Each year, CSU students participate in the Region 7 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), which brings together student actors and technicians who do exceptional work in their field. This year, the group of 13 CSU students who attended with faculty member Price Johnston travelled to Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash.
The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is a national theatre program, with over 18,000 participants annually, and, according to the organization’s website, “[KCACTF] has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theatre in the United States."
The KCACTF Region 7 is comprised of nine western states including Alaska, northern Calif., Colo., Idaho, Mont., northern Nev., Ore., Wash., and Wyo. Over 1,000 theatre students from Region 7 convene annually to participate in workshops; attend symposia, colloquies, and professional presentations; work with resident artists; and compete for honors, awards, and scholarships for their creative accomplishments in theatre productions at staged at their schools.
CSU had three actors nominated for the Irene Ryan Competition, named for the famous American Actress from the 1950’s. One of these students was senior Ryan Miller, for his leading role in The Night of the Iguana (Spring 2014). Ryan will also play the role of Gandalf in CSU’s upcoming production of The Hobbit (Spring 2015). CSU students also competed in several technical theatre areas, including sound design, stage management, properties design, and scenic design. CSU enjoys a history of particularly excelling in the technical competitions at KCACTF, and this year was no exception. Mackenzie Cunningham, a junior theatre major, received a Meritorious Achievement Award for her properties design in A Year with Frog and Toad (Fall 2014). Senior theatre major Alex Billman won Best Sound Design for his work on The Night of the Iguana and will take his design to compete in Washington, D.C. at the national competition in April.
While these competitions are the reason most students from universities across our nine-state region take a week during the school year to travel to another state and attend KCACTF, the festival also offers considerable professional development and networking opportunities for students. Not only are there auditions that give soon-to-graduate actors job opportunities around the country, but also ten-minute play auditions to perform in original student-written plays during the festival. This year, approximately 180 student festival-goers auditioned, and only 20 students were finally chosen to be part of these staged readings – six of which were from Colorado State University.
Full productions that Universities mount throughout the year can also apply to be in the running to come and perform for one night at the festival. Three years ago when CSU hosted the KCACTF Region 7 festival, CSU’s original The Kafka Project was chosen to perform. This year these shows came from Linfield College, University of Wyoming, and Diablo Valley College.
The festival is a time for students from CSU to not only get to know each other better, but also meet students from other universities who are passionate about the same things.
“I got to spend the week with other people who have the same kind of aspirations and dreams that I do, [which] gives me motivation to keep working that much harder on what I do,” senior Chris Olson wrote of his experience this year. Chris competed in the Irene Ryan Competition and was cast in a 10-minute play. “I think it made me a better performer and able to advocate for the arts as a whole,” he said. “CSU students really made a big impact at this festival, and next year when it is held in Denver, we will be there and will be all the more ready to have these same experiences and even better results in their competitions.” Chris was nominated for his role as the King of Hearts in Alice and Wonderland (Spring 2014) and will be playing Bilbo Baggins in CSU’s upcoming production of The Hobbit.
Year after year, KCACTF allows students opportunities to network, perform, compete, and grow amongst their peers from around the country. Junior theatre major Lauren Scott, who attended the festival for the first time this year, said she “left feeling so proud of all of my hard work, even more passionate for this crazy business and a little less overwhelmed about where I will be going once I graduate.”
The 2016 KCACTF Region 7 conference will be back in Colorado after three years away; this time hosted by the University of Colorado-Denver.
Alex Billman (’15) won the Theatrical Design Excellence Award in the Sound Design category for his work on the CSU production of The Night of the Iguana. He will attend the national conference in April.
Mackenzie Cunningham (’16) received an Allied Design and Technologies Meritorious Achievement Award for her work on the CSU production of A Year with Frog and Toad.