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The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) 2019, which ran from Jan. 8 to 13, allowed for attending students to showcase their work, and receive a collegiate-level of assessment for each production. The annual festival, held in Madison, Wis., entertained twelve Lewis students, as well as theatre professor Dr. Kevin Trudeau and costume designer Celeste Mackey.
The festival, originally founded by theatrical producer Roger L. Stevens in 1969, involves about 20,000 college students across the nation each year. Over the course of 50 years, the KCACTF has served to improve the quality of college theatre, growing into a network of over 700 institutions in the U.S. Spanning across eight geographic locations, KCACTF holds a festival throughout Jan. and Feb. in each location.
“I think students benefit from attending the festival in a number of ways. First, they are just exposed to a wider world of college theatre. When you go to the festival, you are surrounded by other people for whom theatre is also very important, which is a great feeling,” said Trudeau. “There are also a lot of workshops which students can take on a variety of subjects-design, tech, acting, improv, dance, acting-which can help them work on their skills. If they are interested in grad school in theatre, they can meet faculty from graduate programs or measure themselves against students who are also looking toward further study. There is also the preparation for competition, as well as the competition itself, which can be rewarding and fulfilling for students.”
Students who were nominated for a scholarship or wish to compete in an event contained at the festival are eligible to attend. Students who want to primarily attend workshops or see the different productions created for the festival also attend KCACTF.
“There are several different ways for students to participate in the festival: an acting competition, design competitions, playwriting competitions, a dramaturgy competition and a critics competition. Some of these require nominations, which come from participation in a university-entered play production,” said Trudeau. “Most of the students who participated in the festival fall into this category. For instance, for my production of ‘Leading Ladies’ last semester, two actors were nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Acting Competition, and could have competed in this at the festival.”
Students Aileen O’Carroll, Jacob Rodriguez and Andrew Wainscott each partook in the Irene Acting Scholarship Auditions, made possible by the Irene Ryan Foundation of Encino, Calif. In this audition, actors competed with a partner to perform a monologue and scene in three minutes. Student acting partners included Estefania Flores, junior unmanned aircraft systems major Conrad Sipiora and Natalia Bednarczyk, who also participated as the student stage manager for “Ten Minute Original Plays.”
“As a student, attending KCACTF opens countless opportunities for the hopeful future performer or tech designer,” said Sipiora. “Students can meet and network with Broadway actors, directors and other experts in the field of theatre. Lewis students can apply their newfound knowledge and skills to their craft in order to bring more memorable, entertaining and meaningful performances to the Philip Lynch Theatre stage.”
This year, KCACTF’s keynote speaker and performer was actor Austin Dean Ashford, who is a graduate student himself. As a fellow student, his presentation was meant to be inspiring for most attendees, speaking mainly about his personal experiences with performing.