Earlier this month, 17 Monmouth College students and three faculty members attended and competed at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival, held on the campus of the University of Illinois.
The one-week regional festival is part a national program started more than 40 years ago that now involves 18,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 600 U.S. colleges and universities. Students attend one of the eight regional festivals to showcase their work, receive outside assessment, attend productions and workshops, and participate in various intensive competitions.
Many of the Monmouth students who attended were chosen by regional representatives for their excellence in performance, stage management and design in last spring’s production of “The Tempest” or last fall’s staging of “Dog Sees God.” Other students applied and were selected to serve as stage managers, designers, dramaturges, directors and actors for various performances at the festival.
MC’s students competed against their peers from institutions such as the University of Wisconsin, Beloit College, the University of Michigan, Ball State University, Indiana University and the University of Illinois. Respondents and adjudicators consisted of representatives from regional and national professional theatres as well as Ivy League, state and private academic institutions.
Two Monmouth students were part of award-winning design storm teams. In this competition, students arrive at the festival and are then grouped with students from other institutions. The groups must collaborate, under the pressure of time and limited resources, to develop a thorough concept for a given production. Each team must publicly present its materials for evaluation by faculty and professional theatre artists. Courtney Jonsson’s production team took first place for its work, while Mike Miller’s production team earned honorable mention. Nick Dadds and Abigail Davis were also part of the design storm competition.
In an individual category, Mary Bohlander was the winning director for the 10-minute play competition, which involved auditioning, rehearsing and presenting a short, student-written production. Ivy Bekker also competed in that category.
Merissa Lewiston broke into the final round of the stage management competition, presenting materials from her work on “The Tempest.”
Competing in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition were Bekker, Bohlander, Marcus Bailey, Mike Bennett, Mike Carioto, Allyson Frazier, Kady Patterson, Jason Rupke, Matt Shumaker and Rachel Whitlock. Assistant professor of theatre Janeve West served as mentor and acting coach for these competitors.
Auditioning for and competing in the full-length play performance were Bailey and Bennett. Alex Nall and Jamie Kistler were the other Monmouth students who attended the festival.
After the competitions came to a close, students spent the final days of the festival attending eight theatrical productions, sitting in on Q&A sessions with professional playwrights and participating in a wide range of workshops and training sessions.