ESU Theatre Commended at Regional Festival

January 31, 2017

Emporia State Theatre had excellent representation at last week’s regional festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). Four faculty members and 21 students traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, for the event. ESU is in Region 5 of KCACTF which includes colleges and universities from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Six ESU students were among the 326 nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. After the Monday, Jan. 23 auditions, 66 students advanced in the semi-final round on Wednesday, including ESU students Fran Opheim (junior, Olathe) and her partner Rachel Muirhead (junior, Hays) along with Senior Nathan Dale Short (Paola) and his partner Mollie McClanahan (freshman, Topeka). Short was one of 16 finalists who competed for the scholarship on Friday night. At the end of the evening, Short was named the regional runner-up to Christa Gesicki from the University of South Dakota. Gesicki will compete for the national award in April. In the event that she is unable to attend, Short will audition at the Kennedy Center.

Short and Hewleek McKoy (sophomore, Olathe) were also finalists in the Music Theatre Institute. Along with their fellow finalists, they performed the final musical number at the festival. Matthew Mahr (sophomore, Overland Park) was awarded an honorable mention for his lighting design for “The 39 Steps.” His design was presented in the regional Design Expo, where designers from the region displayed their design work in set, lights, costume, arts management, stage management and sound. The work of several ESU student designers, playwrights and stage managers were also displayed in the Design Expo. 

After the final round of Ryan auditions, the festival was treated to the Region 5 costume parade, featuring costumes by Faculty Costume Designer Susan Mai. Five of her costumes from the spring 2016 production of “The Birds” were selected to be shown. ESU Alumnus Jamie Urban (BFA, 2005) was also represented in the costume parade with her designs for the Wichita State University production of “Chicago.” The auditions and the costume parade were presented in the historic Hoyt Sherman Theatre in downtown Des Moines on the final night of the festival.

The stage crew showdown team, comprised of Ethan Crapser (senior, Overland Park), Isabella Harvey (junior, McPherson), Mahr, Abbi Timmermeyer (junior, Andover), and alternates Allison DeMeyer (senior, Mulvane), and Tyler Lang (senior, Wichita) failed to break out of the first round, but was awarded the Spirit Award, given to the team showing the best school spirit at the event. ESU also won the Spirit Award five years ago. The event provides an opportunity for technical theatre students to imporove their stagecraft skills in a series of timed events.

Commendations for outstanding work in the region were presented to Faculty Set Designer Nancy Pontius and Faculty Technical Director Chris Lohkamp for set design and sound design for “The Flick”. Cameron Reynolds (senior, Louisburg), Ryan Howerton (senior, Haysville), Gabe Serrano-Diaz (freshman, Olathe) and Bailey Carter (senior, Topeka), received commendations for their performance in “The 39 Steps.” Susan Mai also received a commendation for her costume designs for “The Birds.” 

Director of Theatre Jim Bartruff coordinated the Institute of Theatre Journalism and Advocacy along with guest journalist Michael Morain, former drama critic for the Des Moines Register. Dustin Bittel (junior, Ellis) was a participant in the institute.

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