Students reflect on theater festival

staff writer

The theater buzzed, packed with over 1,000 young, eager theater lovers hoping to one day enter the world of acting, tech crew, directing or instructing.
Day one of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region 2 had just come to a close.
Gannon University’s contingent had just registered and sat down at a large proscenium stage to listen to the keynote speaker, Maurice Hines Jr.
From Jan. 16-20, Gannon students experienced a thrilling adventure of workshops, new theater creations and even a live performance of their show “Ape/Essence” at KCACTF, held at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
While attending this festival is not a new experience for the Gannon theater crew, being invited to perform their devised creation, which was originally performed on the Schuster Theatre stage in spring 2017 and in Scotland that summer, was a first in nearly two decades.
Students had the opportunity to participate in workshops in directing, dramaturgy, stage design and more, while two students also competed for the Irene Ryan acting scholarships.
Senior theater and communication arts majors Kara Headley and Zach Hyman auditioned for the scholarship.
“The Ryans [scholarship] took a lot of preparation, but the audition itself went by like lightning,” Headley said.
While she and Hyman were not awarded the scholarship, they did receive some useful feedback to help further their acting careers.
As part of the festival, members of Gannon’s honorary theater fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega, met up with fellow members from different schools.
Seamus Clerkin, president of APO and a sophomore education major, expressed his excitement in meeting with members of the different APO casts.
“We really got to learn from our other APO family,” Clerkin said.
The week spent at KCACTF led up to the “Ape/Essence” cast’s performance on Saturday.
At 9:30 a.m., cast members would tell the story they had been devising and perfecting for over a year.
Junior theater and communication arts major Molly Cooke joined the cast she had helped stage manage last spring. “We were actually one of the last shows to perform,” Cooke said.
“So we would watch all these other schools perform some amazing productions, and it felt like forever till ‘Ape/Essence’ finally got to perform.”
Six additional shows had been invited to perform and compete for a national title.
The competing productions included “Waiting for Godot,” “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” “In the Cotton,” “The 39 Steps,” “Urinetown” and “Moon over Buffalo.”
These shows, as well as others from surrounding region KCACTFs, will discover what productions will move onto the national competition after judging is complete in March.
“I love performing this show,” said Clerkin, who portrayed the magistrate in “Ape/Essence.”
“I’ll miss it a lot, but who knows what we can bring to the KCACTF stage in years to come.”

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