Zach Steensma — Staff Writer
Every year, Dordt College puts on a number of theatrical productions. But what many play goers don’t realize is that even after the last bows have been taken and the final set pieces have been torn down, many shows go on to be nominated in a wide variety of categories, from acting and stage management to costume, make-up, lighting and sound design.
Last week, 21 Dordt students traveled to compete at the 51st annual American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota—a regional conference put on by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts—that invites participating schools from across the Midwest.
The conference gives students the opportunity to win awards, receive recognition for their work and move on to the national festival.
This year, 11 Dordt students (dubbed “Ryans”) attended the festival to compete in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, after being nominated for performances in shows from the past year, including “Eurydice,” “Lilies On The Land,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Walk Two Moons” The competition allows nominees, along with their scene partners, to showcase their acting abilities for judges.
Students involved in design can also submit and present their work for critique and awards. This year, Dordt freshman Demetrius Rowser won two awards for his sound design and stagecraft work for Dordt’s most recent production, “Walk Two Moons.”
“I was very surprised; I wasn’t expecting to win anything with my first design ever.When they initially called my name I wasn’t even paying attention,” Rowser said. “At the same time, I was very excited. It’s promising as to what the future might hold for me in theatre. The best part for me was seeing other departments and the work they put in.”
In addition, Dordt sent five costumes from this fall’s production of “My Fair Lady” as entries in the festival’s costume parade, allowing costume designers to display their work for other schools and professionals.
“When the show is produced, you send in five photos of costumes that you would like to submit, either self-nominated or nominated by respondents,” said Dordt junior Katherine Fictorie, who assistant costume designed for “My Fair Lady” and presented her work at the festival. “It’s a chance for the designers and the school to showcase some of the best costume work they’ve done.”
Beyond competitions, students who attend have a variety of opportunities to participate in workshops, covering everything from playwriting to stage combat to dancing.
Dordt junior Zach Dirksen took part in a long-form improvisational theater workshop, where an auditioned group of students got to work on techniques, build confidence and showcase their skills.
“I auditioned for the improv workshop on Tuesday, then they sorted us into groups to figure out chemistry, and for the rest of the week we worked together with our groups, discussing and practicing different forms of long-form improv,” Dirksen said. “At the end of the week, we had a long-form improv showcase where all four groups performed and my team ended up winning. I really bonded with my group while working together, and it was a lot of fun.”
The week is also a chance for students to see featured invited productions from other schools and explore Sioux Falls.
“My favorite was going to the shows, because you get to see so many shows in one week for so much cheaper than you would ever be able to see them in the future,” senior Jalyn Vander Wal said. “I got to see five shows. We saw Eurydice, which was cool, because it was fun to compare and contrast with our own.”
But above all, the festival is a time for students to get to know one another.
“This was my first time ever going,” senior Emily Currey said. “I enjoyed the Ryan competition. It was fun to watch my friends do it, and I think it went well myself…it was not what I expected, but I really enjoyed spending time with people form the theatre department and getting to know people better.”