American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Young Conservatory (YC) Director Craig Slaight is proud to present The Secret of Asteraceae, a play that explores the issues of bullying, tolerance, and self-acceptance, performingAugust 17–24, 2012, at Hastings Studio Theater (77 Geary Street, Sixth Floor, San Francisco). Tickets are $15 and are available bycalling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or online at www.act-sf.org.
"Weird" is just the beginning of the name-calling when eight middle-schoolers ditch cross-country practice one afternoon. Left to their own devices, they are hilarious, mean, and vulnerable all at once. In this intriguing play, right and wrong blur with rumor and innuendo, as "the secret" unravels amid a struggle for friendship and individuality. Written by 19-year-old former YC student Anya Richkind, this provocative play highlights the effects of bullying and how it changes the lives of all involved.
Says Slaight: "When Anya Richkind, an extremely gifted former student in the A.C.T. Young Conservatory, gave me her new play and asked me to look it over and offer my comments, I was immediately taken by the subject matter, the unique and vivid characters, and the maturity of the writing. This is an extraordinary young artist. I felt that since we've been a national leader in developing and presenting new plays with a youthful point of view these past twenty years-some of which Anya had been a part of as a young actor in our program-we could and should give life to this fine new effort from an emerging playwright. So it is with great pride and genuine enthusiasm that we took on this play for our middle school–aged young actors. And with Anya in the rehearsal room, aided by the gifted director Amelia Stewart, I'm thrilled with how this work will land and have a life here at A.C.T."
According to a study conducted nationwide among teachers by the National Education Association (NEA), bullying is widely perceived by school staff to be a serious problem, particularly in middle schools where 66 percent of staff have witnessed bullying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that bullying does not always involve physical violence, but can also include verbal abuse, including name calling and verbal threats, as well as spreading rumors or excluding a person from activities or conversations.
Directed by Amelia Stewart, The Secret of Asteraceae features a talented young cast from across the Bay Area. The cast includesSamuel Berston, Oliver Klein, Elsie Lipson, Aiko Little, Sarah Magen, Lily Marcheschi, Duncan McDonell, and Atessa Moghimi.
Craig Slaight is a resident artist and the director of the Young Conservatory at American Conservatory Theater. Slaight assumed the leadership of the Young Conservatory in 1988. During his time at A.C.T., he has taught in all of the conservatory programs and served as a director on A.C.T. mainstage productions and as a member of the artistic team of the company. Slaight began the Young Conservatory's New Plays Program in 1989 with the mission to develop plays by outstanding professional playwrights that view the world through the eyes of the young. To date 37 new plays by leading American and British playwrights have been developed and produced. With A.C.T.'s Jack Sharrar, Slaight has edited numerous anthologies of scenes and monologues for actors and is the editor of five volumes of New Plays from A.C.T.'s Young Conservatory. Before coming to A.C.T., Slaight was an award-winning professional director in Los Angeles. He has also directed in England at The National Theatre and Theatre Royal Bath and His Majesty's Theatre in Scotland.
Amelia Stewart (Director, The Secret of Asteraceae) is a graduate of A.C.T.'s Master of Fine Arts Program in acting, and has been teaching and directing in the Young Conservatory for over a decade. She also spent 10 summers as head of the drama program for the Governor's School of North Carolina at Salem College. Amelia has performed in A.C.T. productions of A Christmas Carol, Machinal, and The Rose Tattoo. A member of Actor's Equity Association, she has also performed with San Francisco Opera, the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, and the Children's Theatre of Charlotte. In 2007, Stewart was honored to direct the world premiere of Brad Slaight's Middle Class, commissioned by the YC. She has also directed Andy Hamilton's The Exam (performed in A.C.T.'s Garret performance space) and I Was a Rat (performed in Hastings Studio Theater. In 2006, Amelia was the recipient of a Bernard Osher Cultural Award, for which she was nominated by Carey Perloff and Heather Kitchen.