ACT Presents 'Curse of the Starving Class'

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) artistic director Carey Perloff today announced the final casting and design team for A.C.T.'s 30th anniversary production of Sam Shepard's classic interrogation of the American dream, Curse of the Starving Class. Featuring brand-new revisions by Shepard himself, Curse of the Starving Class is directed by Peter Dubois and plays A.C.T. April 25 through May 25. Press night is May 30. Tickets-starting at $14-are available by calling A.C.T. Ticket Services at 415.749.2228, or by logging on to
Pamela Reed, who first appeared at A.C.T. in Pinter's Old Times in 1998 and later starred in Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, originated the role of Emma in the play's 1978 world premiere and appears in this production as Ella.

The cast of Curse of the Starving Class features a number of renowned local and national performers, including Pamela Reed. Reed has performed on Broadway in Fools and The November People and off Broadway in Getting Out at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (Drama Desk Award) and many others. Her extensive film credits include the upcoming Descending from Heaven (with Sam Shepard), Proof of Life, Junior, Passed Away, Kindergarten Cop, Cadillac Man, and The Right Stuff (also with Shepard). Reed received an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance.

Playing the role of the furious and befuddled patriarch Weston, Jack Willis has appeared in more than 200 productions throughout the United States, including recent performances at A.C.T. in Blood Knot, The Rainmaker, Hedda Gabler, A Christmas Carol, The Little Foxes, Happy End, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Black Rider. An A.C.T. associate artist and core acting company member, he is also an associate artist at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. On Broadway, Willis has appeared in Julius Caesar, The Crucible, Art, and The Old Neighborhood.

Appearing here as Wesley, A.C.T. associate artist and core acting company member Jud Williford has acted at A.C.T. in The Government Inspector, The Imaginary Invalid, Happy End, The Rivals, The Time of Your Life, and six seasons of A Christmas Carol. Other theater credits include Mark Jackson's American $uicide with Z Plays and Encore Theatre Company; The Imaginary Invalid at The People's Light Theatre; and All's Well That Ends Well, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and Trinculo in The Tempest at California Shakespeare Theater.

Playing Taylor, Dan Hiatt has been seen at A.C.T. as the Magistrate in The Government Inspector, Bob Acres in The Rivals, Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Smith in The Threepenny Opera, and many others. Other Bay Area credits include Dinner with Friends and Menocchio at Berkeley Repertory Theatre; The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby and numerous other plays at California Shakespeare Theater; Spinning into Butter at TheatreWorks; and The Real Thing and Lifex3 at Marin Theatre Company.

Rod Gnapp (playing Ellis) is a long-time veteran of Bay Area stages, having appeared at A.C.T. in The Government Inspector, The Rainmaker, Happy End, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Time of Your Life, and others. He was recently seen in the Magic Theatre production of Territories, Marin Theatre Company's production of Frozen, and in TheatreWorks's production of The Elephant Man.

Making her A.C.T. debut as Emma, Nicole Lowrance's New York credits include Horton Foote's Dividing the Estate at Primary Stages and upcoming at Lincoln Center; The Merchant of Venice; All's Well That Ends Well, Engaged, and Don Juan, all with Theatre for a New Audience; Columbinus with New York Theatre Workshop; and Tatjana in Color with Culture Project. Television credits include Whoopi, Guiding Light, and American Masters (PBS). 

Playing Malcolm, Craig Marker appeared at A.C.T. in The Circle. Other Bay Area Credits include Brooklyn Boy (Tyler), Dolly West's Kitchen (Jamie), and Shakespeare in Hollywood (Dick Powell) for TheatreWorks; and The Shape of Things (Adam) and The Persians (Xerxes) for Aurora Theatre Company, each of which earned him a Dean Goodman Choice Award. Other credits include the world premiere of David Edgar's Continental Divide (Jack Sand, No Shit) for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Barbican Theatre (UK), and La Jolla Playhouse.

