Theatre Arts Reaches Advanced Round in Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

The LMU Theatre Arts Department had the opportunity to attend the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) this year, where four of our theatre students advanced to the semi-final round of the Irene Ryan Scholarships and over 20 Lions participated in various workshops. The theatre festival is a national program for college theatre arts students and draws nearly 18,000 participants each year. Marc Valera, a senior lecturer at LMU, coordinated the LMU attendance at KCACTF.

“This year the festival was virtual, but there was still so much to offer,” said Valera. “It was another wildly successful year for Lion Actors at KCACTF, and we were so proud to represent our university, college, and department.”

Four LMU students advanced to the semi-final round of the Irene Ryan Scholarships, with one student advancing to the finals. These LMU students were Ivy Musgrove, Lottie Guidi, Meighan LaRocca and Royce Lundquist, with Royce advancing to the finals. This was a record number of scholarship candidates for the department and there were nearly 250 other students participating from other colleges and universities. The Irene Ryan Scholarship provides recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers and took months of preparation for our LMU theatre students.

Of the six works invited for performance in the 10-minute plays competition, half were works written by LMU student playwrights. All three LMU plays advanced to consideration for the national festival. These plays were “Blackberries” by Daijanae McCoy, “On Bathing” by Leire Aguilera Kelly and “The Dead May Listen” by Eliza Black. All of these plays were fostered through the Theatre Arts Department’s New Works Festival last spring.

During the week, over 20 Lions participated in a variety of different workshops and various student accomplishments were acknowledged. Some of the workshops included “Anti-Racist Work for non-BIPOC Artists;” “A New York Casting Director’s Perspective on Achieving Success in Theatre & Film;” and “Visualization Exercises to Help Everyone Write Their First (or Fiftieth) Play.” Students were also given the opportunity to virtually attend plays and the Musical Theatre Initiative & Cabaret. A few LMU student actors were cast in the National Playwriting Program readings of 10-minute and one-act plays.

LMU faculty also held important roles in the theatre festival. Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Arnab Banerji was appointed to the board of the KCACTF region VIII to head its Institute of Theatre Journalism and Advocacy. Banerj facilitated the institute with a focus on helping students gain insight into understanding diverse cultures and helped them hone their writing and reviewing skills. CFA Dean and SFTV Interim Dean Bryant Keith Alexander, who was also an Irene Ryan Scholarship Candidate as a student, presented a session on the importance of diverse racial and gendered identities in theatre.

Judith Royer, C.S.J. and LMU distinguished professor of theatre, and Doris Baizley, LMU adjunct professor of theatre, co-conducted a workshop titled “Theatre as Social Transformation: Dramatizing Stories of Homelessness and Survival.” Professors Royer and Baizley were assisted by six LMU students from the Fall ’20 Voices of Justice theatre course who presented their work and discussed the process used for dramatizing narratives. The student projects were based on interviewing clients of homeless services at the Alexandria House and COVID-19 caregivers and survivors at Providence St. Joseph Health.

Judith Royer, C.S.J., is also the founder and respondent workshop coordinator for the KCACTF region VIII respondent training workshop. Royer and the training team conducted two sessions and a total of six hours of training for over twenty promising new regional respondents. These respondents will be responsible for on-site meetings with a cast and company, immediately following one of the public performances, for productions entered for festival participation.