A.C.T. Young Conservatory Makes Theater on an International Stage

As part of a two-year summer international exchange program, the A.C.T. Young Conservatory (YC) will collaborate with Scotland's Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA) Young Persons Company to explore actor training in residencies in Aberdeen and San Francisco. Following each summer workshop, the companies will present a co-commissioned work at their respective theaters.
For the inaugural session of the program, the YC and APA Young Persons Company co-commissioned Scottish playwright DC Jackson to write [untitled] Reality Project, which brings audiences into the world of reality television. Students from the YC traveled to Aberdeen, Scotland, over the summer of 2012 for two weeks of acting and cultural immersion, workshopping the new play with the playwright and taking part in classes and extracurricular experiences with the APA Young Persons Company. 

The cast of [untitled] Reality Project. Photo by Alessandra Mello.
YC Director Craig Slaight reflects, "This exciting new collaboration continues the YC's international reach, begun in 2000 in the United Kingdom with London's National Theatre and continued with Theatre Royal Bath. Our union with Aberdeen Performing Arts combines the important development of new plays by professional playwrights for intergenerational and international young actors and audiences with a deeply human exchange of culture and passion for the arts between two countries."
During the 2012–13 season, both companies will present a fully staged version of the new work in their home theaters. The YC is currently presenting [untitled] Reality Project at A.C.T.'s Hastings Studio Theater through November 10, 2012. Tickets are $15 and available online or by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228.

At the end of their two weeks in Scotland, the students reflected on their overseas experience.

Aidan Elsesser
To have the opportunity to train in another country with foreign kids and foreign directors is truly incredible; I can say firsthand that what I learned during the two weeks in Scotland will be valuable for the rest of my life. We were exposed to different techniques, performance styles, and teaching styles that were new to us at the time, but are now an invaluable part of our performance vocabulary. And from a social standpoint, I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I was able to meet eight wonderful Scottish kids, work with them, and bond over the passion we all share for theater.

Christina Euphrat in [untitled] Reality Project. Photo by Alessandra Mello.
Christina Euphrat
When we met the eight young actors from Aberdeen Performing Arts, otherwise known as our "Aberdeen buddies", there was a mutual eagerness from both groups of performers to start working with each other. But the second and final week was, I believe, the most rewarding one. We were able to witness the work, writing, and rewriting that went into the creation of this new show. It was beyond incredible to see firsthand how a new play is born and put on its feet.

Lucie Fleming
What I think is one of the most incredible aspects of this exchange program is the friendships that I made in just 14 days. Our cast became a family immediately, and we quickly learned to support, love, and protect one another unconditionally. One of my fondest memories from the trip was the first day we met our Aberdeen buddies and we all went to this coffee house and ended up staying for almost three hours just laughing with each other and comparing American and Scottish slang and common phrases.

Carson Harvey
There was a large amount of cultural exchange on this trip. In our dorms alone, we had people from Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, and Ireland. We were able to see people from all over the world. We got to share our art form with youth from everywhere. We got to experience everything from Belgian experimental theater to traditional Czech dances. Coincidently, there was a world market going on, one block from His Majesty's Theater. Within the three days of the market I ate meats from Australia, noodles from Japan, sweets from Italy, crepes from France, and pancakes from Belgium. We befriended dancers from Germany and Ireland, drummers from the Caribbean, and actors from Belgium and Scotland. We got an inside look at what life is like for the eight Scottish teens we were paired up with.

Roman Moretti in [untitled] Reality Project. Photo by Alessandra Mello.
Roman Moretti
Being able to meet playwright DC Jackson was an experience that cannot be explained. It was wonderful being able to read through a fresh play with the playwright sitting right across from you. It helped because you got to see who was behind the script and what was going through his head as you read through it.

Meg Nakamura
The moment we got off the plane in Aberdeen, I already knew that I had been given the opportunity to be part of something extremely special. Craig had said that the Aberdeen International Youth Festival was going to be like the youth arts Olympics, and that is exactly what it felt like: getting to work hard and do what we love with others who were as serious as we were, while, at the same time, meeting different types of artists from all over the world. We were exposed to so much, that it gave us the opportunity to grow, not only as actors, but also as people. We saw new musicals, plays, dance recitals, and even a circus. The most avant-garde piece of theater I have ever seen was Madame Très Bleue, an amazing production done by Dutch youth. I will never forget it.

Seana Nicol
My experience in Aberdeen was something that I will never forget. I seriously felt like I was on a movie set the entire time, and everyone there was just so welcoming. I enjoyed getting to have the opportunity to visit another country and to be able to study, learn, and prepare a new play to bring back to the U.S. The whole process of getting new pages practically every day was exciting and constantly made me curious as to what we would be getting the next day. Working with the playwright was amazing. I found it interesting that he started to put our personalities into the characters as he got to know us.

J. Peter Scattini
All in all, the entire experience was incredible. Getting to interact with people from around the world in the Aberdeen International Youth Festival and making friendships that I know will last were incredible bonuses to the experience. Getting to work side by side with another company in another country, having workshops together and working on an original play by a Scottish playwright is easily the most fulfilling theater experience that I have ever had.

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