Filling the role of Slater, Howard Swain has appeared at A.C.T. in The Seagull, The Learned Ladies, Taking Steps, A Lie of the Mind, and numerous others. He has also worked at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Aurora Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, TheatreWorks, Word for Word, Magic Theatre, SF Playhouse, Post Street Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, and San Jose Stage, as well as the Oregon, California, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Marin Shakespeare festivals. 

Playing Emerson in this production, T. Edward Webster most recently appeared in Rebecca Gilman's The Crowd You're in With at Magic Theatre. He has been seen at A.C.T. in The Rivals, Night and Day, Edward II, The Time of Your Life, and others. Bay Area theater credits also include Our Town, Eurydice, and Suddenly Last Summer at Berkeley Repertory Theatre; and The Skin of Our Teeth, Much Ado about Nothing, and many others at California Shakespeare Theater.

The design team for Curse of the Starving Class features a mix of nationally renowned artists and A.C.T. favorites. Considered one of the foremost modern American playwrights Sam Shepard was born the son of a career Army father and spent his childhood on military bases in the United States and Guam before his family settled on a farm in Duarte, California. In 1963, Shepard moved to New York City, where he began to write plays for the emerging experimental underground theater scene. In 1966, Red Cross, Chicago, and Icarus's Mother earned Shepard a trio of Village Voice OBIE Awards. In 1967 and 1968, Shepard wrote La Turista, his first full-length play, Melodrama Play, and Forensic and the Navigators, all of which also won OBIEs, and Cowboys #2, which premiered in Los Angeles. He continued to write plays, completing Holy Ghostly and The Unseen Hand in 1969, Operation Sidewinder and Shaved Splits in 1970, and Mad Dog Blues, Back Bog Beast Bait, and Cowboy Mouth (written with poet/musician Patti Smith) in 1971. In 1974, Shepard became the playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, a position he held until 1984. Plays from this period include Action (OBIE Award, 1974), Killer's Head (1975), Angel City (1976), and Suicide in B-Flat (1976). Beginning in the late 1970s, Shepard applied his unconventional dramatic vision to a more conventional dramatic form, the family tragedy, producing Curse of the Starving Class and Buried Child in 1978 (both of which won OBIE Awards) and True West in 1980. Shepard achieved his warmest critical reception with Buried Child, which also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Throughout the 1980s and into the '90s, Shepard continued to write plays-Fool for Love (1983) won OBIEs for best play as well as direction, and A Lie of the Mind (1985) garnered the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding new play-and expanded his work in film. The Magic Theatre premiered The Late Henry Moss, starring Sean Penn and Nick Nolte, before it was moved to the Signature Theatre in New York in 2001. Shepard's recent projects include the plays The God of Hell (2005) and Kicking a Dead Horse, which premiered in Dublin, Ireland in March 2007, and will have its New York premiere in July 2008 at The Public Theater. In 1985 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which awarded him the Gold Medal for Drama in 1992. In 1994 he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

A.C.T.'s production of Curse of the Starving Class is made possible by support from executive producers Barbara and Gerson Bakar, William and Phyllis Draper, Frannie and Mort Fleishhacker, Prisca and Keith Geeslin, Mary and Steven Swig, and Carlie Wilmans; producers Kimberly and Simon Blattner, Dianne and Ron Hoge, Chris and Leslie Johnson, and Barry Williams and Lalita Tademy; and associate producers Nancy and Joachim Bechtle, Jane Bernstein and Bob Ellis, Mr. and Mrs. Steven B. Chase, The Freiberg Family, Ambassador James C. Hormel, Ann and Charlie Johnson, and Paul and Barbara Weiss.

Tickets can be purchased at A.C.T. Ticket Services, located at 405 Geary Street, 415.749.2228; or via the A.C.T. website, Groups of 15 or more people are eligible for discounts; please call 415.439.2473. Sponsored by Bank of the West, a Bring What You Can/Pay What You Wish performance will be held on Thursday, May 1, at 8 p.m. Patrons will be allowed to pay any amount for tickets when they bring a donation of children's books, diapers, or coffee beans to benefit Raphael House, a shelter and support program for homeless families in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Patrons are limited to one ticket per donated item, one ticket per person. Tickets go on sale at 6 p.m. the day of the performance.

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