Team Spirit: Two Arms of A.C.T. Link to Premiere Ackerman's Volleygirls March 12

News   Team Spirit: Two Arms of A.C.T. Link to Premiere Ackerman's Volleygirls March 12 The American Conservatory Theatre's Master of Fine Arts Program and Young Conservatory partner to present the March 12-28 world premiere of Rob Ackerman's Volleygirls, a comic look at the spirit of high school team sports.

W.D. Keith directs a cast of actors from the graduating class of the A.C.T. MFA program, and young actors from the Young Conservatory program.

Performances play at Zeum Theater at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. Opening is March 14.

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According to A.C.T., "Volleygirls spikes a spirited, heartfelt look at a down-and-out high school volleyball team. Following a string of losses and facing their biggest rival, the girls of Saint Agnes hatch a wild plan to turn their flailing team around — while their self-defeating coach must confront his 'loseritis.' The action overflows from the court to the stands, as parents play out their own personal dramas."

The Volleygirls cast includes M.F.A. candidates James Bigelow, Nick Gabriel, Kelsey Venter and Cat Walleck. Joining them "as the enthusiastic members of the volleyball team" are Young Conservatory actors Zoe Burnbaum, Madeleine Kelley, Caitlin Martin, Arianna Papalexopoulos, Katie Rich, Jacqueline Toboni and Colin Woodell. The creative team includes Lilana Duque-Pineiro (scenic designer), Callie Floor (costume designer), Sara Huddleston (sound designer), Owen Keith (assistant to the director), Haley Leitman (assistant to the director), Jack Sharrar (dramaturg) and Ian Smith (lighting designer).

Ackerman's writing credits include Tabletop (Drama Desk Award winner for Best Ensemble Performance), Disconnect (The Working Theater, Classic Stage Company) and Icarus of Ohio (hotINK 2008, Tisch School of the Arts). His first play, Origin of the Species, became a feature film starring Amanda Peet. Works in progress include Loon Island, Front and Center and Call Me Waldo.

Tickets are available through A.C.T. Ticket Services, 405 Geary Street at Mason, or at (415) 749-2228, and online at www.act-sf.org.

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This marks the second collaboration between the two arms of the A.C.T.'s Conservatory following the success of The Wendy Play last season.

"Volleygirls continues A.C.T.'s commitment to new works, and to integrating teaching, learning, and performing in our training programs," stated A.C.T. Conservatory director Melissa Smith. "Given the multigenerational dynamic of our students at A.C.T., it's only natural for us to explore ways in which the journey can be bridged between the M.F.A. Program and the Young Conservatory."

Young Conservatory director Craig Slaight added, "This commission offers us a rare opportunity to unite the talents of A.C.T.'s masters of fine arts and Young Conservatory programs in the launch of a brand-new play. Rob Ackerman's hard-hitting and often funny play, under W.D. Keith's wonderful guidance, leaps off the stage in a theatrical and fast-paced physical production about winning and losing and the challenges faced by young people in competitive sports today."

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The A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program was the first theatre training program in the country not affiliated with a college or university accredited to award the master of fine arts degree. The M.F.A. Program functions as the cornerstone of the A.C.T. Conservatory, which also includes the Summer Training Congress, Studio A.C.T., and the Young Conservatory. The third and final year of the program is designed to give students the opportunity to focus primarily on performing for a public audience.

The A.C.T. Young Conservatory offers a broad range of theatre training for young people aged eight to 19. The ten sessions and four public productions offered throughout the year are designed to develop talent and creativity, as well as communication and cooperation skills, for young people with all levels of theatre background. Working professional actors and directors lead students in a spectrum of classes, including acting, directing, voice and speech, musical theatre, audition, and improvisation.

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