AMERICUS (Mar. 11, 2014)--Sixteen Georgia Southwestern State University theater students qualified to present at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival on February 4 through 8, at Hollins University and Mill Mountain Theater in Roanoke, Virginia.  

GSW theater students achieve milestones at regional college theater festival

AMERICUS (Mar. 11, 2014)--Sixteen Georgia Southwestern State University theater students qualified to present at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival on February 4 through 8, at Hollins University and Mill Mountain Theater in Roanoke, Virginia. The students qualified through an external, juried review of their work in the productions of “Unhallowed Arts” and “The Diviners” during fall semester last year.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) was started in 1969 and is a national theater program designed to encourage, improve, and celebrate college theater programs; to encourage the experimentation and creation of new writings and productions; and to develop the skills and professionalism of college theater students.

“It's an invaluable resource for dramatic arts majors in that it offers a week-long immersion in the cultures, communities and critical bodies of contemporary American theatre,” said Jason Wallace, a senior dramatic arts major from GSW who attended the festival.

For the first time in the history of the Theater, Communication and Media Arts (TCMA) program, GSW was represented by a production at the festival. The GSW company - Jason Wallace, William Searcy, Christopher Gilstrap, and Sara Sellers - was invited to present a fully staged production of Kevin Furguson’s “Losing Sight” on the basis of their staged reading at last year’s festival.

“Ferguson, having quite liked our work with the play, asked the GSW theatre department to handle the development of it,” Wallace said.

Keeping the same cast, the company performed their production in the national New Play Program. Wallace took on an additional role and directed the production, while Gilstrap, who had read the stage directions during the reading, became the stage manager and assistant director for the full performance. Jesse Wade designed the set that featured the artwork of GSW senior art major, Xavier Sims.

“We were able to combine projection tech, paintings, and a sort of ziggurat-like stage design to create a distinct visual impression on the audience and to communicate ideas about vision, emotional responsibility and painting-as-worship,” said Wallace.

“Talking with Ferguson,” he added, “and seeing his pleasure and satisfaction with our production was the best part of the festival. It's always rewarding to know you've done a kind of justice to the piece you're performing, especially when that knowledge comes from the writer himself.”

Another first for the GSW TCMA program was the juried selection of Bekah Martens to present in the Stage Directors and Choreographers directing initiative. Only six students from the ten-state region were selected for this event. She staged and presented a scene from “Uncle Vanya,” featuring William Searcy, Sara Thompson, Jessie Wade, and Jessica Riano.

Jeremy Ellenberg, Jason Wallace, Christopher Gilstrap, and Sara Thompson all qualified to present in the Irene Ryan scene showcase auditions. Jesse Wade, Alexis Young, Richard Thornton, and Bekah Martens served as their scene partners.

“I am grateful to have been able to go to the festival based on a nomination for an Irene Ryan acting award that I received for my role in GSW’s production of ‘Unhallowed Arts: The Birth of Frankenstein’,” said Gilstrap, a junior dramatic arts major. “We competed against over 200 other student actors and their partners.”

Additionally, GSW students were nominated for other awards. Shatora Smith qualified and was selected for the Stage Management Fellowship program. This was her second nomination and selection for participation in this initiative. Eric Holt and Jesse Wade both received dual nominations in Set Design and Technical Direction, displaying their work for review in the Design Expo. Two students were also nominated and presented in Allied Crafts and Technology: Brandon Loper in Sound Engineering and Jessica Riano in Makeup. Dakota Dodge and Robert Adams served as festival videographers for the Kennedy Center.

Eight GSW students also presented in the Devised Work Initiative, an original ensemble work developed from the personal narratives of the students, ethnography, and adaptation of non-dramatic text.

“Devised theater is an emerging form of amorphous performance art wherein a small group of actors come together and take equal roles in the writing, directing, designing, and performing of a short piece,” explained Gilstrap. “Devised theater pieces often rely heavily on personal narrative and humanistic struggles.”

The GSW group, which included Gilstrap and seven other student, Robert Adams, Jeremy Ellenberg, Jessie Riano, Sara Thompson, Richard Thornton, Jesse Wade, and Alexis Young, developed an eighteen-minute piece called “Wars” about their personal battles of identity, sexuality, and religion. The Devised Theatre pieces are written based off a prompt; this year’s prompt for the showcase was “I’m like you; I’m not like you.”

For more information about the KCACTF, please contact Jeffrey Green at jeff.green@gsw.edu.

Jason Wallace, William Searcy, and Sara Sellers perform "Losing Sight" at KCACTF.

Caption--Jason Wallace (left), William Searcy, and Sara Sellers perform "Losing Sight" at KCACTF.

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