A.C.T. students and alumni make a splash on Bay Area stages

The M.F.A. Program functions as the cornerstone of the A.C.T. Conservatory.

Scapin (Bill Irwin, right) and Sylvestre (A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program graduate Jud Williford) dance the Schemer’s Boogie. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Scapin (Bill Irwin, right) and Sylvestre (A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program graduate Jud Williford) dance the Schemer’s Boogie. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Scapin (Bill Irwin, right) and Sylvestre (A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program graduate Jud Williford) dance the Schemer’s Boogie. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Scapin (Bill Irwin, right) and Sylvestre (A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program graduate Jud Williford) dance the Schemer’s Boogie. Photo by Kevin Berne.

The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program congratulates the numerous students and alumni who have graced Bay Area stages this summer and fall. Just one year after the successful restructuring of the A.C.T. M.F.A. Program, which now features smaller class sizes, increased financial aid, and full-time faculty, A.C.T. students and alumni have been making a splash all around the Bay Area.

“A.C.T. prides itself on encouraging its students to be a part of the rich theatrical landscape of the Bay Area throughout their time here,” says A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith. “I cannot express how happy I am to see a real surge in the number of graduates and students who have appeared in major roles in and around San Francisco this season. The Bay Area theater community makes our conservatory one of the best places to study acting, and we’re thrilled to see the actors we’ve trained step into that community and contribute in ways all their own.”

A.C.T.’s faculty and guest lecturers, and the directors and designers who work on M.F.A. Program productions, are all active members of the local and national theater community. Throughout their three years in the program, students cross paths with numerous professionals, culminating in a showcase production at the end of their third year, through which they are able to launch careers in the Bay Area, as well as in New York and Los Angeles.

Among the A.C.T. students and alumni who are currently keeping a high profile on Bay Area stages, the impressive list begins at home: on the A.C.T. mainstage, Scapin features Jud Williford ’04, who was a major collaborator with Bill Irwin on the project, alongside Omozé Idehenre ’10 and three members of the class of 2011, Richardson Jones, Patrick Lane, and Ashley Wickett. Idehenre continues on the A.C.T. stage in Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet alongside Tobie L. Windham ’10 and two members of the class of 2011, Shinelle Azoroh and Richard Prioleau, who plays the title role.

Marcus is the third play in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s acclaimed trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays, and the first two installations at Magic Theatre and Marin Theatre Company (MTC) also featured A.C.T. alumni in leading roles. Lakisha Michelle May ’10 played the central role of Oya in MTC’s In the Red and Brown Water and Windham and Alex Ubokudum ’10 starred in the Magic’s three-character The Brothers Size.

During the summer months, A.C.T. students and alumni appeared all around the Bay Area, near and far: Williford took on the title role in California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Macbeth alongside Idehenre, Nick Childress ’10, and Nicholas Pelczar ’09. Childress and Pelczar are currently appearing in Much Ado About Nothing at Cal Shakes alongside Emily Kitchens ’10 and Andrew Hurteau ’93, with their teacher and mentor A.C.T. Associate Artist Domenique Lozano playing Beatrice. Kitchens and Windham also appeared in John Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven, which opened Cal Shakes’s 2010 summer season.

At Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Mairin Lee ’10 appeared in The Lion in Winter and Prioleau (along with J. Todd Adams ’96) was featured in both Love’s Labour Lost and Othello. At Livermore Shakespeare Festival, Wickett played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet alongside Ben Kahre, member of the class of 2012, who also appeared in The Real Thing with the company. Jon Joseph Gentry ’10 and Patrick Russell ’09 just finished an acclaimed run of Trouble in Mind at Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley. Also at Aurora, Jason Frank, member of the class of 2012, appeared in Speech and Debate earlier in the summer. Kelsey Venter ’09 just starred in the musical classic She Loves Me at Center REPertory Company.
Ubokudom also appeared in Stanford Summer Theater’s The Wanderings of Odysseus. Brian Jansen, member of the class of 2011, appeared in Boxcar Theatre Company’s productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Max Rosenak, member of the class of 2011, appeared in The Drawer Boy for Oakland’s TheatreFIRST, directed by Lozano. That play followed the premiere of the feature film La Mission, which featured Rosenak alongside A.C.T. M.F.A. Program alumnus Benjamin Bratt. Matt Bradley, member of the class of 2012, appeared in The Full Monty, Forever Plaid, and Dangerous Liaisons with Vampires! at Summer Repertory Theatre in Santa Rosa.

A.C.T. students and alumni also played a role in the development of new dramatic works: May and Jessica Kitchens, member of the class of 2012, took part in the Bay Area Playwrights Festival 2010, where both were featured in workshop productions this summer.

A.C.T. will also celebrate its Conservatory alumni at an Alumni Reunion Weekend October 15–16, which includes such dynamic activities as master classes with A.C.T. faculty, a panel on “The Business of Acting,” and group events at performances of Scapin on the A.C.T. mainstage and the A.C.T. M.F.A. Program production of The Three Sisters at Hastings Studio Theater. For more information about the A.C.T. Conservatory and the Alumni Reunion Weekend, please visit www.act-sf.org.

Ranked as one of the top programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the A.C.T. M.F.A. Program was the first theater training program in the country not affiliated with a college or university accredited to award the master of fine arts degree. The M.F.A. Program functions as the cornerstone of the A.C.T. Conservatory, which also includes the Summer Training Congress, Studio A.C.T., and the Young Conservatory. The third and final year of the program is designed to give students the opportunity to focus primarily on performing for a public audience. Past M.F.A. Program third-year productions have included works by Christopher Durang, Charles Busch, Marc Blitzstein, Georg Büchner, Caryl Churchill, George Farquhar, Henrik Ibsen, Robert O’Hara, Harold Pinter, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Maxim Gorky, and Bertolt Brecht.

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