A select group of USM theater students made the trip to Hyannis, Mass. last Tuesday to take part in the nationally recognized 2013 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Some students competed and were successful, some just attended the workshops that were held, but all seemed to learn something new.
“Our theater department, like all theater departments, can get cliquey,” said senior theater major Clarissa Bergeron-Lawrence,“ but I think we sort of broke up those small groups last week and really bonded as a whole. Everyone seems to be re-energized.”
KCACTF has been developed as a means to encourage, recognize and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs. Theater students from across the country participate in regional festivals, with those who make it to finals going on to compete on the national level in Washington D.C. USM competed in Region I, which consisted of students from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, northeast New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The USM Department of Theatre came out of the festival event with a victory, too. For the first time in nearly seven years, a USM competitor made it to the semi-finals. Freshman theater major Martin Bodenheimer, who competed with his scene-partner, senior theater major Hannah Perry, was excited to advance to the second round of competition, as one of the top 36 performers out of over 200.
“I was surprised I was chosen, honestly, but I was really excited. It feels pretty good,” said Bodenheimer.
The competition took place in three rounds. Actors were expected to prepare a three-minute scene, a two-minute scene and for the finals, a one-minute monologue. There were enough competitors that everyone was practicing in their spare time, and most were not able to watch each other.
Bergeron-Lawrence was nominated to compete in dramaturgy for her work on last year’s USM production of You Can’t Take It With You by playwright George S. Kaufman, but missed the deadline to accept her nomination. Still, she traveled to Hyannis to attend workshops and make connections.
A dramaturg deals mainly with research and development of plays or operas, making sure all aspects of set, design and costume are accurate for the time period and giving a general historical context to the shows.
Students were able to choose the workshops they attended, so everyone was able to focus on their specialty. Bergeron-Lawrence was glad to be able to attend workshops on dramaturgy, because there are none offered at USM.
“We as a department need to talk about it [the festival] more. It was a really great experience, and I regret not doing it before, but I didn’t know how to go until I was nominated to compete,” said Bergeron-Lawrence.
Bergeron-Lawrence hopes to use her experience and connections to acquire a grant that would support a dramaturg position at the Waterville Opera House after she graduates this spring.
USM will be returning to the festival next year with a small victory under their belt and a larger group of experienced students – they hope to accomplish a lot.