Holy Days is one of two plays to be presented by the Academy of Art University at the recently reopened Sutter Street Theatre in San Francisco. From left to right: Emily Finley, Zach Eulberg, Keenan Rehlich and Katie Meehan. Photo by Shon Dahlgren.

The Academy of Art University has restored the Sutter Street Theatre in the historic landmark Julia Morgan-designed Clara Stephens Building at 620 Sutter Street in San Francisco. The revival of this landmark kicked off with two plays directed by Clark Lewis: Holy Days and I Hate Hamlet starred students from the Academy’s School of Acting and feature stellar guest actors.

Holy Days ran Nov. 9–18, 2012. I Hate Hamlet, the tale of a TV star playing Hamlet on Broadway, with Equity Special Guest Artist Karen Grassle, was stated Dec. 7–16.

“Working with School of Acting students in this theater was inspiring and a lot of fun,” says Lewis. “They are talented, creative and playful. From the poignancy they bring to Holy Days to their boundless energy and humor in I Hate Hamlet, their work added an exciting new voice to this historic San Francisco space. Since I’m also able to invite professional actors to perform with the students, our rehearsals had the type of extraordinary collaborative energy that makes for a wonderful show.”

The Sutter Street Theatre is located in a historic landmark building designed by the famed California architect Julia Morgan. From "Holy Days," (l to r): Meehan, Eulberg, Rehlich, Finley. Photo by Shon Dahlgren.

“I am thrilled that we can now offer our acting students at the School of Acting at Academy of Art University the opportunity to act in theatrical productions,” says Diane Baker, executive director of the Academy’s Schools of Acting and Motion Pictures & Television. “We are very excited to bring professional talent, such as Karen Grassle and Fontana Butterfield in I Hate Hamlet, to work together with our students. We will continue to interest other professionals in future productions. Working with Clark Houston Lewis is pure joy. He is not only a talented director but has a gift as he works in a classroom environment—our students love him.”

“We are indeed thrilled to have Special Guest Equity Artist Karen Grassle joining the cast of I Hate Hamlet,” adds Lewis. “Karen’s experience in a hit TV show [as “Ma” in Little House on the Prairie] and on Broadway lends our show a charming resonance. In addition, Academy faculty member Fontana Butterfield joins us following critically acclaimed performances at Shotgun Players, where she is a company member.”

The theater at the Clara Stephens Building reopened after more than four years. Formerly home to the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, it's located in the heart of Union Square in downtown San Francisco. This historic building, designed by famed architect Julia Morgan, originally housed the San Francisco YWCA and later was used as a hotel. The building now provides housing and recreation for Academy of Art University students.

The Clara Stephens Building is named for the wife of Richard S. Stephens, a fine art painter and creative director for Sunset Magazine who in 1929 founded Academy of Art University in a rented loft at 215 Kearny Street, San Francisco. Established to teach advertising art, the school’s curriculum expanded in 1933 to include Fashion Illustration, and a Fine Art department was added in 1936.

Today the university has more than 18,000 students and is the largest private art and design school in the nation. Students now have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Arts, Associate of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Architecture, Certificate Programs or Continuing Art Education courses, with over 30 areas of academic emphasis.

Tags: Acting