CSM Thespians Attend Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

At the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Students Garner Recognition for Stage, Back-Stage Competitions

The College of Southern Maryland theater department led by Technical Director Keith Hight competed in the 34th Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Jan. 11-15. The festival included student performances, competitions and workshops.

            “It was incredible to watch our students stay focused throughout the entire competition. Our students rocked the place,” Hight said of the group of Southern Maryland students who competed with students from Carnegie Mellon University, James Madison University, The Ohio State University, Penn State, Rutgers, Villanova University and other colleges and universities.   

The region 2 theater competition of 1,400 students represented colleges and universities in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. CSM students attending the festival included Danielle LeDoux of Indian Head; Jeremy Hunter, Alex LaClair, Victoria Anastasi and Rusty Hrabe of La Plata; Alyshia Bradley of Lexington Park; Jamie Burroughs, Dana DiGregorio, Paul May, Devon Pettie and Samantha Zanelotti of Mechanicsville; and Ryan Armstrong, Kristen Carlsen, Rami Essa, Kyle Janschek and Eid Brian Taylor of Waldorf.

            The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Audition began with 700 students competing for awards provided through an endowment created by Ryan, an actress who worked in radio, television, movies and stage for the education of actors. One male student, one female student and two alternates are selected to represent their region in the national competition held at the Kennedy Center in April. “Hrabe was one of 32 students to reach the semi-finals—quite an honor,” said Hight.

            “It was definitely a feeling that I will always remember,” said Hrabe of being chosen to advance to the semi-finals. “I was speechless. It's like that first sip of soda after struggling to get the top off—it tastes so good yet there's still so much left to enjoy.”

            DiGregorio received a certificate of merit as a national state manager contender.

Anastasi, Carlsen, LaClair and Taylor were awarded roles in various new works as part of the National Playwriting Program. These plays were then presented at the festival. Burroughs was chosen to stage manage one of these plays, working with a professional playwright and professional director.

            CSM students received a certificate of achievement in devised theater for their performance of “Welcome Home,” which was written by Hunter during the competition. The Project for Devised Theater was a new initiative this year which required students to write a 20-minute play to include random elements pre-selected by competition organizers. The script had to incorporate an interview, a moment of silence, the building or making of something, and the inclusion of a poem by Walt Whitman. 

Backstage competition was challenging as well. Armstrong, Janschek, LeDoux, May and Taylor competed in the Tech Olympics. Costumers were required to change the wardrobe of a live model—in total darkness—and then change the model back to the original costume—again in total darkness. Based on a photo, set designers had to assemble a set in total darkness. Light designers were timed on their ability to assemble lighting apparatus and have it focused on a subject—again, in total darkness.

“They made connections with other actors at colleges all around the region and they had opportunities to work with professional actors, set and light directors, stage managers and playwrights,” said Hight. “We arrived on a Monday at 3:30 p.m. and did not stop until Saturday at 11 p.m. We saw 25 plays while we were there,” said Hight. “They returned to CSM with a greater respect and appreciation of their chosen crafts.”

“I want to hear my name announced from stage next year,” said Hrabe. “First of all, I have to get nominated again. I still have to put as much work into my auditions and my roles as I did last year, and push myself even harder to better myself as an actor.”

            For information on CSM’s theater program, visit http://www.csmd.edu/Academics/ .

            To see a listing of upcoming performances, visit http://www.csmd.edu/Arts/.