Zachary Sanford—Staff Writer
Last week, the Dordt Theatre department sent 14 students to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF)in Des Moines. It was the 50th anniversary of the American College Theater Festival.
Dordt College and surrounding areas (colleges) are in Region 5, the largest of the regions in the country, at over 2,000 participants.
“It was exciting seeing what everyone in the region was working on and gain more experience to use for our own productions,” senior Ben Kuiper said.
ACTF invites students to showcase their talent for acting in musicals and plays, along with their makeup, set, lighting and other designs. Anything original that students create for theatrical purposes can be presented and even awarded.
The Irene Ryan acting competition is specifically for those nominated for superior acting in college productions. The eight Dordt “Ryans” and other Dordt attendees got to meet their fellow festival-goers and tour the city while on their trip. On Monday, all “Ryans” from throughout the region performed their monologue and duet scenes with their partners in front of judges and competitors. The top 60 nominees—out of over 300—moved onto the semifinal round. Sixteen of those semifinalists moved on to finals.
Kuiper and his scene partner, junior Bethany Van Eps, made it to the semifinal round.
On top of the rush of adrenalin that the competition inspired, the festival offered workshops and shows for people to attend. Plays included Antigone, Gruesome Playground Injuries, She Kills Monsters, a Drag Show and several more. There was even a Stage Crew Showdown.
Workshops offered a hands-on experience for students wanting to learn more about specific techniques, try new things and get involved in a new type of theater.
“I loved hanging out with all my peeps,” said sophomore Kaitlyn Baljeu. “Seeing all the shows and productions put on by other schools [and] expanding my knowledge as a potential designer by being able to critique and appreciate different elements of tech design.”
Baljeu presented her graphic design for Silent Sky at the festival’s design expo.
Two Dordt students were nominated for their designs: Sophomores Emi Stewart and Zach Dirksen were recognized for their respective projection and props work for A Wrinkle in Time.
“[I loved] getting to discuss the shows and various technical aspects of them,” Van Eps said. “I enjoyed getting to appreciate the show for more than the story line.”
Even though everyone attending got a chance to show off their skills, the festival was also about the off-stage experience. Downtown Des Moines offered a plethora of funky restaurants, ice cream shops and fancy architecture. The Sky Walk, a key feature of downtown, provided shelter from the cold Iowa winter weather.
“One of my most favorite moments was all of us eating together at Spaghetti Works,” said senior Erica Liddle. “Sitting in the middle of the table, looking down to the left and to the right and seeing everyone eating and laughing and enjoying each other’s company was a happy moment for a senior.”
The group of 14 students, ranging from freshman to seniors got to bond through pool time outside in the cold, eating at Fuzzy’s and buying a vintage tricycle.
“I love ACTF because it gives me a chance to explore my storytelling and story-critiquing abilities,” senior Annie Sears said. “ACTF puts me in the midst of tension, spurring me to ask a lot of questions without answers. In the question asking I become a better artist.”
The festival was bitter-sweet for seniors as this was their last time to compete; however, a bright future awaits lower classman who are just getting started.
“I was glad that I was able to work on the scene for ACTF for the first and last time as a Ryan partner,” said Tommy Shin, who is headed back to Korea this semester. “It was great to watch other people’s scenes and support each other.”