With a commitment to ensuring access to the wonders of live theater for our diverse communities, A.C.T. offers free tickets, workshops, study materials, residency programs, performance space, and scholarships to numerous partner schools and organizations serving the Bay Area.
ACTsmart School Residency Programs
DOWNTOWN HIGH SCHOOL: In fall 2011, A.C.T. launched an intensive year-long pilot residency program with Downtown High School (DHS), a project-based-learning continuation school that serves youth from all over San Francisco who have not experienced success in conventional public schools. After six semesters of collaboration with DHS’s Acting for Critical Thought project, A.C.T. now partners with DHS’s new Performing and Publishing Our Perspectives (P2OP) project; students attend weekly acting classes in A.C.T.’s studios, are encouraged to attend all A.C.T. mainstage and conservatory productions, learn about backstage careers such as theater production and marketing, and write their own original monologues and essays on issues of social relevance, which they perform in a pop-up magazine format for their school community and families in A.C.T. venues each semester. The 826 Valencia literacy initiative provides tutors to help students with their writing and has published their dramatic work in the anthologies Arrive, Breathe, and Be Still, Borderline Freedom, You Belong to the Sky, and He Said, She Said.
Fall 2011 Exhibition: Complex Identity
Spring 2012 Exhibition: Arrive, Breathe, and Be Still
Read about the Acting for Critical Thought experience in the words of Downtown High School students here.
“This project has helped me realize my potential. I'm not just another statistic. I plan to go somewhere far in life, even if it's not acting.”
—Student, Acting for Critical Thought Project, Downtown High School
Fall 2012 Exhibition: This Is Not a Play
Spring 2013 Exhibition: Borderline Freedom
“From weekly classes held on their campus downtown, to free tickets to all their performances, including partnership theaters, to guest artists and M.F.A. students working in our classes to teach movement and technique, to reserving The Costume Shop theater for our final exhibition performances, A.C.T. has proven to be a partnership that is willing to connect and build foundations with our students beyond the walls of a classroom.”
Eunice Nuval, Founding Teacher, Acting for Critical Thought Project, Downtown High School
IDA B. WELLS HIGH SCHOOL: In 2012–13, A.C.T. also established an intensive residency at Ida B. Wells High School, another San Francisco continuation school. Working with Ida B. Wells teacher Jessie Lindquist Dorin, A.C.T. Community Artistic Director Tyrone Davis taught three classes twice a week, helping students write and perform original monologues inspired by classical work. Starting in the 2013–14 season, a generous three-year grant from San Francisco’s Department of Youth and Family Services (DCYF) made it possible for Davis, in collaboration with Ida B. Wells teachers, to feature a Theater Arts as a Tool for Change class as part of the school curriculum. Students work with Davis daily to explore the link between theater and the social issues most relevant to them and visit A.C.T. for mainstage and M.F.A. Program performances and workshops led by first-rate teaching artists from A.C.T.’s community of arts professionals. Tutors from 826 Valencia work closely with the students to help them with their writing.
SFUSD ACCESS: THE ARC: Each week A.C.T. teaching artist Trish Tillman works with transition-age youth and adults at SFUSD Access: The Arc, a unique partnership between San Francisco Unified School District's Access program and The Arc of San Francisco, a Central Market nonprofit dedicated to the empowerment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Tillman leads students in an Intro to Theater class, working on acting, emotional expression, and storytelling. For those unable to communicate verbally, developing physical storytelling techniques can be a powerful experience.
Watch this video created by AccessSFUSD: The Arc to see our amazing students in action and hear what they have to say about the powerful role theater plays in their lives.
HILLTOP SPECIAL SERVICES CENTER: In January 2015, A.C.T. will launch a new intensive residency at Hilltop Special Services Center, a continuation high school serving pregnant and parenting teens, in collaboration with WritersCorp teaching artist Annie Rovzar.
“For many students, their work with A.C.T. has been their first opportunity to constructively express themselves and tell their own stories in a public format. This has resulted in a boost to self-efficacy and self-confidence among students. A.C.T. creates rich experiences in the arts for people who do not have those opportunities.”
