With the help of A.C.T. Young Conservatory alumnus Darren Criss and two-time Tony Award winner Bill Irwin, American Conservatory Theater raised over $760,000 at its 2012 Season Gala, Expect the Unexpected!, which took place Sunday, April 15, at The Regency Center in San Francisco.

More than 400 guests attended this year’s Gala, which began with a cocktail reception, followed by a lavish dinner and an original musical production titled Tales of A.C.T.!, written exclusively for the Gala by A.C.T. Publications Manager Dan Rubin and directed by A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker, who most recently directed Maple and Vine at A.C.T. The production featured A.C.T. Young Conservatory alumnus Darren Criss(TV’s GleeHow to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway), two-time Tony Award winner Bill Irwin (the upcoming Endgame and Scapin at A.C.T., Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway), A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program graduate Patrick Lane (Brian Hawkins in A.C.T.’s world premiere production ofArmistead Maupin’s Tales of the City), and Betsy Wolfe (Mary Ann Singleton in A.C.T.’s world premiere production of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City110 in the Shade and Everyday Rapture on Broadway)alongside students from the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program and Young Conservatory and members ofA.C.T.’s Board of Trustees, many of whom made their stage debuts.

In addition to the Gala’s guests, 180 Bay Area high school students and teachers with a passion for the arts were sponsored to attend this event by Rick and Anne Riley as part of the Gala Fan Club. They enjoyed Tales of A.C.T.! from prime balcony seating before attending  a catered reception, during which Darren Criss and other YC alumni fielded questions from the eager, star-struck youths.

The evening’s live auction—featuring several one-of-a-kind items, including dinner and drinks with acclaimed playwright and A.C.T. associate artist Tom Stoppard in London and a walk-on role in A.C.T.’s beloved family classic, A Christmas Carol —and Paddle Raise brought in a combined total of $238,550.

Says A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff: “We are deeply humbled by the generosity of our donors who helped us raise the funds needed to support A.C.T.’s acclaimed actor training and arts education programs.  Because of their generosity—and the generosity of our talented performers—A.C.T.’s Conservatory will remain at the forefront of actor-training programs in the country and our year-old education department will continue to grow in wonderful ways!”

The Gala Committee, led by Patti Rueff, included Lynn Brinton, Mollie Ricker, Carla Riemer, Anne Shonk, andMichelle Shonk. Gala sponsors included Bleacher ReportElectronic Arts, Frito Lay, San Francisco Giants, GRAMMY Foundation, Happy Cheeks, Macy’s, PepsiCo, Shutterfly, University of Phoenix, BV Wine, Erin Mac Jewelry, Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shops, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and Korbel Champagne.The Gala dinner was provided by McCalls Catering & Events.

Led by Melissa Smith, the A.C.T. Conservatory serves more than 2,200 students through its acclaimed actor-training programs and represents an integral part of A.C.T.’s mission. Ranked as one of the top programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts 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.  Elizabeth Banks, Benjamin Bratt, Annette Bening, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, and Denzel Washington are among the conservatory’s distinguished former students. With its commitment to excellence in actor training and to the relationship between training, performance, and audience, the A.C.T. Conservatory has moved to the forefront of America’s actor training programs, while serving as the creative engine of the company at large. The A.C.T. Young Conservatory, led by Craig Slaight, offers a broad range of theater training for young people aged 8 to 19. The ten sessions and four public productions offered throughout the year are designed to develop talent and creativity, as well as communication and cooperation skills, for young people with all levels of theater background. Working professional actors and directors lead students in a spectrum of classes, including acting, directing, voice and speech, musical theater, audition, and improvisation.