USM Theatre Wins at KCACTF Regionals

The USM Theatre Area had an amazing week at the virtual KCACTF regional festival! Their production of Describe the Night and more was extremely well received and many students and professors that worked on them won awards, received honorable mentions, and will go on to represent the theatre team on the national level. The audience was very enthusiastic in their praise of Describe the Night, marveling at how their performers and designers were able to integrate all of the virtual elements into a powerful, unified production. 

What is KCACTF you might ask? As we’ve been proud to share before, The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) is a national theatre program that has given over 400,000 students national recognition for their excellence and the opportunity to have their work professionally critiqued. The regional festival features invited productions (like USM’s Describe the Night), workshops, showcases and awards for design and technology, acting intensives and competitions, performances of/and awards for playwriting, and more. As mentioned, this was a regionals level festival and many of these students will move on to the national level to continue pressuring excellence and success.

Congratulations to everyone who submitted their work into KCACTF this year.

Here is an honorary list of achievements for this festival by USM’s theatre:

Performance, Directing, and Playwriting

  • Anna Carson Tyner was a finalist for the Irene Ryan awards.
  • Brietta Goodman was a semi-finalist for the Musical Theatre Initiative.
  • Cayson Miles was one of the two regional winners (for their ten-minute play “An Expansion”) that will see their work submitted to the national festival. Their one-act play The Waves was also an invited performance at the festival, directed by Assistant Professor Caitlyn Herzlinger and starring Cody Elsensohn and Bryan Peyton. 
  • Professor Monica Hayes received Meritorious Achievement in Directing for The Revolutionists

Design and Technology

  • Aline Toloto received Honorable Mention for her scenic design of Company.
  • Olga Goupalova will represent us at the national conference for her costume design of Airline Highway (theoretical).
  • Mason Baria and Rebecca Earehart received SETC awards for their costume designs of The Revolutionists and Describe the Night, respectively. 
  • Katy Baronich will represent us at the national conference for her lighting design of Describe the Night.
  • Alison Bucher received an SETC award for her lighting design of The Revolutionists.
  • Tristan King received Honorable Mention for his sound design for Describe the Night
  • Jax Wright will represent us at the national conference for his compositing of Describe the Night
  • Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas awards were given to Katy Baronich, Claire Brenia, and Jax Wright. 

Here are a few excerpts sharing our student’s experience: 

  • “Participating in KCACTF was definitely a little different this year, but I had never had the opportunity to go to the in-person festival, so I don’t have personal experiences to compare it to. I had a really great experience with the virtual festival! I had a wonderful support network from our department here at USM as I continued to advance, and I received really helpful feedback on my submission monologues from my professors. I submitted one monologue, a classical comedic piece, for the preliminary rounds, and I was notified the Monday before the festival began that I’d advanced to semi-finals. I believe there were about 130 nominees, and it was cut to 36 semi-finalists. I submitted my second monologue, a contemporary dramatic piece, on Wednesday, had a response session with festival adjudicators on Thursday, and was notified on Friday that I had been chosen as one of 16 finalists. For the finals, I filmed both monologues together and submitted it Friday afternoon (it was due Saturday at 9 am). I had a second adjudication on Sunday morning before awards. Getting feedback on my pieces from industry professionals was very enlightening. Even though I did not receive any awards, being recognized for my work on Describe the Night and advancing to the finals was still really rewarding.”

~Anna Carson Tyner

  • “Firstly, I would like to say that I love every part about being involved in the Musical Theatre Initiative at KCACTF. This is my third year participating and my second year as a semi-finalist and each year I learn more and more about my passion, musical theatre. Even though it was virtual this year, it was a pleasure to know we can continue to experience the art of theatre through difficult times. The biggest thing I was looking forward to this year from MTI was reconnecting with my mentor and old community college professor, Sadie Shannon, who continues to encourage me to participate every year. I also reconnected with another amazing mentor and friend, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, from the Original Broadway Cast of A Little Night Music. I had the pleasure of working with him last year during finals and was very excited to attend his workshop and work with him again. His experience on Broadway and his view on how to approach and perform musical pieces is the foundation that I like to use in my script analysis for musicals and I try really hard to implement all of his feedback into my process. I am very thankful that I got to meet and work with him again. Shoutout to Hunter! Another perk is receiving the feedback from the respondents and using those critiques to explore my auditions pieces in different ways. Two of my respondents were Nancy Jones from the University of Kentucky and Matt Ferrell from Winthrop University, and the big takeaway from those two was the physicality of the piece and where that character resides in your body which is a big obstacle that I am slowly but surely trying to overcome in my acting education. I truly love being a part of MTI as well as the KCACTF Festival every year and I am very thankful to everyone that I got to meet and interact with through this. Fingers-crossed that next year we get to be in person!”

~Brietta Goodman

  • “It was really exciting to be one of two regional winners in ten-minute play category! I had an amazing director and cast from throughout the region to put on my show “An Expansion,” and all of us coming together was a really fun experience. We all were just very happy to get to work together over the week of the festival. My favorite part about KCACTF is that, even though it was virtual this year, you have the opportunity to make all these connections.”

~Cayson Miles

  • “When the creative team started designing Company in March last year, we did not realize that a few weeks later Covid would hit us so hard and we would have to cancel the performance. The musical talks about friendship, relationships, and the importance of accept the love that comes to you. It was a challenge to design a comedy during those times but simultaneously made me realize even deeper the necessity of each other. It was rewarding to present the design at KCACTF and receive an honorable mention for such a lovely work developed by the team in such vulnerable times. As a Scenic Designer, I expressed through the colors and contrasting shapes the struggle that Bob was going through in his journey trying to understand what it means being alive.”

~Aline Toloto