By Jeff Murphy, February 7, 2023
WARRENSBURG, MO -- Theatre and Dance students and faculty at the University of Central Missouri attended during the week of Jan. 22-28 the first in-person Region V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) since 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. With 24 students and six faculty members in attendance, UCM was recognized for excellence in multiple areas of theatre.
During the event, five students who are seeking a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) advanced to the semi-finals of the Musical Theatre Singing Intensive. They are Thomas Clark, senior, BFA in Theatre Performance; Rachel Curry, senior, BFA in Musical Theatre; Gracie Heath, junior, BFA in Graphic Design; Maleena Johnson, junior, BFA in Musical Theatre; and McKenna Sanford, sophomore, BFA in Musical Theatre.
Rachel Curry, TiJhana Hines, and Miranda Muenz, who are all seeking a BFA in Musical Theatre, were selected as three of the top 18 dancers in the region for the Musical Theatre Dance Intensive. Students worked with a Broadway choreographer to learn and perform choreography from the Broadway musical, “Some Like It Hot.” Gracie Heath and Jace Nielsen, senior, BFA in Theatre Performance, were both selected for the KCACTF Improv Team, and Shanna Sinow, junior, BFA in Musical Theatre, was cast in the role of “May” in a 10-minute play titled “Rabbit Hole.” A play titled “A Side of Gin” by Grace Clark, freshman, BFA in Theatre Performance, was selected to be performed in the 10-Minute Lottery Play Workshop, and TiJhana Hines was selected to serve as a member of the KCACTF Region V Student Advisory Board this year.
UCM’s spring 2022 musical production of “Fun Home” was honored with an invitation to perform a scene from the show during the Invited Scene Showcase on Friday afternoon, Jan. 28. Gracie Heath and Emily Turner, sophomore, Bachelor of Science in Education (BSE) in Speech Communication and Theatre, performed the scene and song, “Changing My Major.” “Fun Home” received additional Meritorious Awards of Achievement that recognized: Guest Musical Director, Daniel Doss, for his Musical Direction and Conduction; former visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, Joe Burkard, for Scenic Design; former Instructor of Theatre, Benjamin Gonzales, for Lighting Design; and former Assistant Professor and Director, Mary Trotter, for her direction of the production. The cast, crew, designers, and creative team for “Fun Home” were recognized for Full Company Collaboration.
Nearly 250 students competed in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Competition at this year’s festival. UCM students Gracie Heath, Emily Turner and Riley Given, a senior pursuing a BFA in Theatre Performance, all advanced to the semi-final round with the recognition of reaching the top 51 acting students in the region. Following the semi-final round, it was announced that Heath and her acting partner, Paige Showen, a freshman seeking a BSE in Speech Communication and Theatre, and Turner, with her acting partner, Grace Clark, advanced to the Final Round of the Irene Ryan competition as two of the top 16 collegiate performers in the region. Both pairs performed in the final round of the competition. They presented a six-minute audition package that included two contrasting monologues and a partnered scene.
Additional UCM productions and student and faculty directors and designers received more Meritorious Achievement Awards on Sunday night,Jan. 23, during the opening ceremony. For UCM’s spring 2022 production of “Voucher: or that PTA Play,” recent BFA in Theatre Design/Technology graduate Madison Skiljan was recognized for her Scenic Design and a senior seeking a BFA in Theatre Design/Technology, Hollie Neumann, was honored for Costume Design. The cast of the fall 2022 UCM play, “Stop Kiss,” was recognized for its Ensemble Performance, while a sophomore pursuing a BFA in Theatre Design/Technology, Molly Blackburn, was recognized for her Sound Design, and Jamie Gresens, an assistant professor of theatre (Lighting and Sound Design), was recognized for his Lighting Design of the production. The 2022 fall musical, “The Prom,” received Meritorious recognitions for Choreography by Guest Choreographer, Allison Duncan, and for Costume Design, by visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre (Costume Design), Cassie Hoppas.
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. They were: Cassie Hoppas, visiting assistant professor of theatre (costume design), led the Costume Runway Intensive; Jenise Cook, visiting assistant professor of theatre (performance), served as Associate Coordinator of the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, and Dr. Aaron Scully, assistant professor of theatre, is serving his second year as the KCACTF Region V National Playwriting Program Chair.
Theatre and Dance expressed its thanks to UCM’s Academic Competitive Teams Council, the Student Funding Committee from UCM Student Activities, the Office of Graduate Studies Scholarly Activity Fund, and the individual donors who generously provided funds to help offset the cost of this invaluable learning experience for both students and faculty.