Goshen College student playwrights, actors and designers are taking a risk. This fall, Goshen College’s theater department entered this year’s Main Stage production, “Hindsight is 20/Something” into the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (ACTF). This is the first time original student work has been entered into the competition.
In his office, Doug Caskey, professor of theater, had his eyes the calendar with anticipation. If the production was accepted, an invitation to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival will appear in his office by Monday, Dec. 4. If chosen, the students’ work will be critiqued by theater professionals at ACTF during the week of Jan. 4-9.
GC is entering students’ work at the region competition in two areas: participatory and individual. Entering in a participatory way means that the entire performance would be critiqued rather than the individual actors, actresses and designers.
GC performed as a participator in ACTF in 2009 and previous years, but this year’s submission is especially notable, considering the production is completely student-written by Patrick Maxwell and Patrick Ressler, both seniors. Caskey compared this honor of competing between eight colleges at a regional level to playing at a regional basketball level—except that in theater, schools are divided by the geographic area rather than size. This means that GC students may compete against students from Illinois, Ball and Michigan State Universities. If GC’s theater department receives an invitation at a participatory level for “Hindsight is 20/Something,” they will perform their entire production twice at Michigan State University in January.
Individual actors, actresses and designers have also been nominated for ACTF by outside respondents, either professors of theater or professionals in the field. Already six actors and actresses were nominated to participate in ACTF: juniors Stephanie Hollenberg and Adriel Santiago (nominated for “Hindsight is 20/Something”); sophomore Sam Jones and senior Jenna Grubaugh (nominated for “Tartuffe”); and junior Jay Mast and senior Allison Yoder (nominated for “Pippin”). There is potential that four designers will also join the team at the competition. Although the students will be critiqued individually, Caskey highlighted the team work in theater productions. “Nobody ever does it alone,” he said.
Maxwell, playwright of “Here Lies Hope,” described entrusting his work to others as “terrifying.” But according to Caskey, professional critique is worth the risk and can be a great learning experience. For Erin Bontrager, a GC alumna, the experience at her regional competition led to a job opportunity in set design for Carnegie Mellon University.
Regardless of whether GC will receive an invitation to ACFT, Caskey said he is “immensely proud of the energy and creativity of the students.”