ISU Theatre Student Earns Top Honors at Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region 5

Left to right: Angelica Elkema, Alyson O'Hara, Vivian Cook, Libby Peterson, Olivia Griffith.

The following story was submitted by Brad Dell, associate professor of music and theatre.

Vivian Cook (’18 performing arts) took first place in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), Region 5 ASPIRE Arts Leadership Fellowship. Cook will represent ISU this April as the top Region 5 student arts leader at the National Festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Cook participated at the regional festival in Des Moines January 21-27 along with nearly 1500 college and university students and faculty from the Region 5 states of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Missouri. 85 different colleges and universities were represented at the 2018 region 5 festival.

KCACTF is a national organization run out of the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The organization celebrates and encourages excellence in college and university theatre across the country. Its mission statement states that "through regional and national festivals, KCACTF participants celebrate the creative process; see one another’s work, and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. KCACTF honors the excellence of overall productions and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing, and design. Region 5’s festival includes competitions, workshops, and exhibitions in all areas of theatre, including acting, directing, playwriting, criticism, design, dramaturgy, and technical theatre.

In addition to Cook, 35 ISU students and 7 ISU faculty members attended the Regional Festival in Des Moines. Many of them also received honors and awards.

The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions is one of the largest events at the festival with over 600 student participants. Angelica Elkema (senior in Vocal Performance) won the outstanding musical theatre performer in the Irene Ryan Semi-Final Round. Along with Elkema and her partner Libby Peterson (junior in Performing Arts), Alyson O’Hara (junior in Graphic Design) and her partner Lena Menefee-Cook (sophomore in Performing Arts) also advanced to the semi-final round of the Irene Ryans.

Peterson and Olivia Griffith (junior in Vocal Performance and Performing Arts) were cast in the Musical Theatre Dance Intensive. Peterson was named the top dancer in the intensive and won a partial scholarship to the Open Jar Institute in New York City this upcoming summer.

A scene from the ISU Theatre production of "Out of the Fire" directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Amanda Petefish-Schrag was one of only ten scenes invited to participate in the Invited Scene Showcase. Senior Lecturer in Theatre Kelly Schaefer displayed her costumes for "The Importance of Being Earnest" through an invitation to participate in the annual Region 5 Costume Parade.

The following students and faculty were honored with KCACTF Certificates of Merit for their work on 2017 ISU Theatre productions:

  • Amanda Petefish-Schrag for development of original monologues for "Out of the Fire."
  • The entire Ensemble of "The Children’s Hour," directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Brad Dell for Ensemble Acting.

Dell is the Chair of KCACTF Region 5. Schaefer served as the vice-chair of Design, Technology, and management and the hospitality coordinator; Amanda Petefish-Schrag was the Volunteer Coordinator; Adam Yankowy (lecturer in performing arts) was the Musical Theatre Dance Intensive Coordinator; Jim Trenberth (ISU Theatre Production Manager) was one of the festival technical coordinators; Charissa Menefee (Associate Professor of English) and Natalie Hining (ISU Theatre Technical Director) each led intensive workshops at the festival.

ISU has previously hosted the festival in Ames four different times in 1999, 2007, 2011, and 2012.

Jim Trenberth, ISU Theatre’s resident lighting designer and production manager, also received the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region 5 this January.

Each year, the eight KCACTF regions honor individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theater and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the development of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The Gold Medallion award is the most prestigious regional award given by KCACTF and is considered one of the great honors in theater education.