Students gain invaluable experience at American College Theatre Festival

Three Hanover students gained invaluable theatrical experience at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) for Region III, which includes Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. The festival took place last month in Saginaw Valley State University (Mich.).

First-year student and playwright Tessla Stoops, was one of six finalists featured in the festival’s Ten-Minute Play Program. Her play, “Whiskey Talks,” about small-town life, poverty and redemption, received a series of developmental rehearsals, along with two presentations in staged readings and a series of supportive critiques from a panel of guest respondents.

The process gave Stoops the opportunity to take her original script — written in Professor of Theatre Mark Fearnow’s playwriting class — to the stage, where she collaborated with an entire production team made up of students and faculty from other schools in the region to create new theater.

“I've never been involved in any type of theatre-related activity,” said Stoops. “The whole experience was new and exciting, and I learned a lot about the technique and process of playwriting. I feel more knowledgeable about the piece coming together as a whole and how each participant in the creation of a piece has a different perspective.”

Senior Brian Stewart competed in an open audition and won a role in another of the ten-minute-play finalists, “The Cure to Writer's Block: Good Company and Chinese Food,” where he portrayed a roommate turned romantic interest for a female writer.

For the audition, each actor had the option to perform one of three sample monologues or use something from memory. Stewart lucked out with a monologue from “The Importance of Being Earnest” that which he had performed in the Hanover production last November.

Having a strong familiarity with the piece didn’t stop him from being nervous.

“Since Hanover is such a small family-like community, when I audition for roles, I feel very comfortable and relaxed,” said Stewart. “At KCACTF, I actually got dizzy while performing my monologue and I did, to my standards, a very poor job. In the end, I was still able to succeed. (I now know that) I can count on the tools and knowledge that Hanover has provided (to) me.”

Brandon Derk — who has a strong interest in musical theater — participated in career-oriented workshops, in such areas as swordplay, comedy and singing, among others. Even though the senior has already gone through the process of auditioning for a part on Broadway, he found the four-day experience very helpful to his future career.

“The most rewarding experience for me was the Broadway Dance Boot Camp,” said Derk. “We worked for two hours with the dance captain from the first National Tour of “Mary Poppins.” We actually learned a portion of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and performed it just like you would at a real Broadway audition. I made a lot of new friends and saw some really great productions as well.”

Started in 1969, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide that has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. With a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.