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Conservatory Director Melissa Smith to Depart American Conservatory Theater

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Peter J. Kuo will oversee all Conservatory programs as Director of the Conservatory. Current Head of Movement Danyon Davis will now serve as Director of the MFA program.

Conservatory Director Melissa Smith to Depart American Conservatory Theater

After 25 years at the helm, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Conservatory Director Melissa Smith announced today that she will be departing the Bay Area's premier nonprofit theater organization effective December 31, 2020. Current Associate Conservatory Director Peter J. Kuo will oversee all Conservatory programs as Director of the Conservatory. Current Head of Movement Danyon Davis will now serve as Director of the MFA program overseeing faculty, production, and the curriculum.

"For 25 years it has been my privilege to oversee A.C.T.'s Conservatory," says Smith. "Through all this time I have had the good fortune to work with dedicated staff, brilliant faculty and gifted, ambitious students. There have been many challenges; there have been many more rewards. As I step away, it gives me great joy to see my colleagues Danyon Davis and Peter Kuo assume leadership of the school. They are two exceptional artist/educators who will lead the programs in new, exciting directions."

"We are grateful for Melissa's dedication and commitment to American Conservatory Theater over the past 25 years," says A.C.T. Executive Director Jennifer Bielstein. "Under her leadership, A.C.T.'s Conservatory has flourished into an internationally-recognized institution for professional actor training and artistic excellence. We celebrate her many contributions." Bielstein further expressed, "We are pleased that Melissa has provided for a smooth transition of leadership of the program to Peter Kuo and Danyon Davis and look forward to what the future holds under their guidance."

Adds A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon: "I feel so grateful to have worked side-by-side with Melissa these last two years. She is an amazing educator, a real artist, valued colleague, and friend. Her legacy at the Conservatory-building a celebrated program of rigorous professional actor training-is large and true."

Melissa Smith has served as Conservatory Director and Head of Acting in the MFA Program at A.C.T. since 1995. During that time, she has overseen the expansion of the MFA Program from a two- to a three-year course of study and the further integration of the MFA Program faculty and student body with A.C.T.'s artistic wing while teaching and directing in the MFA, Summer Training Congress and Studio ACT. She also successfully launched A.C.T.'s San Francisco Semester, a semester-long intensive crafted to deepen the students' well of acting experience, broaden their knowledge of dramatic literature and sharpen their technical skills - all the while further immersing them in the multifaceted cultural landscape of the Bay Area. Prior to assuming leadership of the A.C.T. Conservatory, Smith was the Director of the Program in Theater and Dance at Princeton University, where she also taught introductory, intermediate, and advanced acting. She has taught acting classes to students of all ages in various colleges, high schools, and studios around the continental United States, at the Mid Pacific Institute in Hawaii, NYU's La Pietra campus in Florence, and the Teatro di Pisa in San Miniato, Italy. She is featured in Acting Teachers of America: A Vital Tradition. Also a professional actor, she has performed regionally at the Hangar Theatre, A.C.T., the California Shakespeare Festival, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre; in New York at Primary Stages and Soho Rep; and in England at the Barbican Theater in London and Birmingham Rep in Birmingham. Smith appears as Dolly in the soon to be released "Nomadland," produced by and starring Frances McDormand. Smith holds a B.A. from Yale College and an M.F.A. in Acting from the Yale School of Drama.



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