Luke Venhuizen-Staff Writer
On Jan. 22-27, Dordt College theatre students participated in the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF). ACTF is an annual event full of competitions, performances and presentations. Founded in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, it involves over 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, separated into eight regions. Dordt College is a part of region five, which consists of undergrad and grad schools from North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. This year, the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted ACTF in Des Moines.
Several competitions take place during the festival, including the Irene Ryan acting competition. In the preliminary round of the competition, each nominee performs a two-minute scene with a partner, and then the nominee alone performs a one-minute monologue. There are consistently around 360 Irene Ryan Nominees in Region 5 every year.
Sixty of the 360 contestants advance to the semi-finals. Here, the nominee and his or her partner perform two scenes (just adding one scene into the mix from earlier). Only 16 of those 60 pairs move onto the finals, where they perform the monologue and both scenes for everyone at the festival. Only one is chosen from the entire region to move on to the Kennedy Center (KCACTF) in Washington D.C. to compete against the other seven regional winners for the Irene Ryan Scholarship.
ACTF also hosts a design expo where students may present their design work in the areas of lighting, sound, make-up, costumes, graphic design, projections, props and more. Students can win regional and national awards for their work. There is an honorable mention and first place winner for each category. Those who win at the national level also move onto the Kennedy Center to compete against the other regions.
Other competitions involve scriptwriting, musical theatre, stagecraft, stage-crew showdown and more. Activities, such as a variety of workshops for students to attend, occur throughout the week. Workshops range from Russian Acrobatics to playwriting to Broadway Bootcamp, a workshop that taught participants how to do the Alabama Stomp from the musical “Big Fish.” If an activity has to do with theatre, there’s a workshop for it.
There are also a variety of performances presented around Des Moines. Each year, there are about six productions and eight selected scenes from throughout the region invited to perform at the festival. This year, shows included “Othello,” “One River,” “Good Kids” and “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”
ACTF is a place for theatre students to learn, collaborate and network. It is a place to create art and create friendships. It is a place to hear feedback and become a better artist. It is a place where theatre is celebrated and a place to celebrate those who create theatre.