Shepard and Reed Return to Give Fresh Life to Starving Class, at A.C.T. | Playbill

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News Shepard and Reed Return to Give Fresh Life to Starving Class, at A.C.T. Playwright Sam Shepard has returned to his 1978 play, Curse of the Starving Class, to make revisions for a new San Francisco production that will feature Pamela Reed, a veteran of the first staging.

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) will present the 30th anniversary production of the play that looks at the American dream, April 25-May 25. Peter DuBois directs, with Reed playing Ella, 30 years after creating the role of Emma.

"The first time I encountered this amazing play was in its original incarnation, featuring the inimitable Pamela Reed, and we're so happy to have her back for this production," A.C.T. artistic director Carey Perloff stated. "It's particularly uncanny that we're presenting this play about the wild underbelly of the American dream of home ownership while the homes of half of America are being foreclosed. It goes to show that, in the theatre, you never know what black swan is creeping up on you to give new life and meaning to the work you're doing."

Director DuBois, recently named artistic director of Boston's Huntington Theatre, has had a series of private conversations with the playwright.

"The play is grounded in the story of Sam's dad coming home from World War II," DuBois stated, "as part of an entire generation of alcoholic men rendered completely numb by the trauma of the war. This influx gave way to a simmering tension arising from this mass of men who were generally broken by hard experience."

Reed first appeared at A.C.T. in Pinter's Old Times in 1998 and later starred in Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? Reed performed on Broadway in Fools and The November People, and Off-Broadway in Getting Out (Drama Desk Award) and many others. Her film credits include the upcoming "Descending from Heaven" (with Sam Shepard), "Proof of Life," "Junior," "Passed Away," "Kindergarten Cop" and "The Right Stuff" (also with Shepard). Reed received an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. Reed stated, "It's such a privilege to be able to revisit such a seminal piece in one's career and to get to play the next generation. "And with Sam's new changes, the work is simply better — sharper, more concise, and more decisive."

DuBois noted, "In addition to a number of changes clarifying the dialogue and the characters, Sam has shifted the play from a three-act to a two-act structure. The changes heighten the absurdity and the humor of the play, which walks a line between pain and comedy in a specific and beautiful way, and the changes deepen that contrast."

The cast of Curse of the Starving Class features Jack Willis as the befuddled patriarch Weston; Jud Williford as Wesley; Dan Hiatt as Taylor; Rod Gnapp as Ellis; Nicole Lowrance as Emma; Howard Swain as Slater; T. Edward Webster as Emerson; and Craig Marker as Malcolm.

The creative team features scenic designer Loy Arcenas, composer and sound designer Fabian Obispo, costume designer Lydia Tanji and lighting designer Japhy Weideman.

Shepard was born the son of a career Army father and spent his childhood on military bases in the United States and Guam before his family settled on a farm in Duarte, CA. In 1963 Shepard moved to New York City, where he began to write plays for the emerging experimental underground theatre scene. His plays include La Turista, Operation Sidewinder, Shaved Splits, Mad Dog Blues, Back Bog Beast Bait, Cowboy Mouth, Action, Killer's Head, Angel City, Suicide in B-Flat, Buried Child (which won the Pulitzer Prize), True West, Fool for Love, A Lie of the Mind and The Late Henry Moss.

For more information call (415) 749-2228 or visit

A.C.T. produces at the Geary Theater at 415 Geary Street in San Francisco.

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