American Conservatory Theater has a long and distinguished history. 1965 saw the first performance of Tartuffe at the Pittsburgh Playhouse that inaugurated American Conservatory Theater as a new resident theater company in Pittsburgh under the direction of William Ball. The company, American Conservatory Theater, touring the country, was seeking a new home. Chicago and San Francisco become the two heavyweight contenders. An informal but influential group of Bay Area patrons and supporters, later named the California Theater Foundation (CTF), guaranteed financial backing to present a six-month American Conservatory Theater season in San Francisco. With their help, the American Conservatory Theater opened its first San Francisco season at the Geary Theater in 1967, and the company announced its new home and premiere season. In the 1970s, the American Conservatory Theater solidified its national and international reputation, winning a Tony Award for outstanding theater performance and training, in 1979. In 1986, founder William Ball leaves American Conservatory Theater; Edward Hastings became the new artistic director. Joy Carlin and Dennis Powers were named associate artistic directors, and John Sullivan was named managing director. In 1988, Sabin Epstein and Susan Stauter are named co-directors of the conservatory, and Craig Slaight became the new director of the Young Conservatory. In 1992, the American Conservatory Theater celebrated its 25th-anniversary silver season gala, Starry Night, directed by outgoing American Conservatory Theater Artistic Director Edward Hastings. In 1996, the American Conservatory Theater's efforts to develop creative talent for the theater were recognized with the prestigious Jujamcyn Theaters Award. The conservatory, led by Melissa Smith, now serving 1,900 students every year, was the first training program in the United States not affiliated with a college or university accredited to award a Master of Fine Arts degree. The program has moved to the forefront of America's American Conservatory Theater training programs, while serving as the creative engine of the company at large.