By Kim Rippeth, Editor
During the first week of classes, from Jan. 14-18, a group of 18 students and three faculty members represented West Liberty University at the Region II Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.
According to www.kennedy-center.org, the KCACTF hosts a series of regional and state festivals where theater students, faculty and staff from various colleges in an area gather together to “see one another’s work and to share ideas.”
These regional competitions lead up to a national festival held in Washington D.C.
The festivals feature a wide variety of seminars and workshops along with an opportunity for students to showcase their talents.
Theater Adjunct Richard Deenis said that the seminars that are offered cover just about anything in theater studies from painting specific sets to improving auditioning skills and everything in between.
Each of the workshops and seminars was open to anyone who wanted to participate regardless of whether they specialize in design or in performance. Deenis said, “A lot of our actors still ended up in the tech seminars because they all have things they are interested in [outside of acting], and they know that it’s always a good idea to have a second field so that if they are between shows, they still have a way to stay working in the theater.”
The second component of the festival is the competition and showcase part. Each festival invites select students as well as entire shows to compete and perform at the regional level.
Associate Professor of Theater Michael Aulick said that students from all around the region submit performances to present at these festivals.
The students are chosen to compete at the regional festival based on their performances in school productions during the year.
According to Aulick, in order for this to happen, a trained faculty member from another school in the region comes to view a particular production. The faculty member then identifies two or three students from the show who they believe had a particularly good performance. These actors receive an Irene Ryan nomination, making them eligible to compete for The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships.
This year, WLU sent five students to the competition: Maggie Dillon and Carlito Gilchrist from the Hilltop Players’ performance of “Dog Sees God” and Mack Kale, Maura Reiff and Jeremiah Propst from “Spring Awakening.”
Aulick estimated that there were about 200 theater students who performed and were nominated for this competition. In the first round of competition, students performed a scene with a partner that was no longer than three minutes. The field was then cut down to a semifinal of only 32 students who performed two scenes in no more than five minutes. From that group, 16 students went on to the final round where they performed two scenes and one monologue lasting no longer than six minutes.
“Out of 200 students,” Aulick said, “we had a student in the top 16, Maggie Dillon.”
Dillon is now the second finalist for WLU in the last two years.
In the three years that Aulick and his students have participated in the KCACTF, WLU has had a finalist in two consecutive years. “That is pretty good for a little school like West Liberty,” said Aulick.
On the design side of the competition, WLU’s Nathan Dunn took the set design for “Dog Sees God” as well as the lighting design for “Spring Awakening” to the regional stage.
Not only is this experience a great opportunity to “see some really interesting theater, learn new skills, and showcase talent, but it also gives students the “potential to be exposed to graduate schools,” Deenis said.
These festivals are all put together by members of various theater faculties, so just being there and attending workshops and seminars allows students to come into contact with graduate school representatives.
And more and more students are taking advantage of this opportunity.
Aulick remembered that when he first started taking students to the regional KCACTF three years ago, he took only six students.
Last year, that number increased to 16 students. This year, the group grew to 18 students.
“We keep getting bigger participation,” Aulick said.
The success in this competition really highlights the growing talent in the theater program.
Deenis said, “In the last four years, our program has grown dramatically.” He estimated that the program has gone from about four majors to about 25 or 30 majors.
If the theater program continues to expand like it has in the past few years, that number will continue to grow, and with it, so will the talent that the program has to showcase.