To Sir, With Love: A Celebration of Young Conservatory Director Craig Slaight

By Emily Hanna

Most people know Young Conservatory Director Craig Slaight as a director, producer, or teacher. I am probably one of the few that has known him solely as an administrator. Watching Craig at the helm of the Young Conservatory has been one of the greatest gifts of my career.

A.C.T. Young Conservatory Director Craig Slaight. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Sometimes seen as a ‘less glamorous’ role in the world of theater, administration is where the greatest demonstration of love and passion for your collaborators can be seen. In rehearsal, the work is instantly kinetic with the immediate rewards of artistic decision making. Running a program and thinking strategically for a community that is hungry for rigorous training and artistic expression takes discipline, perspective, and patience. Speaking as an artist, these are not instinctive but learned traits.

When I joined A.C.T.’s conservatory team, I quickly found the threads of the YC to be a carefully woven tapestry, the result of seasons of fine tuning. Classes, cabarets, new works, college prep, summer programming, local and international collaborations: I remember taking in the volume of opportunity for young actors and nearly being overwhelmed. It would take me more than a few months to understand the full scope of the program.

As I dived into the program, I watched Craig cycle through his rack of hats: taking the time to talk to a parent concerned about his or her student’s future or what class he or she should take, sitting down with a faculty member to offer advice and insight on curriculum and student dynamics, trading books with coworkers, and fortifying me with iced coffees and advice. One of my first and favorite nuggets from Craig was “We do not call them children or sheep to be herded about, they are young people.”

Craig’s championing of young voices extends beyond the landscape of commissioning new and unflinching works for this community. It is palpable in the culture of the program, from the language on our website to his investment in relationships with parents and students, to his faculty orientations and how he’s curated his office library. And what greater gift can a “grown-up” give you than to believe you, validate your experience, and foster your curiosity? As someone who constantly questions their adult status, my inner teenager lit up on my first day, settling into the gray chair in his office and listening to him count the ways of this program. No ego, no pretense. Just a man who put his heart into all the pieces of his work, stem to stern.

Thank you, Craig, for 29 years of enthusiasm, dedication, and passion. We will miss you!
Emily Hanna is the Young Conservatory and Studio A.C.T. Associate.

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