Street between 7th and 8th Streets, across from the U.N. Plaza in the Civic Center neighborhood of San Francisco. The building has a 283-seat theater as well as a 120-seat event and performance space. A.C.T. utilizes the theater to present educational workshops, cabaret performances and specially commissioned new works, as well as productions connected to their M.F.A. and Young Conservatory programs.[6]

Close-up of the Geary Theater facade

The Strand Theater, at 1127 Market Street, was opened in 2015 as A.C.T.’s second space (2017)
Acting school
A.C.T.’s founder’s vision was for it to be both a theater company and acting school. The conservatory currently offers a wide range of classes and is accredited to grant Master of Fine Arts degrees for actors. Its MFA program is extremely competitive, admitting only eight students per year among hundreds who audition. It was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top five graduate acting training programs in the U.S., along with schools like Juilliard, Yale, New York University, and Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company.[citation needed] The current director of the conservatory MFA program is Danyon Davis. Among the many notable alumni of the MFA program are Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Princess Sarah Culberson, Benjamin Bratt, Carlos Bernard, Wynn Harmon, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Belknap, Dileep Rao, Harry Hamlin, Anna Deavere Smith, Omar Metwally, Steven W. Bailey, and Anika Noni Rose. In addition to the MFA program, A.C.T. offers training through the Studio A.C.T., the Summer Training Congress, and Young Conservatory programs. Alumni of these programs include Nicolas Cage, Teri Hatcher, Delroy Lindo, Danny Glover, David Denman, Tom O’Brien, Milo Ventimiglia, Winona Ryder, Zendaya, Amy Irving, Camryn Manheim, Chelsea Peretti, Rozzi Crane, Adam Jacobs, Brie Larson,[7] Darren Criss, and Chris Pine.

Young Conservatory
A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory is an internationally recognized professional theater training program for youth through the ages of 19. It was founded by Luanne and Ross Graham in 1971. Successive YC directors include Candace Birk, Sharon Newman, Linda Aldrich, and Susan Stauter. The program has been led since 1988 by Craig Slaight. The Young Conservatory is geared toward performing new works specifically for young actors, and has premiered plays and musicals by playwrights such as Horton Foote and Paul Zindel. The conservatory members are also offered roles in the main stage productions, most frequently A Christmas Carol, which is performed every winter.[8]

Sound design
The first person to be given the title sound designer in regional theater was Dan Dugan at A.C.T. in the late 1960s.[9] The term Sound Design was introduced to the film world when Francis Ford Coppola directed (and for which his father, Carmine Coppola, arranged the music and Charlie Richmond was the sound designer) a production of Private Lives at A.C.T., while the final cut of the film The Godfather was being edited in 1972.

San Francisco Symphony recordings
According to Pristine Audio, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alfred Hertz, made a series of electrical recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company on the stage of the theater in 1927. Pristine Audio has restored and reissued the 78 rpm recordings on CD.


Steven W. Bailey
Elizabeth Banks
Anna Belknap
Annette Bening
Carlos Bernard
Benjamin Bratt
Julie Brown
Jeff Galfer
Danny Glover
Asher Grodman
Harry Hamlin
Teri Hatcher
Neil Hopkins
Amy Irving
Don Johnson
Robert Krimmer
Lauren Lane
Yuri Lane
Brie Larson
Michael Lerner (actor)
Delroy Lindo
Sacheen Littlefeather
Carolyn McCormick
Elizabeth McGovern
Irene Mecchi
Omar Metwally
Chelsea Peretti
Dileep Rao
Sarayu Rao
Anika Noni Rose
Winona Ryder
John Schuck
Douglas Sills
Scott Alan Smith
Denzel Washington
Gedde Watanabe
Justin Whalin
Kim Zimmer

american conservatory theater tuition

Undergraduate Tuition

Tuition for American Conservatory Theater is $30,235 for the 2019/2020 academic year. This is 4% more expensive than the national average private non-profit four year college tuition of $29,191. The cost is 24% more expensive than the average California tuition of $24,481 for 4 year colleges. Tuition ranks 88th in California amongst 4 year colleges for affordability and is the 57th most expensive 4 year college in the state. Price does not vary by residence.

The school charges an additional fees of $221 in addition to tuition bringing the total effective in-state tuition to $30,456.

Housing Costs

American Conservatory Theater doesn’t offer on campus housing. If you’re not living with family you will need to budget for food and housing in the San Francisco area just like you would for a college with dorms. The estimated rent and meal expense per academic year for off campus housing is $14,670.

Books and Supplies

The estimated annual cost for books and supplies is $500.

Other Living Expenses

Off-campus students should budget for $5,706 in other miscellaneous living expenses.

Total Costs

The annual tuition and living expense budget to go to American Conservatory Theater was $51,332 for the 2019/2020 academic year. The cost is the same for all students regardless of California residence status as there is no in-state discount. Students residing at home with parents providing food and housing can expect a total cost of $36,662.

Citation: Price data from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2020 IPEDS survey response for American Conservatory Theater and represent reported costs for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Estimated Budgets
California Resident Total Budget (Living Off Campus)$51,332
   In-State Tuition$30,235
   Other Fees$221
   Off-Campus Housing Budget$14,670
   Off-Campus Other Budget$5,706
   Books and Supplies$500
California Resident Total Budget (Living with Parents)$36,662
   In-State Tuition$30,235
   Other Fees$221
   Family Provided Room and Board$0
   With-Family Other Living Budget$5,706
   Books and Supplies$500
Non-Resident Total Budget (Living Off Campus)$51,332
   Out-of-State Tuition$30,235
   Other Fees$221
   Off-Campus Housing Budget$14,670
   Off-Campus Other Budget$5,706
   Books and Supplies$500
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Depending on many factors including student and parent income and assets, the total cost of attendance may be less than the $51,332 published price if scholarship or grant aid is made available to you.

Net Price

The net out-of-pocket total cost you end up paying or financing though student loans is known as the net price. The reported American Conservatory Theater net price for in-state students is $0* for the 2018/2019 academic year. This net price includes housing and meal expenses.

Pell Grants and other Grant Aid

0% of American Conservatory Theater students received grant aid in 2018/2019. The average total aid amount was $0. 0 percent of students received aid in the form of Pell Grants from the U.S. Federal Government. The average Pell Grant awarded for 2018/2019 was $0. To apply for a Pell Grant to attend American Conservatory Theater, the first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Financial Aid Summary
Average Annual Net Price$0*
Percent of Students Receiving Grant Aid0%
Average Total Grant Aid$0
Percent of Students Receiving Pell Grants0%
Average Amount of Pell Grant Aid$0

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