A.C.T.'s 2018 Sky Festival Moves and Shakes 30 Grant

By Taylor Steinbeck

Each year, the Master of Fine Arts Program actors bring the studios of 30 Grant to life, with a week full of student-directed, student-written, student-acted performances called Sky Festival. This year’s Sky Festival was no different: everything from dramatic classics (Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) to contemporary comedies (Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Motherfucker with the Hat) to student-devised projects (third-year M.F.A. actor Kadeem Ali Harris’s Black Masculinity) were staged for A.C.T.’s staff and friends to enjoy. 
Leonard A. Thomas and the cast of Kadeem Ali Harris's Black Masculinity. A.C.T.'s 2018 Sky Festival. Photo by Jay Yamada.
Harris’s moving piece featured six black actors—Jared C. Manders, LeRoy Smith Graham, Edward Neville Ewell, Joseph Givens II, and Leonard A. Thomas—including himself, exploring the different facets of black masculinity through movement and monologue. In one of the show’s many powerful moments, the men led all of the black women out of the audience to center stage and washed their feet in tribute to their strength and beauty. Several of the women were brought to tears by this gesture. “I'm not sure how many other graduate schools across the country would give space and time for the black men to come together and create a piece,” says Thomas. “I'm very grateful not just for the experience of sharing this piece with an audience, but also for the rehearsal process with the cast itself. Black Masculinity is an experience that I will take with me through the rest of my career and my life.”

What makes Sky Festival so unique is that it presents M.F.A. actors with the opportunity to try their hand at something new or tackle a creative challenge. They can perform a work from the canon alongside a mentor (which is what third-year actor Oliver Shirley did with A.C.T.’s Head of Movement Stephen Buescher), or direct a work of their own, like second-year actor Göran Norquist did with Sweeney Todd. No matter the show, the offices below 30 Grant's 8th and 9th floors had the privilege of listening to all the sounds of live theater for an entire week.

Here are some pictures from a few of this year’s great shows.

M.F.A Program actor Oliver Shirley and A.C.T. faculty member Stephen Buescher in Waiting for Godot. A.C.T.'s 2018 Sky Festival. Photo by Jay Yamada.
M.F.A Program actors Monica Ho and Göran Norquist in Sweeney Todd. A.C.T.'s 2018 Sky Festival. Photo by Jay Yamada.
M.F.A. Program actors Jennifer Apple and Matt Monaco in The Motherfucker with the Hat. A.C.T.'s Sky Festival. 
Photo by Jay Yamada.
A.C.T.'s Master of Fine Arts Program Class of 2018 will be performing Stephen Adly Guirgis's dark comedy, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, from February 22–March 3 at The Rueff at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater. Click here to purchase tickets.

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