Three Marian University students spent their last week of winter break braving the cold of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to attend the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region III Conference. Sarah Hunter ’17, Kegan Main ’19, and Brandi Underwood ’16 traveled with Director of Theatre Ben Tebbe ’99 as the first representatives from Marian University to attend the preeminent college theatre gathering. The festival in Milwaukee was attended by hundreds of students from over 70 colleges and universities across Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Department of Theatre entered its fall production of Little Shop of Horrors as a participating production with KCACTF.
Based on her performance in Little Shop of Horrors, Sarah Hunter was nominated to audition for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship through the festival. Though she did not win, she auditioned with her partner Kegan Main, and performed admirably.
Brandi Underwood presented her costume design from Little Shop of Horrors at the Design Excellence Expo to students from other universities as well as design professionals who were able to provide feedback to her work. In addition to presenting her completed designs, Brandi took part in a competition called “Design Storm” in which she joined a team of students who were tasked with creating the production of their dreams. Design Storm is a timed collaborative event that teams a director with a dramaturg, and designers (lighting, sound, costume, scenery, and make-up) to create an approach to a classic or contemporary text that is unlike all previous productions. As a team they must generate the design concept as well as renderings and visual and sonic aids to present their production ideas. Brandi served as dramaturg and scenic designer for a dream production of Richard III and was part of the winning team!
“Design Storm was probably the most collaborative experiences I have ever had,” Underwood offered. “I got to work with people who were really passionate about what we were doing, and I feel like this allowed us to work as if we had known each other for a while.”
When not competing, the students took full advantage of the many workshops offered and opportunities to view full productions presented by other universities. The opportunities to learn were boundless as Hunter observed, “The workshops gave me the chance to try new aspects of theatre that I'd never been able to before, like stage combat, voiceover work, and acting on camera.”
Kegan Main agreed, noting, “The festival was a wonderful way to connect with other students and professors, see new works being performed by peers, and to expand my knowledge of both traditional and modern works by various playwrights. KCACTF provided me with an opportunity to both learn about theater, and to be a part of its constant evolution.”
Sarah Hunter continued, “Attending the American College Theatre Festival is something I'll remember for a long time. It was so inspiring to meet and learn from so many teachers and professionals who have dedicated their lives to theatre. I hope I get to privilege of attending the American College Theatre Festival again in the future!”
The Festival was started in 1969 and is a national program serving as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theatre in the United States. Through regional, and national festivals, KCACTF participants celebrate the creative process, see one another's work, and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing, and design.