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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

William Paterson

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William Paterson (1919-2003) considered himself one of the lucky few: an actor who made his living as an actor his entire life. His long and prolific career was split between two regional theaters, The Cleveland Playhouse for 20 years and the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T) for 30 years. He was invited to join A.C.T. by its founder and then artistic director William Ball. During his tenure with A.C.T., he appeared in major roles in You Can’t Take It With You, Jumpers, The Matchmaker, All The Way Home, Buried Child, The Gin Game, Painting Churches, The Cocktail Hour, Pygmalion and Mary Stuart. With A.C.T., he toured the Soviet Union and Japan and originated the role of Scrooge in the company's now-classic holiday production of A Christmas Carol, performing the role for fourteen seasons. He took occasional time outs for live television, film and four national tours of his own one-man biographical shows.

In his autobiography, Solid Seasons, Paterson credits his continuous employment as an actor with his eschewal of Broadway for regional theater, which afforded him roles in seven to ten productions per season. He won numerous awards including Drama-Logue and Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle awards. He served for nine years on the San Francisco Arts Commission and for two years as a trustee of The American Conservatory Theatre Foundation.

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