Jessica Lindquist Dorin, Teacher, Ida B. Wells High School
Through our ACTsmart Partnership Program (formerly known as ArtReach), A.C.T. offers tickets to performances (mainstage, second stage, Conservatory, and Will on Wheels), play-specific pre- and postshow ACTsmart workshops, and our nationally acclaimed Words on Plays in-depth study guides—all at no cost—to students and partner teachers at Bay Area schools (including all San Francisco public high schools) with large populations of socioeconomically disadvantaged students who otherwise would have little exposure to the arts.
With A.C.T.’s recent expansion into the Central Market neighborhood with the Costume Shop and Strand theaters, we have extended our ACTsmart partnerships to include community-based organizations (CBOs) that serve our neighborhood. Over the past two years, A.C.T. has partnered with the following Bay Area schools and CBOs:
Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (SOTA)
Balboa High School
Bessie Carmichael Filipino Education Center
Ralph Bunche High School
De Marillac Academy
Downtown High School
Galileo Academy of Science and Technology
Gateway High School
Hilltop Special Services Center
Abraham Lincoln High School
Lowell High School
Thurgood Marshall High School
Mission High School
Mt. Eden High School
Oakland School for the Arts
Oakland Technical Senior High School
John O'Connell High School
Archbishop Riordan High School
San Francisco Flex Academy
SIATech Treasure Island
Tenderloin Community School
Tennyson High School
Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School
George Washington High School
Ida B. Wells High School
Youth Treatment & Education Center
All Stars Project Inc.
Destiny Arts Center
Canon Kip Senior Center
Center City Collaborative
Chinese Education Center
Girls Leadership Institute
The Handful Players
Lauren’s House for Positive Change
La Voz Latina
Oasis for Girls
On the Town! Cultural Adventures for Girls
Tenderloin Boys & Girls Club
Tenderloin Economic Development Project
Tenderloin Housing Clinic
Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation
Tenderloin Youth Leadership Program
Vietnamese Youth Development Center
Youth Treatment and Education Center
“Because of the generous and ongoing work being done in partnership with the Visual and Performing Arts Department of the San Francisco Unified School District, it is evident that so many students, teachers, and community members are the beneficiaries of having A.C.T. as our resident beacon theater. The outreach work being done to increase students' literacy, self esteem, and creativity are hallmarks of the new direction A.C.T. is taking to reach out to various underserved students and communities in ways that are authentic, deep, and reflective of the highest standard of excellence.”
Susan Stauter, Artistic Director, San Francisco Unified School District
Stage Coach is a new initiative of the Education & Community Programs department at A.C.T., launched in summer 2014. As a community-based, participatory theater program, Stage Coach is aimed at engaging San Franciscans in telling un- and undertold stories and supports multigenerational audiences in the creation of theater. Programming includes stand-alone theatrical experiences at street fairs and festivals throughout the city, as well as ongoing residencies in three San Francisco neighborhoods: Central Market/Tenderloin, Bayview-Hunters Point, and Mission/Excelsior. Traveling across the city with a mobile stage unit, A.C.T. joins many artists and organizations in an effort to extend spaces for cultural production beyond building walls to connect people to the power of theater and storytelling. Additionally, our intensive residencies focus on increasing access to theater training for San Franciscans who have never created theater. These partnerships allow us to re-center the stories and experiences of marginalized communities and provide multiple entry points into creative participation and expression at all ages.
BOYS & GIRLS CLUB TENDERLOIN CLUBHOUSE: A.C.T. Community Artistic Director Tyrone Davis is also in residence at the Tenderloin Boys & Girls Club, where over the past two years he has worked weekly with children from the neighborhood on theatrical projects that excite them. To date, the group has performed the musicals Annie and Sleeping Beauty for friends and family on De Marillac Academy’s Boedekker Theater stage.
