Access the insight and experience of those who have made theater their life’s work. With expertise ranging from acting and directing to playwriting and dramaturgy, A.C.T. faculty members are some of the most extraordinary artists—and inspiring educators—in the business.
Instructors for any given term are drawn from this list and are subject to change.
Core Faculty Instructors
Jessica Berman is a dialect, voice, text, and acting teacher and coach. She currently teaches at UC Berkeley, A.C.T. (STC and SFS), and Academy of Art University, and has led workshops and vocal warm ups for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Recent dialect and vocal coaching credits include: Kiss my Aztec!, The Good Book, Paradise Square: A New Musical, Angels in America, and What the Constitution Means to Me (Berkeley Rep); An American in Paris (North American Tour); In Old Age, The Eva Trilogy, The Baltimore Waltz, Sojourners, and runboyrun (Magic Theatre); and Oslo, The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, Shakespeare in Love, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Native Son, and August: Osage County (Marin Theatre Company). In addition to her work in the theatre, Jessica works with business professionals and private individuals on communication, presence, and presentation skills. She holds an MA from the Birmingham School of Acting, and an MFA from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Julie Douglas is a Bay Area actor, devisor, clown and teacher. She holds an MFA in Ensemble Based Physical Theatre from Dell'Arte International and a BA in Theatre from UC Santa Cruz. She has taught/teaches for a variety of organizations including A.C.T. (Studio, SFS, MFA), St. Mary's College, We Players, SF Shakes, Cal Performances, Stanford Live, and more. Julie is a certified instructor of the Michael Chekhov Technique and is training to be an Alexander Technique teacher. She has performed in the Bay Area with Cutting Ball, Idiot String, We Players, Impact Theatre, SF Shakes, Shotgun Players, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, the Medical Clown Project, and more.
Mark Jackson (Studio A.C.T. Director, MFA Adjunct Faculty) is an award-winning theater maker whose work in theater, dance, and performance has been seen in the Bay Area at the American Conservatory Theater MFA, Art Street Theatre, Aurora Theatre Company, Cutting Ball Theatre, Encore Theatre Company, EXIT Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Potrzebie Dance Project, San Francisco International Arts Festival, SF State University, Shotgun Players, and Z Space; Nationally at The Studio Theatre (Washington D.C.), The Catamounts (Denver), and Hunger & Thirst (NYC); Internationally at Arts International Festival IV (Japan), Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Bread & Roses Theatre (UK), English Theatre Berlin and Deutsches Theater Berlin (Germany).
Warren David Keith is an actor, teacher and director. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Yale School of Drama and has served on the faculties of Barnard College, The New School, UC Davis, American Conservatory Theater, The Nueva School, and as a Teaching Fellow for the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to theaters in NYC and across the East Coast he has also appeared at A.C.T., Aurora Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Marin Theatre Company, SF Playhouse, TheatreWork,s and Word for Word. Onscreen appearances include: Haiku Tunnel, Love and Taxes, Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and A Serious Man.
Patrick Russell has performed in the theaters across the Bay Area, including A.C.T., California Shakespeare Theater (As You Like It), Aurora Theatre Company (Body Awareness, Trouble in Mind, Awake and Sing!), San Francisco Playhouse (Noises Off, Red Velvet, Seminar, reasons to be pretty, 77%, and Trouble Cometh), Magic Theatre (Fool for Love), Marin Theatre Company, Marin Shakespeare Company (Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Three Musketeers), CenterREP (Old Wicked Songs), and Shotgun Players (Care of Trees). Film credits include Being Us and Rapunzel’s Etymology of Zero. Patrick is a member of Actors' Equity and SAG-AFTRA. He received his BFA in acting from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MFA in acting from A.C.T.
Jack F. Sharrar, Ph.D. (Director of Academic Affairs, M.F.A. Core Faculty Member: Theater History; Accreditation Liaison Officer) received A.C.T.’s Managing Director’s Award for 2003. He has served as a theater panelist for the National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts and has taught both university and secondary theater arts. A member of Actors’ Equity and the Screen Actors Guild, his credits include roles at Pioneer Theatre Company, Michigan Repertory Theater, Mountainside Theater, the BoarsHead Theatre, Theatre 40, LA; A.C.T. (Studio), numerous media roles, and direction of over 50 plays and musicals. He is author of Avery Hopwood, His Life and Play (UMI Press) , editor (with an Afterword) of Avery Hopwood’s heretofore unpublished novel, The Great Bordello, a Story of the Theatre (Mondial), contributor to The American National Biography (Oxford), and The Gay and Lesbian Theatrical Heritage: A Biographical Dictionary of Major Figures in American Stage History in the Pre-Stonewall Era (UMI Press); coeditor (with Craig Slaight) of numerous award-winning volumes of scenes and monologues for young actors published by Smith & Kraus, and adapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s play The Debutante, Avery Hopwood’s comedy Fair and Warmer (both published by Playscripts, Inc.) and author of an original play, “Up in Avery’s Room”, which received a staged reading at Theatre Rhinoceros. His one-act play, Better Angels, drawn from the Civil War writings of Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman, and his adaptation of Dr. Faustus were performed in A.C.T.’s Sky Festival. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and holds a Ph.D. in theater history and dramatic literature from the University of Utah.
