A.C.T. Celebrates Launch of Back to the Source Educator Institute
American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Director of Education Elizabeth Brodersen announced today the successful launch of Back to the Source, a new training institute for schoolteachers and teaching artists who use theater techniques in the classroom.
As part of A.C.T.’s recently introduced education initiative, the theater welcomed an eclectic group of 15 educators from as far away as Oregon, Wyoming, and Baltimore, as well as many from the Bay Area—several of whom have partnered with A.C.T. over the years through its ArtReach and Student Matinee programs and the Downtown High School Acting for Critical Thought project. The goal of the program is to help educators (re)connect with their artistic selves by going “back to the source” in an immersive actor-training intensive designed to help them bring new techniques, insights, and passion for theater back to their classrooms.
Over the course of the six-day program, participants were given the opportunity to create their own devised work with Dan Wolf (founding member of Bay Area hip-hop/theater collective Felonious, resident artist at Intersection for the Arts) while training in physical character with A.C.T. Head of Movement Stephen Buescher and voice/speech with A.C.T. alumna Stephanie Hunt (Word for Word) and studying theater literature (about-to-be published new plays commissioned by the A.C.T. Young Conservatory) with A.C.T. Director of Academic Affairs Jack Sharrar. The activities were accompanied by daily reflection and integration sessions with Traveling Jewish Theater cofounder Corey Fischer. Each day, the participants also took part in issues seminars—led by A.C.T. artistic and conservatory staff, as well as guest instructor Sarah Crowell(artistic director of Destiny Arts Center, a movement-based violence intervention program in Oakland)—designed to help them connect the creative skills and techniques they are developing at A.C.T. with their own classroom practice.
The culmination of the six-day program was a final performance attended by friends, family, A.C.T.’s board and executive leadership, and representatives of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) department of the San Francisco Unified School District. The 15 participants—who included K–12 teachers of math, science, and English as well as drama—were also given the opportunity to attend four Bay Area theatrical productions. Funded by a generous grant from The Moca Foundation, the program enabledparticipating teachers to earn academic credit from A.C.T. as well as Continuing Education Units from San Francisco State University. Thanks to the foundation’s support, participants from Bay Area public schools with demonstrated financial need were able to attend Back to the Source on scholarships.
“American Conservatory Theater’s one-week Back to the Source intensive workshop for teachers was as exciting as it was energizing,” says Susan Stauter, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Unified School District. “Those of us who viewed the participants’ culminating showcase left the theater inspired to know that these creative and talented teachers will return to their classrooms to pass on what they have learned to generations of students. Once again, A.C.T. has shown itself to be a tremendous resource for theater education at its best. Bravo, A.C.T.!”
“Teachers are the great unsung heroes of our society,” says Brodersen. “They struggle against insurmountable odds to bring quality education to their students in an era of extreme funding cuts. We are proud to offer them the chance to connect deeply with their own creativity and with each other, reinvigorating their passion for teaching while offering them practical techniques they can bring back to their students. By helping educators keep theater alive in their classrooms, A.C.T. extends arts-based education to an ever-widening circle of young people, fostering the imaginative and innovative critical skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.”
American Conservatory Theater, a Tony Award–winning nonprofit organization in the heart of San Francisco, nurtures the art of live theater through Dynamic Productions, intensive actor training, and an ongoing engagement with its community. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Carey Perloff and Executive Director Ellen Richard, A.C.T. embraces its responsibility to conserve, renew, and reinvent its relationship to the rich theatrical traditions and literatures that are our collective legacy, while exploring new artistic forms and new communities. A commitment to the highest standards informs every aspect of A.C.T.’s creative work.
In addition to the actor training provided in its top-ranked Conservatory, A.C.T. brings the benefits of theater-based arts education to the wider community, including more than 8,000 students a year. Central to A.C.T.’s education programs is the longstanding Student Matinee (SMAT) program, which over the past three decades has brought tens of thousands of young people to A.C.T. performances with low-cost tickets, Words on Plays teacher guides, and lively postshow discussions. A.C.T.’s intensive ArtReach program provides free SMAT tickets, teaching artist residencies, in-school workshops, and in-depth study materials to Bay Area public schools and after-school programs, bringing the experience of live theater directly into the classroom. In addition, each spring students in the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program take a Shakespeare production on tour with Will on Wheels, transporting the words of the Bard to school auditoriums and public spaces in and around San Francisco. With the recent adoption of a new ten-year strategic plan that includes an ambitious arts education component, and the appointment of Elizabeth Brodersen as A.C.T.’s first director of education, A.C.T. is committed to nurturing the artists and audiences of the future while helping the diverse members of our extended community find inspiration in great works of classical and contemporary dramatic literature.
Lead support for A.C.T.’s Theater in Schools programs is provided by Bank of America, Bank of the West, Grants for the Arts, JPMorgan Chase & Co., National Endowment for the Arts, PG&E, US Bank, and Wells Fargo. Additional support provided by Bingham McCutchen, Deloitte, The Kimball Foundation, The Michelson Family Foundation, The Moca Foundation, National Corporate Theatre Fund, The San Francisco Foundation, The Sato Foundation, Union Bank Foundation, and Linda Kurtz.
To find out how you can support A.C.T.’s growing arts education programs, contact Stephanie Mazow, Associate Director of Development—Institutional Giving, at 415.439.2434 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about Back to the Source 2013, contact Elizabeth Brodersen, Director of Education, at 415.439.2475 or email@example.com or visit act-sf.org/backtothesource.