A.C.T. Welcomes Associate Conservatory Director Peter J. Kuo

By A.C.T. Publications Team 

Peter J. Kuo is a director, producer, writer, and educator focused on raising the visibility of marginalized communities. As social justice programs coordinator at The New School, he founded the NSD: Affinity Groups program and was involved with several EDI initiatives. He is the co-founder of Artists at Play, a Los Angeles Asian American Theatre Collective. As a director, he has worked at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, East West Players, South Coast Rep., Geffen Playhouse, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Leviathan Lab, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, and others. He was recently named one of Theatre Communications Group's Rising Leaders of Color.

A.C.T. Associate Conservatory Director Peter J. Kuo.

We are so excited to have you at A.C.T., Peter! What drew you to this role? 
I had just received my MFA in directing from The New School when I heard from A.C.T.’s new artistic director, Pam MacKinnon, who I’ve known for nearly six years. She knew that I was a director, arts administrator, and teacher who was looking to incorporate Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion values into these roles. I was not expecting to find a position that fulfilled all my interests. However, when Pam recommended me for this position, I was thrilled. I hit it off quickly with Conservatory Director Melissa Smith and was excited about the impact my position could have on creating the future artists of the American theater.

Between teaching classes and directing, you have a lot going on this year. What are you most excited for? 
I am discovering an incredible passion for advising and teaching students. I have spent a lot of time developing my self-awareness, which feeds my lifelong journey as an artist. Watching young artists awaken their artistic soul and become curious and passionate individuals has been extremely fulfilling. Of course, I’m also looking forward to getting my hands back into some directing. I’m very excited to see how the students take what I and the other faculty members have taught them and apply it in the rehearsal room.

From Left: M.F.A. Program actor Ashley J. Hicks, Men on Boats playwright Jaclyn Backhuas,
Director of Dramaturgy and New Works Joy Meads, Associate Conservatory Director Peter J. Kuo,
and M.F.A. Program actor Summer Brown. Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.

Can you share a little bit about why you chose to direct Medea this spring and your vision for the production? 
A lot of the plays I love to work on centralize stories of oppression. Medea is a strong female character who is fighting against a patriarchal society where she is treated cruelly. She is also an immigrant, a stranger in her land, and an occultist. She recognizes the injustice that is happening to her and decides to take matters into her own hands. But she is flawed, as all humans are. She is unable to get justice, so extracts vengeance instead.

Our country is very torn right now, and there are many people who are being wronged. Sadly, some oppressed communities are reacting by lashing out violently; it is the only way they can be heard. But there is a cost to vengeance. It often perpetuates these cycles of abuse and violence. In my production, I want Medea to be portrayed as a strong woman, her actions driven by a need to be heard.

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