Feb. 15, 2013
Theater students take honors, show skills at regional festival
Nineteen Northwest Missouri State University theater students spent the week of Jan. 20-26 showing off their skills and competing with peers at the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.
More than 1,300 college students presented work at the festival. Northwest students presented 38 projects – a record high for Northwest students – in a variety of areas, including acting, design, playwriting, stage management and theater technology.
Katie Knudson, who graduated from Northwest in December with her degree in technical theater and design, earned first place in regional lighting design for her work on Northwest’s fall production of “Bug” along with a certificate of merit for her lighting design on the Northwest production of “Midwives and Witches,” also last fall.
To design the lighting for “Bug,” which centers on a seedy hotel room and the characters’ paranoia, Knudson analyzed photos of hotel rooms and studied how the lighting impacted those rooms. She used LED lights to achieve the glowing look of a bug zapper on the play’s hotel room set, which eventually was covered in foil as the story unfolded.
Lindsay Masin, a senior theater performance major from Lincoln, Neb., placed second overall in the stage directors and choreographers scene audition competition.
Masin was one of 11 students chosen by a panel of faculty to compete in the directing contest. After selecting Naomi Iizuka’s “Polaroid Stories” from a list of plays supplied by the panel, Masin advanced in the competition by demonstrating how she worked with the two actors she was directing and produced the play with feedback she drew from the panel.
In addition, Matt Sweeten, a senior theater performance major from Lee’s Summit, advanced from a pool of 323 acting nominees and was one of 64 students to compete in the semifinal round of the Irene Ryan Scholarship audition. Sweeten was nominated to compete for the scholarship based on his performance in Northwest’s production of “Fuddy Meers” last year.
Helen Strotman, a senior theater and English major from Lincoln Neb., was among five actors cast to present a staged reading of “The Lord of the Underworld's Home for Unwed Mothers” by Louisa Hill, which won KCACTF’s 2011 Mark Twain Prize for Comic Playwriting, awarded to an outstanding student-written full-length comic play.
The festival is a chance for Northwest students to network with other theater students and professionals from throughout the country while gaining unbiased feedback. For them, the annual festival is one of the highlights of the academic year.
“It gives you a chance to show off all of the skills you’ve acquired throughout the year, and you can show them off in different venues like directing or acting or technical designs,” Sweeten said. “It’s just really nice to be able to see what other schools in our region are doing, and we can take what they’re doing to make ourselves better.”
Students are chosen to compete and participate in events at the festival based on application materials they submit during a competitive selection process.
“It’s a good time to get feedback from people who don’t know you or don’t know how you work,” Masin said. “I learned the most from somebody seeing what I did without knowing how I did it or why I did it.”
Added Knudson, “One thing I really enjoyed about going to KCACTF was the feedback I received. That was my main reason for submitting ‘Bug’ and ‘Midwives and Witches’ to the design expo. I got feedback on my design, and I learned how to present my design ideas to the director, which will help me in the future.”
In addition to presenting their work and competing, students have opportunities to take classes and workshops taught by theater faculty and professionals from throughout the country. Students view productions presented by their peers in addition to having their own performances critiqued by industry professionals who work in the stage, television and film industry.
Among other highlights for Northwest students at the festival:
- Sweeten was one of 20 students selected for a final cabaret performance in the musical theater intensive competition.
- Riley Bean, a senior theater major from LaVista, Neb., directed a staged reading of a new 10-minute play.
- Dana Masters, a senior theater and psychology/sociology major from Independence, served as an assistant director for the faculty directing showcase.
- A Northwest team was among six selected to participate in the devised theater initiative, a non-competitive exhibition.
- A Northwest team was one of four teams to advance to the finals of the Stage Crew Showdown.
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Northwest Missouri State University
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