Master Class Instructors
Melissa Smith (Conservatory Director, Head of Acting) has served as Conservatory Director and Head of Acting at A.C.T. since 1995. During that time, she has overseen the expansion of the M.F.A. Program from a two- to a three-year program and the further integration of the M.F.A. Program faculty and student body with A.C.T.’s artistic wing. Prior to assuming leadership of the A.C.T. Conservatory, Smith was the director of the program in theater and dance at Princeton University, where she taught introductory, intermediate, and advanced acting. She has taught acting, improvisation, and scene study to students of all ages in various colleges, high schools, and studios and is featured in Acting Teachers of America: A Vital Tradition. As a professional actor, she has performed at regional and off-Broadway theaters, including Soho Rep, Primary Stages, the Hangar Theatre, A.C.T., California Shakespeare Theater, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Smith holds a BA from Yale College and an MFA in acting from Yale School of Drama.
Danyon Davis (A.C.T. Head of Movement) is the former Head of Movement at Stella Adler Studio. Danyon has performed in classical, contemporary, and experimental plays throughout the U.S. and Europe. A former associate with Bill T. Jones and with the SITI Co., Danyon also performed, taught, and directed for many years with the Guthrie Theater. A decade ago, Danyon was invited to return to his alma mater, the Juilliard Drama Division, by the late Jim Houghton to receive Moni Yakim’s Movement/ Physical Acting methodology. Danyon has adapted Mr. Yakim’s approach while serving as a faculty member at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Circle in the Square Theatre School, and HB Studio’s one-year Hagen Core Training Program. Danyon has taught movement in many workshop intensive settings, including community and arts-in-education based work with Stephen DiMenna, as well as workshop intensives with the Bill Reed Voice Studio, Middlebury College, and the Public Theater.
Andy Donald (Associate Artistic Director, MFA Adjunct Faculty) is the associate artistic director at A.C.T. Previously, he created the position of Producer of Artistic Development and Community Programming at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Some of his NJPAC producing/commissioning highlights include The Hip Hop Nutcracker (with United Palace; international tour); Carefree: Dancin’ with Fred and Ginger (national tour); NJPAC Stage Exchange (guaranteeing commissioned world premieres at New Jersey’s regional theaters); Jimmy Fallon in Conversation with Stephen Colbert; John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown (HBO); American Songbook (with Ted Chapin; PBS); Meredith Willson’s Music Man (all black cast, with Two River Theater); Second City Does New Jersey; and Jessie Mueller & Jarrod Spector (debut). Prior to NJPAC, he served as artistic director of Naked Angels, where his producing credits include Next Fall (Broadway, Tony Award nomination); This Wide Night with Edie Falco and Alison Pill (five Lucille Lortel Award nominations); Outside People (Vineyard Theatre); Naked Radio (weekly podcast); Oh the Horror!; Armed and Naked in America; and A Long and Happy Life. He also started the “3-Step Formula,” a bi-coastal new play development series, and spearheaded the merger of Naked Angels with The New School for Drama. He also served as producing associate at New York Stage & Film/The Public Theater and Second Stage Theater, pilot development assistant at ABC and HBO, and artistic director of the Charlie B. Theater Company. Donald has a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA from Columbia University. He is the recipient of the Barbara Whitman Prize for Theatre Management & Producing.
Peter J. Kuo (Associate Conservatory Director) is a director, producer, writer, and educator focused on raising the visibility of marginalized communities. He just finished a First Stage Residency at The Drama League and was recently named one of Theatre Communications Group's Rising Leaders of Color. Recently, he was the social justice programs coordinator at The New School, where he founded the NSD: Affinity Groups program and was involved with several equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. He taught the class “Acting Beyond Marginalization” at HB Studio, and has directed students in productions at the Atlantic Acting School and Redhouse Arts Center. Kuo previously worked as an art administrator at South Coast Repertory, East West Players, Soho Rep., and LA STAGE Alliance. He is the co-founder of Artists at Play, a Los Angeles Asian American Theatre Collective. As a director and assistant director, he has worked at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Play Company, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, East West Players, South Coast Repertory, Geffen Playhouse, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Leviathan Lab, Ma-Yi Theater Company, and Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, among others. He holds a BA in drama with a minor in business management from UC Irvine and an MFA in directing from The New School’s School for Drama.
M. Graham Smith is a San Francisco-based Director, Educator, and Producer. He is an O’Neill National Directing Fellow, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival FAIR Fellow, and a Resident Artist at SF’s Crowded Fire. He has directed around the country and venues in San Francisco including A.C.T., Aurora Theatre, Central Works, Crowded Fire, The EXIT Theatre, Brava, The Playwright’s Foundation, Cutting Ball Theatre, Berkeley Playhouse, Golden Thread, SF Opera, and New Conservatory & Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor. He directed the West Coast Premiere of Jerry Springer: the Opera in SF and Truffaldino Says No at Shotgun Players, winning Best Director for the Bay Area Critics Circle. Recent credits include DEAL WITH THE DRAGON at Edinburgh Fringe, Mia Chung’s You For Me For You Crowded Fire, and Qui Nguyen’s Beget’s at A.C.T.’s Strand Theatre. He teaches in A.C.T.'s actor training programs & Berkeley Rep School of Theatre as well as the Meisner Training program in Barcelona, Spain.
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