Earlier this month, 20 Monmouth College students, accompanied by theatre faculty members Doug Rankin, Bill Wallace and Janeve West, attended the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) in Saginaw, Mich. The annual event brings together hundreds of students from across the region for four days of theatre performance, workshops and competitions.
“The students attended workshops on everything from hand-to-hand stage combat and movement techniques for the actor, to the newest technologies in theatrical lighting and voiceover techniques for animated film,” said West. “They also attended a number of productions brought in by various universities.”
“I enjoyed taking workshops on movement and children’s theater and also I enjoyed perusing the theatre design displays,” said Katie Struck, a freshman from Galesburg. “As an English major, I enjoyed all the various forms of communication being utilized in workshops, competitions and displays. Seeing all the exciting plays and designs gave me ideas for designs I might want to do in the future.”
Seven students “brought their skill, designs, performances and materials to the competition to be reviewed by faculty from the regional universities, as well as New York University, Yale University and professionals from the Chicago area,” reported West. Their competition included graduate and undergraduate students from a wide array of schools spanning Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and some parts of Ohio.
Sophomore Abby Davis of Springfield competed in the stage directors and choreographer’s competition with a scene from “The Shape of Things.” Senior Ken Yeater of Galesburg entered his realized scenic designs from “Fat Men in Skirts” and junior Sarah Kindt of Bolingbrook submitted her realized costume design from “Our American Cousin.” Junior Jon Snowdon of Roscoe participated in the critics competition and generated overnight responses to the evening’s productions. Participating in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition were senior Kayt Drost of Naperville and sophomores Jamie Kistler of Gerlaw and Alex Nall of North Henderson.
“Showing my work and competing with my peers was an excellent experience,” said Yeater, a theatre major who plans to attend grad school for an M.F.A. in scenic design or technical direction. “Another highlight was seeing Western Michigan University’s production of ‘Good Death,’ which was a powerful, amazing production.”
A Monmouth College winner from the festival was the entire cast and crew of the fall production of “Fat Men in Skirts.” These students were recognized with a certificate of merit for their highly collaborative, completely student-generated work in the creation of the production.
Faculty, too, attended workshops on the latest in technology and teaching techniques. West offered a movement-based workshop highlighting aspects of performance style for children’s theatre. She also mentored student directors and playwrights from other schools in the new scripts competition. The student playwright that she mentored has been nominated for national competition.
Wallace had double duty for the week, as he left ACTF early to attend the widely popular High School Theatre Festival, which invites approximately 4,000 high school students to audition for colleges, attend productions and workshops and prepare for life after high school.
“ACTF was an ideal place to go and learn about theatre,” said Kim Freeman, a freshman from Oak Forest. “It helped me build confidence not only on stage for my theatre minor but also in a classroom for my music education major. I learned so much and the group that I went with was just amazing. We bonded and even talked about what each other learned. I hope to go back again.”