In January, a large group of Hope College theatre students embarked on a memorable and enlightening trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival. KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. KCACTF hosts festivals in eight regions across the nation. Hope College participated in the Region III festival with other colleges from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. At the festival, students have the opportunity to showcase their skills in dramaturgy, acting, stage management, musical theatre, playwriting and design.
This year, KCACTF recognized Shiloh, a recent Hope production written by the cast and faculty director Richard Perez. The ensemble of Shiloh was awarded a certificate of Merit for Excellence in Collaborative Performance. Theatre faculty lighting and sound designer Perry Landes was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Projections Design. Senior Katrina Dykstra designed costumes for this production and received a Theatrical Design Excellence award for her work. As a result of the award, Dykstra has garnered a coveted, fully-funded opportunity to attend the national festival in Washington D.C. this May.
“I had such a great time at ACTF this year presenting my costume design for Shiloh!,” said Dykstra. “I always love getting criticism from other professors and theatre professionals, so getting to present for so many interesting judges was great. I was so surprised to be selected to be in finals, and even more surprised to receive an award. I’m looking forward to going to Washington D.C. with the national festival. I’m going to learn so much from the seminars and workshops, and meet so many people in the theatre world!”
Hope College theatre also received praise for their work on this year’s production of Into The Woods by receiving a remarkable number of Certificate of Merit Awards:
- Music department faculty member Sherri Pilon for Excellence in Music Direction.
- The Ensemble for Excellence in Vocal Performance.
- Theatre faculty member Michelle Bombe and senior Megan Clark for Excellence in Costume Design.
- Assistant Stage Managers and Deck Crew for Excellence in Puppeteering.
KCACTF also hosts competitions for students to showcase their work, and several Hope College students received awards for their artistry.
Junior Gracen Barth was the recipient of the Don Childs Award for Excellence in Stagecraft, providing her a fully-funded opportunity to further develop her skills by attending the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, Nevada, in July of 2020. Barth was also awarded a production manager’s toolkit.
“With production management being a relatively new field, especially on a collegiate level, it was truly an honor to be recognized for my work on this level,” said Barth. “I’m looking forward to being able to further my skills at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas.”
Senior Megan Clark was recognized for her Into The Woods design presentation for properties, as well as her Arcadia costume design presentation.
As an active member of KCACTF, Hope College receives responses from faculty of partner schools who attend a performance of each production. The respondent often takes notes during the show and provides valuable feedback to the acting, design, stage management and directing. The respondent then can provide special recognition by nominating production participants for regional awards like those previously mentioned. They also select one or two cast members that they felt had a superb performance. These students each receive an invitation to participate in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition, which occurs at the festival. Each participant works on a monologue and two scenes with a selected partner.
There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre.
Freshmen Emi Herman was nominated for her portrayal of Laney in Crooked. Madison Meeron was her scene partner. Senior Olivia Lehnertz was nominated for her interpretation of Cinderella in Into The Woods. Gracen Barth was her scene partner. Junior Katie Joachim was nominated for her performance as The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods. Maxwell Lam was her partner.
Joachim and Lam made it to the semifinals of the Irene Ryan auditions. Joachim also auditioned alongside 100 other students to participate in a Musical Theatre Showcase. She was then selected to join 14 others from around the region to perform in a cabaret-style performance where she delivered a heartfelt performance of “Mr. Snow.”
Students and faculty had an enriching and fulfilling time at the festival this year. There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre. We are grateful to have had this experience and look forward to attending The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival again in the future.