Fellow by Day, Director by Night

By Ariella Wolfe, A.C.T. Stage Coach Fellow

Every year at American Conservatory Theater, there are aspiring young theater professionals doing fellowships in different departments of the company, from backstage to back office. Because of the size of the organization, most of us don’t work together regularly. That’s why The Fellowship Project is so important—it’s an opportunity for A.C.T.’s fellows to work together to produce a show from start to finish, contributing their disparate skills to a larger production and honing their craft as artists and administrators.

A.C.T.'s 2015–16 Fellows. Photo by Gretchen Feyer. 

This year’s Fellowship Project is Top Girls by Caryl Churchill. In addition to my fellowship in education and community programs, I am directing this production. This is allowing me to continue finding meaningful connections between my interest in directing and my passion for social change through theater. Young theater artists are drawn to the fellowship program at A.C.T. for many reasons, and the hope is that we are able to gain professional development experience from both our primary position and our work after hours.

What’s great about working on Top Girls is that I get to collaborate with others who are at a similar stage in their careers who work every day in different teams: marketing, stage management, dramaturgy, production. Although this annual project is relatively new (it started with The Glass Menageriein 2014), it is becoming a tradition that will provide future fellows the chance to take on leadership roles and grow through new collective challenges.

Even as I prepare for rehearsals this month, serving as the director of Top Girls is already teaching me about leadership and collaboration. I was drawn to the play itself, set in 1980s England, because of its commentary on feminism, capitalism, and the myth that you will succeed if you work hard enough. My work on the play is driving me to reflect on how gender stereotypes and subconscious biases influence workplace environments, as well as how I, as a woman, define ambition and success.

The Fellowship Project is not easy. All of us have spent hours poring over scripts, developing a budget, planning fundraising, researching historical material, holding auditions, and meeting with designers. But throughout the challenges that my fellowship is providing, I am conscious that these experiences are inspiring new realizations that will ultimately help to shape my future.

Top Girls will take place in A.C.T.'s Costume Shop Theater, 1117 Market Street
April 2123, 7:30 p.m.
April 23 & 24, 2:00 p.m.
Made possible with generous support from A.C.T.

Donate here! To reserve tickets, contact Ashley Gennarelli at agennarelli@act-sf.org.

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