The 2020 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Madison, WI proved once again that not even freezing temperatures can stop theater kids.

The nationwide festival is broken into regions, with the Region 3 midwestern schools meeting annually to network, advance learning and showcase their craft with like-minded students and faculty.

Goshen College takes a group to the festival every year, with many participants attending to compete or partake in weeklong intensives. This year’s group of 17 was no exception.

In the technical element competitions, Shianne Harrison, junior, and Jonah Yoder, class of ‘19, both featured work from the GC 2019 musical, “Bright Star.” Harrison presented designs highlighting her work with hair and makeup, especially in the unification of the main characters despite differing ethnicities.

She also made it through several rounds of interviews with regional and international theater programs seeking applicants for interns and fellows, including theater intensives in Chicago and Dublin, Ireland.

Yoder showcased his documents and organization of stage management, including his performance prompt book and musical score. He also made it into the semifinal round of the stage managing intensive while at the festival, showing stage management skills by working with actors who auditioned for and performed original work from across the region.

Goshen College also had four students nominated to compete in the prestigious Irene Ryan acting competition. Lauren Myers, a senior, and Lisa Rosado Rivera, a junior, both were nominated for their work in “Bright Star.” They both showed off their singing and acting chops for the judges alongside their scene partners, Olivia Smucker, senior, and Dali Rodriguez, junior.

In response to a seminar called “The Business of Acting” by Chicago casting director AJ Links, Rodriguez remarked that “those [character description] limitations are set by us… and we shouldn’t be scared of casting directors because they are our friends and they want us to get it.”

For the other two Irene Ryan competitors, who were nominated for their work in this fall’s Almost, Maine, the festival proved significant to their GC theater careers. This was Ben Meyer Reimer’s final festival as a Goshen College student seeing as he will graduate in May. On the opposite end, Willa Beidler experienced both her first festival and nomination as a first year. They competed in the completion with the help of Laura Miller and Kailey Rice, both juniors.

Beidler was also selected to perform in a staged reading of one of the student-written plays that won the right to be realized at the festival. Alongside two other women, Beidler acted in After Dark, a play on the topic of climate change by Lavinia Roberts.

Goshen College also had students participating in the Institute for Theater Journalism and Advocacy (ITJA), a three-day intensive program where participants wrote theater critiques of the productions featured during the week, as well as ASPIRE, a week-long workshop for theatrical minority groups where participants could pitch ideas for their own theater companies. 

Abigail Greaser, senior, was the Goshen College representative in the ASPIRE program, presenting her ideas for her “The Box Theater”.

Debbie Richards, junior, returned to the ITJA intensive for the second year. They also participated in the new “Hollaback” sessions that the festival scheduled in an effort for students to discuss the issues that they see with the festival and college theater in hopes of bringing more diversity and inclusivity to KCACTF.

“As a queer trans student, this was important to me to be able to attend this session,” said Richards. “[The trip] was also a great bonding experience for myself and my fellow GC peers.”

Other attendees from Goshen included Ian Keim, a senior, Cara Wilson, a junior, sophomores Alex Miller, Adam Hinegardner, Andrea Peters, and of course the beloved Dr. Doug Leichty Caskey, professor of theater.