Young Bay Area Actors Unite for World Premiere—Top of the Pyramid

by Elspeth Sweatman

American Conservatory Theater’s world premiere of Top of the Pyramid—by Pulitzer Prize–nominated playwright Nikkole Salter—explores the challenges faced by a group of friends outside Ferguson, Missouri. When their school loses its accreditation, these high-school students are thrust into a school in a more affluent district. Will they find themselves at the bottom of the pyramid? Will they have a choice?

The cast of Top of the Pyramid in rehearsal. Photo by Tyrone Davis.

The genesis for this production began back in October 2015 at Every 28 Hours, a one-minute play festival in Ferguson. After the festival, playwright Salter discussed the ongoing issues of school integration and social unrest with A.C.T. Community Artistic Director Tyrone Davis. In February 2016, A.C.T. commissioned Salter to write a play for the Collaborative Youth Arts Project, an initiative uniting young actors from three groups: A.C.T.’s Education & Community Programs, our Young Conservatory, and Destiny Arts in Oakland.

Although inspired by this festival in Ferguson and the city’s position at the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign, Top of the Pyramid provides a lens through which these young Bay Area actors can investigate the issues of inclusion, social justice, and understanding in their own communities. “I keep telling them,” director Davis says, “this is bigger than a play. This is more than a summer program. This is real life.”

Top of the Pyramid is running at The Rueff at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater from July 26–30, and at Destiny Arts in Oakland from August 5–6. Click here to purchase tickets.

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