$35 million gift to American Conservatory Theater means historic Geary Theater gets a new name

The ACT’s flagship Geary Avenue venue has been renamed Toni Rembe Theatre. Picture: Kevin Burn/American Institute Theatre

The American Conservatory’s “Passengers” followers are marching this week to a theater with a brand new title, due to an nameless donation of $35 million, the biggest single present the theater has acquired from any supply—particular person, company, company, or authorities.

“It is transformative,” CEO Jennifer Bilstein instructed The Chronicle.

On Monday, September 19, the historic Jerry Theater was renamed The Tony Rembe Theatre, in reminiscence of a present from an nameless donor in honor of longtime ACT Board member Tony Rembe, one of many first girls appointed as a companion in a significant regulation agency within the state . The principle stage on the Strand Theater in ACT, on Market Avenue, can be referred to as the Rimby Theatre.

“We love Tony!” Bilstein stated, including that the ACT is “stuffed with power, satisfaction and honor that somebody would put money into our work at such a degree.”

Honoree Toni Rembe Rock together with her husband Arthur Rock on the Magic Theater Masquerade Gala on the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco. Picture: Jana Ašenbrennerová / Unique to The Chronicle 2018

On Rembe’s half, she stated in a press release that she was “deeply honored and humbled to obtain this recognition. She added that theater has “introduced a profound sense of pleasure and enrichment to my life and the lives of the San Francisco Bay Space neighborhood for many years.”

Earlier than the pandemic, ACT’s annual price range was $27.5 million, which shrank to $13 million after the COVID-19 hit. Now that the theater is beginning to produce character exhibits once more, the price range has rebounded to $22 million.

The corporate plans to speculate an awesome majority of the $35 million present so that it’ll generate income yearly; Individually, ACT already has a $20 million endowment, which earns roughly $1.2 million every year.

A lot of the remaining items will assist improve the area itself, together with decades-old lighting, sound, and rigging tools. Additionally, you will profit from among the patron’s facilities, together with a sluggish elevator.

Bilstein stated she and inventive director Pam McKinnon had been on the lookout for a significant donor desirous about naming rights for some time after debuting 4 years in the past. She defined that visitors issues and poor public transportation choices late at night time had been deterring theater-goers even earlier than the pandemic, and the theater wanted a long-term supply of funding to assist offset this drop in ticket gross sales.

Alumni Gracie Vogtek (left) and Morgan Gunther watch an honor video on the closing commencement ceremony of the Alumni Performing Program on the American Institute Theatre. Picture: Jessica Christian/The Chronicle

In Could, the theater graduated from its final class of nice arts college students, and closed one of many nation’s prime 5 graduate appearing packages. Bilstein stated on the time that tuition solely lined a 3rd of this system’s price, and the drop in ticket patrons made this system financially unsustainable. This present is not meant to revive the present, however Bilstein stated there’s nonetheless an opportunity he’ll return it at some point.

“We stay in talks with a number of potential college companions,” she stated.

The 1,025-capacity Beaux-Arts constructing has had many names for over 100 years on Geary Avenue. When it opened in 1910, it was referred to as the Columbia Theatre, and was renamed the Wilkes Theater in 1924 and the Lowry Theater in 1927 earlier than ultimately changing into Jerry’s in 1928.

ACT started serving in Geary when it moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1967, and in 2006, the corporate renamed Area American Conservatory Theater to streamline the model.

The corporate started calling Geary Place once more after buying the Strand Theatre, which reopened in 2015.



  • Lily Janiak
    Lily Janek is a theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. E mail: ljaniak@sfchronicle.com Twitter: LilyJaniak