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Curse Of The Starving Class

By Sam Shepard
Directed by Robert Estes

April 23 through May 22, 2010
Plus Thursday, May 20th

Hmm! Bacon! Yes, actual frying bacon on stage. Who could resist the enticing smell? - or the darkly comic, hauntingly mythic portrait of the American family in CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard, CURSE is at once poetic, violent, lyrical and outrageous.

Set in California in the 1970s, the play surreally chronicles a farm family as they dream of a better life while dealing with an increasingly bizarre present life. Veering from everyday concerns (such as bacon!) to flights of theatrical invention, this CURSE never lets us forget the deeply conflicted yet seemingly inescapable ties of family.

Robert Estes (director) has directed new plays for Solano Rep, Marin Festival of One Acts, and other local theatres. Recently, he directed staged readings of Twelfth Night, The Tempest and other great plays by the Bard for Subterranean Shakespeare.

Robert has served as dramaturg for Town Hall Theatre and CalShakes (where he’ll assistant direct Mrs. Warren's Profession in June). Later this year, he'll direct Other People's Money for Masquers in Point Richmond. Robert sees this as a something of a homecoming -– once upon a time he graduated from UC Berkeley.

April 23rd through May 22nd, 2010, Friday and Saturdays at 8pm, plus an additional performance Thursday, May 20th, 2010, 2010 at 8pm.

All performances begin at 8:00 pm.

The Performers

Wesley Thomas Arndt
Ella Holly Bradford
Ellis Dean Creighton
Sgt. Malcolm Stuart Hall
Taylor Brian McManus
Weston Andy Shapiro
Emerson Jerome Solberg
Slater Matthew Surrence
Emma Sionne Tollefsrud


Director Robert Estes
Producer Jerome Solberg
Stage Manager Jose Garcia
Costume Designer Helen Slomowitz
Set Designer Bob Gudmundsson
Lighting Designer Alecks Rundell
Backdrop Artist, Graphics Designer Shu Ping Guan
Light/Sound Producter Nayla El-Haber, Morgan Brown
Costumes and Props Assistant Dalena Nguyen
Stage Mistress Juliann Halvorsen
Painting Assistant Norman De Veyra

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Curse of the Starving Class directed by Robert Estes will be performed April 23rd through May 22nd, 2010, Friday and Saturdays at 8pm, plus an additional performance Thursday, May 20th.

All performances begin at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $15 or $12 for seniors and students (with ID). Order tickets at www.aeofberkeley.org.

Thomas Arndt

Thomas Arndt (Wesley) When not caring for wayward lambs, Thomas plays drums and upright bass, practices acrobatics at the Circus Center, and occasionally flies his kite, Dr. Pusoctu, in the sun. He was last seen in The Waldron Revue, playing Frieda. He sends his love to his family and friends.

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Holly Bradford

Holly Bradford (Ella) is pleased to be working with Actors Ensemble of Berkeley for the first time. She would like to thank her mother for all the lambs she nursed back to health while growing up, and for giving her insight into the character of Ella.

Sionne Tollefsrud

Sionne Tollefsrud (Emma) is proud to be performing in Curse of the Starving Class. This is her first dramatic play in her career thus far. She was last seen in Beauty and the Beast as Lumiere. She will attend OSA in the fall. Sionne hopes to continue acting for many years to come.

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Brian Mc Manus

Brian Mc Manus (Taylor) Irish-born and bred, Brian is returning to the stage after a 14-year hiatus. Previous roles (or the ones he can still remember) include Algernon in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Dan in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago. He prays he won’t have to wait as long for his next part.

Photo by Tiffany Boswell

Andy Shapiro

Andy Shapiro (Weston) has been acting for twelve years in theatres throughout the Bay Area in roles such as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scrooge, Oscar in The Odd Couple, Asparagus in Cats, the father in Equus, and the Uncle in How I Learned To Drive.

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Stuart Hall

Stuart Elwyn Hall (Sgt. Malcolm) makes his Actors Ensemble debut in a role that meshes his penchants for pithy, literate drama and opaque, intimidating law enforcement. Thanks to Robert Estes and Stan Spenger for the recommendation; thanks to Subterranean Shakespeare for creating the opportunity!

Photo by Tiffany Boswell

Dean Creighton

Dean Creighton (Ellis) This is Dean’s first appearance with AE. In the past 20 years, he has appeared in 55 productions at numerous East Bay Theatre companies. As always, he would like to thank his loving family, wife Anne, daughters Heather and Shawn, son-in-law Glenn, and the newest addition to his family, grandson Ian.

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Photo by Tiffany Boswell


Matthew Surrence (right)

Matthew Surrence (Slater) is pleased to debut at Actors Ensemble of Berkeley in a Sam Shepard classic with a great cast, crew, design team, and director. Recent performances include staged readings of King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and Love’s Labour’s Lost at Subterranean Shakespeare in Berkeley.

Jerome Solberg (left)

Jerome Solberg (Emerson, Producer) has been filling in on odds and ends around Actors Ensemble for quite some time now. This time he even gets to appear on stage a bit. He thanks his wonderful family, the cast, and especially the crew, without which none of this could happen.


  • Description:

    Jerome Solberg as Emerson, Holly Bradford as Ella, Thomas Arndt as Wesley, and Matthew Surrence as Slater

  • Description:

    Holly Bradford (Ella) and Thomas Arndt (Wesley)

Additional Downloads & Links

Play Program Download PDF
Play Poster Download PDF
Play Press Release Download PDF
Directors Comments Video with Robert Estes Link to You Tube

Thank You

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley is delighted to acknowledge the Berkeley Civic Arts Program and Civic Arts Commission's support in the form of a grant of $8,000.00 awarded in 2017. Also, a thank you to Theatre Bay Area for a grant of $2,500.00.

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Actors Ensemble of Berkeley - P.O. Box 663 - Berkeley - California - 94701 ¦ Our Answering Service: (510) 649-5999 ¦

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Federal Tax ID #946139640, since 04-1967