OASIS FOR GIRLS: In the summer of 2014, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program third-year student Josie Alvarez worked with teens in a new A.C.T. residency with Oasis for Girls. Oasis for Girls is a Central Market–based community organization that serves low-income, young (14–17) immigrant women and women of color “on the edge of risk” to help them cultivate the skills, knowledge, and confidence to discover their dreams and build strong futures.
While developing her own skills as part of the Citizen Artist component of A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program, Alvarez met with the girls three days a week, teaching them to write and perform monologues and scenes based on, or relevant to, their own life experiences. She also brought in guest artists (often fellow M.F.A. students) to lead specialized workshops in theater-related professions such as stage combat, stage production, dance, and music. The girls performed a condensed version of their show at Oasis’s August graduation ceremony, followed by an unabridged presentation in The Garret at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater. We look forward to continuing our creative partnership next summer.
“The girls were incredibly shy at first, but as they developed trust in each other and in their own self-expression, I was thrilled to see them transform into confident, expressive stage performers. It was an honor to work with them!”
Josie Alvarez, A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program Student and Citizen Artist
BESSIE CARMICHAEL FILIPINO EDUCATION CENTER: As part of A.C.T.’s ongoing efforts to connect with the young people in our neighborhood, in April 2013 we showcased fourth- and fifth- grade students from Bessie Carmichael Elementary School on The Geary Theater stage for a special pre-SMAT performance. Inspired by themes from A.C.T.’s Stuck Elevator and the Terracotta Warriors exhibit on display at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Unified School District Visual and Performing Arts Department drama teacher Peter Sroka wrote and directed an original mini musical for the students, which they performed to a packed house.
Peter and the Bessie Carmichael students returned to the Geary stage in October 2013 with Voice of the People, an original mini musical inspired by our mainstage production of 1776, and in September 2014 with At A.C.T., inspired by Bill Irwin and David Shiner’s clown extravaganza Old Hats. Read more about A.C.T.’s partnership with Bessie Carmichael here, and watch a video of Voice of the People here and At A.C.T. here.
“The fifth graders will be performing at A.C.T. next Friday.’ When I heard that, I jumped with excitement!
. . . I have performed at A.C.T. before, so I know how scary it is. It’s also enjoyable to see inside the magnificent building, and it was fun rehearsing in the green room. I love A.C.T. It is truly an experience being there. If I ever go there again, I will always cherish those moments.”
Student, Bessie Carmichael Elementary School
Young Conservatory Scholarships
Each year A.C.T. grants numerous scholarships to local young students of need who wish to pursue their theatrical training at a more advanced level, many of whom first discover their passion for theater in our school and community residency programs.
Read about one student’s journey at A.C.T. here.
Community Space Sharing
Thanks to grants from the San Francisco Neighborhood Arts Collaborative and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, A.C.T. has been able to provide free performance space, production support, and mentorship in our Costume Shop Theater (and soon in The Strand) to emerging artists and companies that cannot afford the high cost of renting in downtown San Francisco. Partners to date have included Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Magic Theatre, Campo Santo, Theatre Rhino, Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, Encore Theatre, Playground, Volti San Francisco, The Garage, Intersection for the Arts, SF Recovery Theatre, Singers of the Street (S.O.S., a community choir for people affected by homelessness), Teatro Pachuco, and Ixalt Hula Theater, among others. Learn more.
A.C.T. is proud to be a founding member of Creative Impact, an alliance of more than two dozen Bay Area arts and education organizations dedicated to strengthening, enriching, and improving the social fabric of our community through arts education. The members of this coalition promote shared values through our work in education. We believe that:
In addition to hosting annual celebrations of National Arts in Education Week each September, Creative Impact has created an online calendar* designed to be the go-to place to find out about arts education activities in the Bay Area throughout the year. Learn more about Creative Impact.
*The Creative Impact calendar is generously hosted by the Alameda County Office of Education on the Art IS Education website dedicated to promoting arts education in the greater Bay Area region.
© 2017 American Conservatory Theater-a tax-exempt 501c3 nonprofit organization. Number 94-6135772.