Fourteen ESU Theatre Majors Attended the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region II Festival at Towson University in January
Fourteen East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (ESU) theatre majors and two professors found Towson, Maryland to be a wonderland for personal and professional discovery last month.
From January 12-16, 2013, Towson University hosted the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region II Festival where theatre students and faculty members from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Northwest New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia showcased their endeavors, shared experiences and received objective assessments of their work.
Founded in 1969, KCACTF is a national program that serves as a catalyst to improve the quality of college theatre through its network of more than 600 universities throughout the USA organized into eight geographic regions.
Based on their performances in the October production of The Diary of Anne Frank, two ESU students, Shannon Christmann and Hunter Fogel, were invited to participate in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition.
For the competition, nominated performers had six minutes to present two scenes and a monologue. “You have to pick scenes that are age appropriate and that showcase what you can do as an actor,” noted Christmann, a December 2012, theatre graduate from Stroudsburg, Pa.
Christmann and her scene partner, Brandon Cabrera, a junior from East Stroudsburg, Pa.,“were given great feedback to use in the future and the rare opportunity of receiving feedback on an audition,” according to Christmann. “He and I worked very hard on our scenes, she added, “and were disappointed that we did not move forward, but glad to have had the chance. It was overall a very humbling experience.”
A workshop on the Actors Equity Association gave Christmann “insight into rules and regulations that I had not known before, even though I have worked in an Equity theatre. I walked away with new knowledge and with a networking connection.”
Christmann also was cast in the Director’s Institute scene readings to play Olive in the female version of The Odd Couple. “We had only five hours to rehearse a scene over a period of three days,” she noted. “I was lucky to have worked with a great director and an experienced actor who were open to ideas and also knowledgeable about the craft.”
“Nerve-wracking but also enjoyable,” was how Fogel, who played Otto Frank in the ESU production, described his audition for the Irene Ryan competition. “I have been given many concepts to ponder such as vocal variety in acting, scene selection, blocking choices, and partnering experience,” he added.
Fogel, a sophomore from East Stroudsburg, Pa., with majors in English and theatre, gained “great tips such as acquiring the proper rehearsal clothing, practicing period-specific mannerisms restricted by garments, and a heightened interest in costuming” from a workshop on how to act in period plays.
Fogel’s scene partner, Ellyse Burnett, a senior from Hawley, Pa., explored two theatrical interests—stage management and acting—during the conference.
Participating in the Irene Ryan competition made Burnett “reconsider what choices I was making in my career path. I had always loved acting, but have never tried to be serious about it, but now I want to explore it. I don’t think it’s my career, but it maybe something really exciting to do outside of stage managing.”
Burnett also stage managed an entry in the National Playwrighting Program. “I now trust myself more when going into something that is out of my comfort zone and experience,” she said. “I wish I had gotten this opportunity much earlier in my college career because it showed me what I need to work on as a stage manager.”
Another member of the Anne Frank production team, stage manager Katie Dembesky, a senior from Dickson City, Pa., was a competitor for a National Stage Management Fellowship.
For the competition Dembesky created an exhibit that included her large prompt book complete with blocking and calling scripts; all the paperwork for the production; and props and photos from the play. She also had a one-on-one interview with a respondent and did a presentation on her exhibit.
“Both respondents for the interview and presentation were very positive about my prompt book and what I said,” Dembesky stated. “From this experience, I learned where I am as a stage manager and how I compare to other student stage managers. I gained more confidence about myself and what I am capable of accomplishing.”
Speaking of the two stage management workshops she attended, Dembesky added, “I cannot express what a joy it was to talk about what working on Anne Frank meant to me with professionals who understand what a stage manager actually does.”
Senior Michelle Jones from Langhorne, Pa., found inspiration in a workshop titled “What I am Doing with my Theatre Education,” which featured a graduate student who combined his love of theatre with a career focus in speech pathology.
“I have two majors, speech pathology and theatre,” Jones said, “and the workshop made me feel that I’m not crazy for doubling in such completely different majors. It opened my eyes to endless possibilities for my future.”
Devon Sparks, a senior from Harleysville, Pa., whose focus is technical theatre, used workshops in stage lighting to supplement her ESU experience since the university doesn’t have a full-time lighting designer.
“I want to pursue a career in lighting design, Sparks said. “Taking the workshops has opened my eyes to the different techniques that can be used.”
ESU’s contingent at the conference also included Dr. Margaret J. Ball, associate professor of theatre, and Yoshinori Tanokura, assistant professor of theatre, and students Mary Dennis, a junior from Philadelphia, Pa.; Michelle Duff, a senior from Tobyhanna, Pa.; Jacqueline Knollhuff, a junior from Sparta, N.J.; Michael Lloret, a sophomore from East Stroudsburg, Pa.; Kelsey Pulzone, a junior from Washington, N.J.; Rebecca Regina, a sophomore from Rutherford, N.J.; and Kimberly VanFelton, a senior from East Stroudsburg, Pa.
Both Ball and Tanokura earned certificates of merit from KCACTF for The Diary of Anne Frank—Ball for directing and Tanokura for set and costume design. At the conference, Ball was a respondent for the Irene Ryan competition, and Tanokura presented a workshop on theatrical design.
Funding from the Josephine Louise Madara Undergraduate Research Endowment and Joseph B. Noonan Endowment Fund and the Student Activity Association helped the fourteen students who attended the conference. The faculty members received support from Faculty Research Development grants.
Summing up what five winter days in Towson, Maryland meant to him, Lloret said, “Never have I been so happy to be so overwhelmed with what was going on around me. Everyone shared the same love for theatre and performance. The more I learned, the more I wanted it to take hold of me and mold me into a better human being.”