San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater sued over alleged discrimination

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's world renowned American Conservatory Theater is being sued by a former actor, director and teacher there who says A.C.T. discriminated against African-Americans.

"It's shocking to me that a theater community in San Francisco is the racist place that I've ever worked," says Stephen Buescher, a highly accomplished African-American actor,director and teacher. He spent 10-years with the acclaimed American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

His claims of discrimination he says include "racial profiling, tokenism, exploitation, racist casting, disparate treatment and retaliation."

Buescher says in his lawsuit, "There was institutional racism and racial hostility run rampant."

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He says theater security guards even detained him because he was black.

"I was physically stopped by a security guard. And once I was also stopped in the lobby, not able to see some of the students perform their work."
Buescher says he lobbied for more opportunities for African-American actors.

"The artistic director is saying our subscribers don't want to see black plays and black plays don't make any money."

A.C.T. management, Buescher says, brushed his complaints aside.

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His lawyer Felicia Medina says attempts to resolve them were futile.

"Included in that proposal was a very exacting programmatic relief proposal for change at A.C.T. that they simply closed the theater door on."

A.C.T. Issued a statement which says in part, they are "Deeply saddened by the legal complaint."

"The board of directors have taken these concerns very seriously and put efforts in place to ensure that A.C.T. Remains fiercely committed to upholding our values," the statement reads.

Buescher says he was forced to resign in May of last year.

He says he's filing his suit to make the A.C.T. A better place, a more inclusive place for actors to train and express themselves.

ACY says after decades as artistic director, Carey Perloff left in June of 2018.
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