A.C.T.'s 2014 Season Gala Raises Over $670K for Actor Training and Arts Education Programs

A.C.T.'s 2014 Season Gala Raises Over $670K for Actor Training and Arts Education Programs

With the help of students from the Master of Fine Arts and Young Conservatory programs, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) raised over $670,000 at its 2014 Season Gala, FLEISHHACKER, MAGNIN, SWIG -- A.C.T.'s MAD, MAD MEN, which honored the three founding fathers of A.C.T. -- Mortimer Fleishhacker, Jr., Cyril Magnin, and Melvin Swig -- and celebrated the past, present, and future of the organization. The Gala took place on Sunday, May 18, at the historic Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. The proceeds from the Gala support A.C.T.'s actor training and arts education programs.

More than 280 guests attended this year's Mad Men-inspired Gala, which began with a cocktail reception and surprise FlashMob performance of Devil in a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly performed by trustee Michael P. Nguyen, the Young Conservatory, and members of A.C.T.'s Board of Trustee, followed by an original musical production titled Mad Mad Men: The Untold Story of A.C.T.'s Founding, written exclusively for the Gala by A.C.T. Publications Manager and local playwright Dan Rubin and directed and choreographed by Amy Anders Corcoran. The production featured performances by students from A.C.T.'s Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program and Young Conservatory (YC). Following the performance, guests were treated to a 1960s inspired dinner provided by McCalls Catering & Events.

The evening's live auction featured several one-of-a-kind items, including a background extra role in Pitch Perfect 2, directed and produced by A.C.T. alumna Elizabeth Banks; a walk-on role in A.C.T.'s upcoming production of Old Hats, starring Tony Award winners Bill Irwin and David Shiner; and dinner for 12 with Tony Award winner BD Wong at the home of Ambassador James C. Hormel and Michael P. Nguyen in San Francisco's Millennium Tower.

The Gala was led by Gala Co-Chairs Nancy Sawyer Hasson and Fred M. Levin. Gala sponsors for the evening included; Performance Sponsor Kaiser Permanente, Media Sponsor Nob Hill Gazette plus Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry, Alysian Wines, The Art of Shaving, Blue Angel Vodka, Campanile, Cannonball Wine Company, Central Kitchen, City Cellars, Copy Central, Cornerstone Cellars, EnRoute, The Fairmont San Francisco, Far Niente, Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, Kaur Photography, La Méditerranée, MacArthur Place, MAC Cosmetics, Macauley Vineyard, Make Up For Ever, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, Michael Merrill Design Studio, ModCloth, Moreno Fine California Sparkling Wine, Ne Timeas Restaurant Group, Nespresso, Nickel & NickelWiney, Papapietro Perry, Peter's Kettle Corn, Prager Winery and Port Works, San Francisco Giants, Six Sigma, Tatcha, and Uber.

American Conservatory Theater is a Tony Award-winning theater and educational institution dedicated to nurturing the art of live theater through dynamic productions, intensive actor training in its conservatory, 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 our 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. A.C.T. opened its first San Francisco season in 1967. Since then, A.C.T. has performed more than 350 productions to a combined audience of more than seven million people. A.C.T. reaches more than 250,000 people through its productions and programs every year.

Ranked as one of the top programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program-under the direction of Melissa Smith-is the only theater training program in the country accredited to award the master of fine arts degree, yet is not affiliated with a college or university. The essence of A.C.T.'s actor training lies in the interplay between the professional company and the Conservatory. Student actors at A.C.T. perform frequently within the program in studio productions, as well as in cabaret and Shakespeare productions that tour to the larger Bay Area. Third-year M.F.A. Program student actors perform in A.C.T.'s mainstage production of A Christmas Carol and also audition for roles in A.C.T. mainstage productions. In recent years, students have played leading roles in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, Once in a Lifetime, Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, as well as performing in new and commissioned works. Many graduates of the program go on to distinguished careers in theater and film and include such celebrated actors as Elizabeth Banks, Annette Bening, Christopher Fitzgerald, Danny Glover, Omar Metwally, Dileep Rao, Anna Deavere Smith, and Denzel Washington. A.C.T. provides a wealth of talented actors for productions across the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond: graduates of the M.F.A. Program have taken on leading roles in productions at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Stage, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz, among others. 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., the Young Conservatory, and the new San Francisco Semester, and trains more than 3,000 students annually. For more information, visit act-sf.org/conservatory.

Spearheaded by Craig Slaight, the Young Conservatory (YC) at A.C.T. is an internationally recognized professional theater training program for young people between the ages of 8 and 19. Young actors from throughout the Bay Area (and often other states) come to the Young Conservatory to develop their creative talent and to grow as young artists, perform in professional-caliber productions, and learn confidence and communication skills. The YC offers dynamic courses throughout the year for both beginners exploring acting for the first time as well as young actors with previous experience. Classes are designed to develop imagination, concentration, character, professionalism, and technique, and to strengthen the student's command of his/her body and voice. Our faculty consists of working theater professionals who are particularly skilled in working with young actors.

The YC stages eight public productions a year, participates in international exchange programs with theater companies in Europe, and is the nation's leader in commissioning new plays written specifically for young actors. Since 1989, the YC has commissioned 48 new plays, including two by Pulitzer Prize winners. Many students who attend the YC go on to include the arts in their college curricula, and alumni are often seen gracing stages in the Bay Area and across the country. Some alumni, like Winona Ryder, Darren Criss and Nicolas Cage, go on to highly successful acting careers. Regardless of their chosen professions, all YC students take with them the creative and communication skills necessary to live successfully.

EDUCATION & OUTREACH:

As noted by President Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in its 2011 report "Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools," creative arts have a proven positive impact on student achievement in all areas of study, yet public funding for creative arts programs has decreased at an alarming rate. Established in 2011 with the appointment of Director of Education Elizabeth Brodersen, the expansion of A.C.T's community-wide educational efforts helps to fill this gap in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A.C.T.'s current ACTsmart education and outreach programs-which this season reached more than 10,000 students from across the Bay Area-consist of one of the oldest Student Matinee (SMAT) programs in the country, offering schools low-cost tickets to performances of A.C.T.'s mainstage and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program production repertory; Will on Wheels, the annual touring production of a Shakespeare classic performed in Bay Area schools and community venues by M.F.A. Program students; the ACTsmart Partnership Program, which provides free tickets to A.C.T. productions, free study guides, and free workshops at partner schools and community organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and nonprofits serving low-income residents of A.C.T.'s Central Market/Tenderloin neighborhood; and the ACTsmart Intensive Residency Program, which provides in-depth instruction in writing and performance for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth. Each summer, A.C.T. also offers Back to the Source, A.C.T.'s new institute for educators who use theater techniques in the classroom, as well as ongoing training during the school year for teachers and principals in the San Francisco Unified School District.

Over the past four decades, generations of Bay Area residents have experienced theater for the first time through A.C.T.'s arts education programs. ACTsmart not only enriches the lives of students by encouraging their ability to collaboratively solve problems, appreciate diverse perspectives, and present ideas with confidence, it is essential to fostering the type of creativity and innovation essential to individual achievement and our nation's success in today's global economy.

With the recent receipt of a major grant from the Irvine Foundation to fund our new Stage Coach initiative, A.C.T. is today poised to extend the power of theatrical storytelling to diverse neighborhoods across San Francisco, providing opportunities for individuals and communities to engage in dialogue and experience transformation, empowerment, and self-affirmation through creative expression.

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