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UCM Theatre and Dance Productions, ‘Tilikum’ and ‘Iconic,’ Invited to 2021 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

By Jeff Murphy, January 14, 2021

UCM Theatre PerformanceUniversity of Central Missouri Theatre and Dance students perform “Singin’ in the Rain” during the virtual presentation of “Iconic,” which used Vernon Kennedy Field at Audrey J. Walton as the stage. A video of this production was invited to be virtually presented during the Kennedy Center American College Festival Region V virtual festival Jan. 16-24. Photo by Molly Ross.

WARRENSBURG, MO – An honor rarely granted was bestowed upon University of Central Missouri Theatre and Dance when the Kennedy Center American College Festival Region V invited two of the university’s fall 2020 productions to be virtually presented at the 2021 regional festival. This virtual festival takes place Jan. 16-24.


The play “Tilikum,” written by Kristiana Rae Colón, was virtually presented by UCM Theatre and Dance in late October 2020. The production was directed by guest director Dréa Lewis, with dramaturgy by guest artist Lindsey “LJ” Jenkins. Colón, Lewis and Jenkins were invited to work with UCM Theatre and Dance students to create Theatre and Dance’s first-ever virtual production through the generosity of the Meridith Harmon Sauer Guest Artist Series.


“Tilikum” takes a sea creature’s story and creates a poetic, percussive fantasy that leads the audience to pay attention to a range of social justice issues regarding Black lives in America. Colón asks the audience to envision a world without prisons or police: “Close your eyes. Imagine the sound of the ocean. Imagine a world without cages. Imagine a world without borders.”


The artistic director for the project was Dr. Julie Rae Mollenkamp. She stated about the honor bestowed by KCACTF, “This is a tremendous opportunity for our students because of the timely nature of the story, the wisdom of our guest artists, and the shift of presenting theatre in a virtual format. This is also a first for UCM Theatre and Dance - having three Black artists join us in developing the university premiere of such an important, relevant script at this moment in history. Thrilling growth! We are so proud of everyone on the production team.”


UCM Tilikum PerformanceUCM students present a virtual performance of "Tilikum."


The other production invited by KCACTF is “Iconic,” directed by Professor Ashley Miller-Scully with musical direction by Page Gravely, digital media production by Dr. Joe Moore, and sound recording and mixing by Dr. Eric Honour and Mckenzie Shlogl. “Iconic” was performed outside at Audrey J. Walton Stadium. The production was filmed so it could be virtually presented for KCACTF, if selected.


“Iconic” took its audiences on a journey through the most iconic numbers from musical theatre history. Choreographed by Miller-Scully, UCM Theatre and Dance student choreographers, UCM Dance Instructor Amy Gilchrist and Spinning Tree Theatre, the show includes tunes such as “Singin’ in the Rain” from the American musical by the same title, “Cool” from “West Side Story, “One” from “A Chorus Line” and several other classic numbers.


Commenting on being selected for KCACTF, Miller-Scully said, “It is such an honor. The students worked incredibly hard to make the show happen under circumstances that none of us had ever experienced. For both ‘Iconic’ and ‘Tilikum’ to be included among the other great shows selected, it really demonstrates the strength of our program and our students, and UCM Theatre and Dance’s determination to create quality work for the UCM and Warrensburg community.”


All eight regions of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival are celebrating their festivals in a virtual environment this year. At the KCACTF Region V Festival students experience: 12 invited productions; workshops from nationally recognized professional artists; several scholarship opportunities for students; representation, equity and diversity initiatives and workshops; professional auditions; and much more.


For additional information about the KCACTF Region V Festival, please visit and for more information about upcoming UCM Theatre and Dance Productions, visit or the UCM Theatre and Dance Facebook page @ucmtheatreanddance.


Director: Ashley Miller-Scully
Scenic Design: Chasen Brown
Costume/Hair/Makeup Design: Jennifer Van Buskirk
Lighting Design: Kelsi Richardson, Seth Holt, Seth Sneary

Director: Dréa Lewis
Production Design: Ken George, Gracie Heath, Alex Scharfenberg
Lighting Design: Lili Garcia
Costume/Hair/Makeup Design: Demetrius Hampton


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