You may have noticed during the first week of school that some of your fellow theater classmates were absent from classes. This is because they were attending the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). Doug Caskey and Anna Kurtz Kuk, professors of theater, along with Andrew Moeggenborg, Umble Center technical director, led Nick Peebles and Riley Woods, seniors, Rachel Buckley, Claire Mitchel, Ben Meyer Reimer, Lukas Thompson, and Jonah Yoder, sophomores, and Brianna Herndon, Cristina Jantz, Olivia Smucker and Kelsey Winters, first-years, to this event. Goshen College alum Martin Flowers ‘16 was also in attendance.
Theater departments and around 1,300 theater students from colleges and universities come together for this annual event. GC’s region includes Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. This year, it was held in downtown Indianapolis, mainly on the campus of the University of Indianapolis, with most full-scale productions performed at Butler University.
Each day of the festival, students can attend multiple workshops, as well as enter acting and design competitions. Throughout each day, there are performances of full-length shows, which are brought from other schools attending the festival. Each night, there is a featured production to which every attendee is invited.
The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship is an acting competition that you have to be nominated to participate in. Goshen student nominees were Meyer Reimer and his partner Thompson, Peebles and his partner Smucker, Flowers and his partner Thompson, and nominee Lea Ramer, a senior, and her partner Morgan Yordy, a junior (although they were unable to attend the festival). Each pair has to prepare three pieces ranging from one to three minutes to perform in front of judges and an audience. Hundreds of pairs perform in the first round, with 48 pairs qualifying for the semi-final round, and only 16 pairs for the finals.
“As a faculty member, my favorite part was gathering with the students in the hotel lobby after seeing one of the festival productions and hearing their thoughts on the production,” said Kurtz Kuk. “One or two people would pause in the lobby to say a comment [and] before long the whole group was standing around passionately breaking down every aspect of the show. I enjoyed hearing their insight.”
“It broadens your horizons so much, in terms of types of shows that you see. It’s also nice to make connections with professionals in the field and other students who share your passions,” said Winters.
For Caskey, it was great to have the festival come to the Hoosier state.
“They kept up their tradition of really focusing on new, original works so a lot of the stuff they saw was stuff that was being performed for the first time,” Caskey said.
There is also the chance for student designers and stage managers to submit their designs or stage manager prompt books into competition. Designers get a 4’x8’ canvas to create a poster that showcases their design. These can be done for set design, lighting, sound, hair and makeup, costumes, or props.
Whether actors are getting to perform or designers and stage managers are showcasing their work, “there is an element of competition as students from these institutions put their work on display; there is also a feeling of camaraderie as we celebrate this work together,” said Kurtz Kuk. “It is also a chance for students to refine and expand their techniques as their work receives feedback or they take workshops from industry professionals.”