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Student and Faculty Awards | Unviersity News | UCM Theatre and Dance

UCM Theatre and Dance Students and Faculty Earn Recognition, Perform at KCACTF in Des Moines

By Jeff Murphy, January 29, 2024


Several University of Central Missouri Theatre and Dance students attended, performed at, and were honored during the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Among the participants were: front row, from left, TiJhana Hines, Grace Clark, Shanna Sinow: middle row, from left, Kayla Addison, Alannah Trigg, Jennifer White; and back row, from left, Raegan Weber, Addison Rutherford, Katie Kaminski, Makenzie Lewis, and Brittany King.

WARRENSBURG, MO – Theatre and Dance students and faculty at the University of Central Missouri attended the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Jan. 16-21 in Des Moines, Iowa. The 32 students and five faculty members who attended also were recognized for excellence in multiple areas of theatre and dance.

Among the highlights of this year’s event, UCM’s original dance-play, “Remember the Dance,” produced on campus in April 2023, and written by Assistant Professor of Theatre, Dr. Aaron Scully, and directed by both Scully and Theatre and Dance Chair, Ashley Miller-Scully, was chosen as one of four invited productions to be performed at the KCACTF. With more than 20 productions out of a seven-state region in consideration, it was a significant honor to be chosen to take the production on the road to Iowa and share it with more tham 1,500 students at the annual conference, Miller-Scully noted.

In addition to presenting three performances of “Remember the Dance” at the festival, the production received numerous KCACTF Meritorious Achievement Awards including recognition for lighting design by Jamie Gresens, former assistant professor of theatre (Lighting and Sound Design), and by Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Theatre Design and Technology students and alumni Wesley Freeman, Luke Habjan, Arianna Kendrick, and Hollie Neumann. Dr. Aaron Scully received a playwriting award for his script, and Ashley Miller-Scully was honored with an award for her direction and choreography of the show alongside former faculty and student choreographers Francois Des Marteau, TiJhana Hines, Addison Rutherford, and Shanna Sinow. Guest Musical Composer, Jack McClain, received an award for his nine original musical compositions used throughout the production, and the entire cast was recognized in collaboration for their creation of a new work.

Additional UCM productions and student and faculty directors and designers received more Meritorious Achievement Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 16 during  KCACTF’s opening ceremony. Spencer Musser, assistant professor of theatre (Scenic Design and Technical Direction), received an award for scenic design for UCM’s spring 2023 production, “Eurydice.” Kristen Henning, guest director of the spring 2023 musical, “Little Women,” was recognized for her direction of the show; Dr. Aaron Scully was recognized for fight design; Spencer Musser, scenic design; and Cassie Kay Hoppas, assistant professor of theatre, received an award for costume design. Recent UCM Theatre and Dance alumni, Hollie Neumann and Seth Sneary, were recognized for hair and make-up design and lighting design, respectively.

Additionally, the fall 2023 production, “Everybody,” received Meritorious Achievement Awards for direction by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, Jenise Cook, and for ensemble performance by the cast.  UCM Theatre and Dance’s most recent fall musical production, “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” received awards in stage management, which went to BFA Theatre Performance sophomore, Jake Collins, and freshman Bachelor of Science in Education (BSE) in Speech Communication and Theatre student, Xander Corkins. Gracie Heath, a senior seeking a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theatre, was recognized for her lighting design, and a senior seeking a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre, TiJhana Hines, was honored for her ensemble performance in the show. Cassie Kay Hoppas’s costume design received another meritorious recognition, and Guest Musical Director, Daniel Doss, was received an award for achievement in musical direction. The play’s director, Dr. Aaron Scully, was honored for directing the show and directorial concept.

Nearly 250 students competed in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Competition at this year’s festival. Five students including Grace Clark, a sophomore seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre; Miranda Muenz, a senior pursuing a BFA in Musical Theatre; Rosalyn Schuster, a junior seeking a BFA in Musical Theatre; Shanna Sinow, a senior seeking a BFA in Musical Theatre; and Raegan Weber a sophomore BFA Theatre Performance student, all advanced to the top 68 Irene Ryan semi-finalists in the region.

McKenna Sanford, a sophomore BFA Musical Theatre student advanced to the semi-final round of the Musical Theatre Singing Intensive to become one of the top 40 students in the region. Dmitry Crawford, TiJhana Hines, Katie Kaminski and Miranda Muenz were selected as four of the top 19 dancers in the region for the Musical Theatre Dance Intensive. These students worked with a Broadway choreographer to learn and perform a dance piece for the Musical Theatre Intensive Showcase on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 20. Danny Gage, a senior BFA Theatre Performance student, was named to the  top 20 students recognized for the KCACTF Improv Team Intensive. Recent alumna and BFA Theatre Design/Technology student, Stephanie Heathcock’s 10-Minute play, “A Necropsy,” received an award for Outstanding Play Performed at the 10-Minute Lottery Play Workshop. Additionally, TiJhana Hines and Jacob Collins were selected to serve as members of the KCACTF Region V Student Advisory Board this year.

Throughout the week students attended a variety of invited productions, participated in numerous workshops and intensives in all areas of theatre, and auditioned and interviewed for professional theatre companies in attendance. Many UCM students received callbacks for summer employment and internships and gained opportunities to put their educational training into professional practice.

UCM Theatre and Dance Faculty led workshops and held leadership positions at the festival: Cassie Kay Hoppas, assistant professor of theatre (Costume Design), led The Costume Runway Intensive and taught two workshops, “Introduction to Flat Patterning” and “Introduction to Hand Sewing”; and Dr. Aaron Scully is serving his third year as the KCACTF Region V National Playwriting Program Chair, a position that oversees all aspects of playwriting at the festival. Scully also taught a workshop titled “How to Make Your Play Standout!” which informed students on the different techniques that improve their chances of moving their plays from the page to the stage. 

UCM Theatre and Dance expressed its appreciation for UCM’s Academic Competitive Teams Council; Student Funding Committee from UCM Student Activities; the Office of Graduate Studies Scholarly Activity Fund, Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Michael Sawyer; and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Phil Bridgmon; as well as the individual donors who generously provided funds to help offset the cost of this invaluable learning experience for both students and faculty.



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