Carey Perloff Takes the Stage with Memoir Beautiful Chaos

beautiful chaosWhen Carey Perloff took up residency as Artistic Director of the A.C.T. in 1992, it was in the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake which left the historic Geary Theater in ruins. By its reopening in 1996, Perloff had breathed new life into the A.C.T. and had begun what would be a long and fruitful relationship with the company involving some of the world’s most renowned figures in theater.

In her new memoir, Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater, available now from City Lights, Perloff details the rich and resilient theatrical history of San Francisco through her career, which literally rose from the ruins of the financially suffering A.C.T. and into her involvement with the opening of The Strand , a second brand-new home for A.C.T. which will host productions from their acclaimed Master of Fine Arts and Young Conservatory programs.

British playwright Tom Stoppard chatted with Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum on January 27 where he mentioned his numerous collaborations with Perloff, including the off-Broadway premiere of Indian Ink, which she will be directing at A.C.T. until February 8.

On Perloff’s choice of the title Beautiful Chaos, Stoppard remarks,

Well I worked with Carey a few times and its never been chaotic. She’s always in command and in a good way, in control, but I can see that the order which exists in Carey’s work on stage probably emerges from a very complex background. Perhaps there’s an ironic spin on the word chaos in her case. Maybe you should ask her whether she means chaos as in mathematics.

You can listen to the entire interview here where Stoppard further discusses his relationship with Perloff at about 4 minutes into the recording.

Indian Ink, a play by Tom Stoppard, directed by Carey Perloff.

As mentioned in the interview, Perloff will begin a series of  appearances with Michael Krasny at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater on March 8 to discuss the memoir on her home court. Tickets for the event (it’s free!) can be reserved through A.C.T.. Perloff will host a book signing following the discussion and those who pre-order a book will be able to pick it up at the venue with priority access to the signing.

Later events include Los Angeles at the Samuel French Film and Theater Bookshop, New York City at the NY 92nd st. Y (with Olympia Dukakis and Bill Irwin), Minneapolis at the Playwrights Center, and Chicago at Steppenwolf.

Perloff’s memoir is energetic, honest, and inspiring. She is the embodiment of an irrepressible visionary who has worked with some of the greats in the field. But her interests extend beyond the stage and into the realm of a universal connectedness – in her insightful chapter on tech and its relation to live theater in San Francisco, Perloff describes a mutually beneficial visit with some of the staff at Zendesk.


I remain convinced that the yang of technology’s yin is live experience, narrative, character, immersion. Both can exist if we can find ambassadors who carry the spark of one part of the culture back to the other. All of us have an investment in education, in the vibrancy and safety of the city, and in juicy experiences. We recently sent the cast of Shaw’s Major Barbara;to the offices of the customer service software company Zendesk to observe the behavior of workers in the controlled and pristine world of tech, in preparation for the scene in Undershaft’s munitions factory. The Zendesk workers were delighted to have a company of actors in their midst and were extremely welcoming; it was fascinating to share with them the thinking behind Shaw’s radical play, which questions whether employment alone is enough to nourish men’s souls, particularly if that employment involves the fabrication of bombs. The practice of isolating workers in a controlled environment so as to extract every ounce of labor is vividly depicted in Major Barbara; the comparison with their own “utopian” workplace was interesting and challenging food for thought for the Zendesk workers, just as spending a day at Zendesk headquarters was rich fodder for our actors.


You can get a copy of Beautiful Chaos at City Lights at 30% off the retail price. Don’t forget to reserve your spot on March 8th to hear Carey Perloff discuss her fascinating and inspiring career at the Geary Theater with Michael Krasny.

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