Editor finds harshest critique is often silent

Over Christmas break I took a short road trip to Cleveland for a theater festival. The day after New Year’s, I rolled myself out of bed and hopped in a van with seven other students to compete in the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.

My compadre, Zak Westfall, and I were nominated by a critic in early December. I didn’t know it then, but being nominated for the Region 2 KCACTF is a huge honor. Out of the nine states in our region only 250 actors were selected to go.

We had to select a scene partner and prepare two scenes and a monologue that didn’t total more than seven minutes. So the four of us, – Zak, Mike, Kayla and I – quickly memorized our material and spent our Christmas break being excited to meet other theater nerds.

It’s been more than five years since someone from Gannon was nominated for KCACTF, so we didn’t really know what to expect. Other students had received their nominations as far back as August and we weren’t just competing against undergraduates, but graduate students from state, private and conservatory programs.

From the moment we arrived in Playhouse Square, it was like the week was on fast forward. It was a mix of intense rehearsals in our hotel room, running from workshop to workshop, listening to enlightening lectures and meeting tons of people. Sleep was hardly an option.

When it was time for us to audition, Kayla and I got to the space an hour and a half before our audition slot, like we were instructed, and waited. We were able to see some of the pairs run their lines and unfortunately, they were incredible. There were people who chose to sing their scenes, pairs with intense kissing scenes and the couple just in front of us that performed their entire scene in sign language.

We were terrified.

As we finally performed our scene for the judges, time flew. I was seriously wondering if I had even said all of my lines or if I just had a stroke and skipped to the end.

Then we waited another hour to hear our response. These critics were there just to give us feedback to improve our acting for the future and give us a little insight into whether we would advance to the semifinals.

Among all of these talented actors I already knew our chances were slim to none. Only 32 of the 250 nominees would advance. Still, I couldn’t get my stomach to chill out.

We sat as the respondents chewed out pair after pair. They were brutal, and when it was time for them to speak to us, I prepared myself for the worst, but they just said, “Nice relationship. Clear objectives. Really charming.”

When they didn’t call our names for the semifinals, I wasn’t shocked or heart-broken, but it did make me realize that sometimes the greatest critiques can be that which isn’t said.

I can’t even be disappointed that we didn’t advance because if we had, I wouldn’t have gotten to take so many fantastic movement workshops, and I wouldn’t have been inspired to find my stellar thesis topic. I know that sounds lame, but it’s true. It was a “when life gives you lemons” type of deal.

It was a great experience of putting myself out there and being willing to make myself vulnerable; creating a layer of thick skin and taking a critical look at me for self-improvement.

 

 

BRIANNA WOODS

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