ISU Theatre’s “Of the Deep” honored at KCACTF

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For the third year in a row, an ISU Theatre production directed by Associate Professor Amanda Petefish-Schrag has been selected for showcase at the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). “Of the Deep: Meditations on the Death of a Blue Whale,” a thought-provoking series of short shadow puppet films, is one of only 12 productions highlighted at this year’s virtual festival, to be held Jan. 16 – 24.

Image of a whale projected on a screen
Shadow puppetry designed for “Of the Deep.”

“It is incredibly rare for a director to have multiple shows selected for a KCACTF regional festival,” said Brad Dell, director of ISU Theatre. “This is a remarkable accomplishment for Amanda and her cast and creative team. I am not aware of any director from anywhere in the nation who has ever received this honor three years in a row.”

KCACTF is a national organization affiliated with the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The organization celebrates and encourages excellence in college and university theatre across the country. Region 5 includes colleges and universities in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

Petefish-Schrag’s previous shows “Iphigenia” and “Iowa Odyssey (or How We Got to Here?)” were 2019 and 2020 KCACTF Region 5 selections. Both shows also went on to earn national Kennedy Center honors. “Iphigenia” received national awards for Adaptation of a Classic, Puppet Design, Directing, Musical Composition and Costume Design, and “Iowa Odyssey” earned a Citizen Artist Award and Distinguished Devised Production.

“This is a tremendous honor for our entire ‘Of the Deep’ team,” Petefish-Schrag said. “It really reminds me how fortunate I am to get to work with this outstanding group of students, faculty and staff, who have been so innovative, generous and patient as we worked to re-vision the production in light of the Covid crisis.”

“Of the Deep: Meditations on the Death of a Blue Whale,” which was co-facilitated by performing arts senior Lena Menefee-Cook, invites audiences to dive into deep waters and ponder the consequences and complexities of environmental crisis.

The production is loosely based on the true experiences of a coastal town that had to confront enormous challenges when a massive whale carcass washed up on its shores. Originally written by Petefish-Schrag for the stage, ISU Theatre adapted the material during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaborative student teams devised new work and designed shadow puppets using discarded materials that might be found in a whale’s belly. Their short film series was streamed online during fall 2020.

For more information about ISU Theatre, visit, email or call 515-294-2624. ISU Theatre is funded by ISU Student Government and supported by the Transforming Liberal Arts and Sciences Endowment.