Upcoming M.F.A. Season: A Breadth of Genres, Styles, and Cultures

By Annie Sears

First, second, and third–year M.F.A. students get to know each other at the kick-off of the 2018–19 year.
Our M.F.A. students joined us at 30 Grant three weeks ago, and they've already hit the ground running on their upcoming season. From tragedies to comedies, from classics to new works, from Russia to the woods outside ancient Athens, students will explore a wide variety of genres, styles, and cultures.

“It is a panoply of theater that will challenge and grow the students in each year of the program,” says Conservatory Director Melissa Smith. “We are especially pleased to have a lineup of five accomplished and innovative directors—all of whom identify as women, artists of color, or both—working with our students.”

M.F.A. students are equally thrilled by the season’s leadership. “It’s always great to collaborate with new artists who bring freshness to your work,” says third-year M.F.A. student William Hoeschler. “That’s why Lavina Jadhwani, Mina Morita, and Susan Soon He Stanton are amazing additions to this year.”

Jadhwani will kick off the season later this month by directing Three Sisters, a classic tragicomedy by late 19th-century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Students have a special relationship with this script. “During our first year,” says third-year Caleb Lewis, “we explored scenes from three of Chekhov’s four major works, but Three Sisters was our favorite. We'll get to see how much we've changed and hopefully grown by re-approaching this text.”

Come November, M.F.A. students will hop back a century and over to England for Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, a bawdy comedy of rumors and intrigue set in late 18th-century London. A.C.T.’s Head of Voice Christine Adaire will direct her own adaptation.

Students will also stage something entirely new. Susan Soon He Stanton workshopped Both Your Houses last May at A.C.T.’s New Strands Festival, and M.F.A. students were part of the project. This February, Crowded Fire Theater’s artistic director Mina Morita will direct a fully staged version. “Working on new plays has been an extraordinary experience,” says third-year Carlos Andrickson. “Watching Mina and Susan work inspires me to work even harder.”

As part of A.C.T.’s Will on Wheels Program, M.F.A. students will spend March touring Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to local schools. Bay Area native Dawn Monique Williams will direct.

And to close the season, Pirronne Yousefzadeh will direct Kate Hamill’s adaptation of the beloved Jane Austen novel Sense and Sensibility. This show will run in May, coinciding with A.C.T.’s mainstage production of Vanity Fair, also adapted by Kate Hamill.

“I’m excited to dive into shows that have been so beautifully selected,” says third-year Jerrie Johnson. “I’m even more excited that so many of our directors are women of color. It’s a step in the right direction for A.C.T. and for American theater.”

Up first: Three Sisters which runs September 27–29 at The Strand. Get your tickets today!

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