Joya Breems—Staff Writer
This year, a number of members from Dordt University’s Theatre Arts Department submitted their work to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). The annual celebration of theatre showcases outstanding work in acting, direction, stage management, design work, and more. At this year’s virtual festival, 11 students and staff received recognition.
Johanna Gross, a senior, made it to the semifinal round of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Every year, hundreds of students from KCACTF Region 5 (Dordt’s region), submit a 90-second monologue for the preliminary round of the competition. Gross recorded a monologue from The Importance of Being Earnest, the theatre department’s spring mainstage show. Her audition landed her a spot in the round of 64.
“I was very honored because it’s my last year with Dordt theatre,” Gross said. “I want to feel like I’m putting my best foot out there.”
Gross earned her nomination to the competition for her portrayal of Mrs. Bumbrake in Peter and the Starcatcher.
Other students who submitted work to the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship include Nathan Hopkins, for his portrayal of Smee in Peter and the Starcatcher; Sommer Schaap, for her portrayal of Skip in The Haunted; and Sam Landstra, for his portrayal of Melvin in The Diviners. Notably, Landstra advanced to the final round of the competition.
In the past, the theatre department traveled to whichever Midwest city was hosting KCACTF that year and performed in front of other students and nominees. This year, the nominees submitted recordings virtually and received feedback from respondents over Zoom.
The judges appreciated Gross’s character development and reminded her to continue working on her use of emotions.
Christiana Marcy, a senior, submitted her costume designs from Break of Day to the costume expo. Then, Becky Donahue, Theatre Department Production Manager and Costumer, nominated Marcy’s work to the costume parade.
“I felt so grateful that she nominated my work without me knowing,” Marcy said. “I was blown away. I hadn’t even considered that my work could be in the costume parade.”
Break of Day tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh, so Marcy tasked herself with representing the artist’s work through her costumes. Break of Day was the first show Marcy designed for.
“It was an ‘Aha’ moment of my love for sewing fashion, art, and painting,” Marcy said. “I was blown away that I would get the opportunity to design for a play about Vincent Van Gogh.”
Marcy said most people reduce Van Gogh to the “eccentric artist who cut off his ear.” Her costuming went further, exploring Van Gogh’s personal life.
As a designer, Marcy wanted every character’s costume to reflect how Van Gogh viewed them. She poured over letters between Vincent and his brother, Theo, incorporating the words into Theo’s vest. For the women of the production, Marcy decided to transplant Van Gogh’s iconography from The Starry Night and the Potato Eaters onto their dresses and skirts. As for Van Gogh’s father, Marcy saw him as “a mountain of a man,” and painted mountains on the character’s hat.
“I felt the pressure of portraying the duality of a historical figure alongside Vincent’s bold artistry.” Marcy said. “I followed Vincent’s lead by reflecting his work.”
When thinking about theatre, Marcy underscores the importance of the production team.
“Theatre is more than just acting,” Marcy said. “Designers add so much creativity and life to a play that wouldn’t be there if they weren’t there.”
Originally, the department planned to premiere Break of Day, a student-directed show, in April of 2020. Then the pandemic hit, requiring flexibility from Marcy, who practiced “letting go of the project and enjoying the process.”
Upon returning to in-person classes for the 2020-21 academic year, Break of Day was rescheduled, which rushed some aspects of Marcy’s costume design. She resized costumes during the week of performances due to a leading actor entering quarantine.
For Marcy, KCACTF gave her an “extension of enjoying the process.” The chance to re-examine her work taught her gratitude for the opportunities she received.
During the Festival Recognition Ceremony, Marcy received the Jane Childs DTM Recognition award, which “celebrates student designers and technicians presenting work for the first time at the expo.
Marcy cried “happy tears” upon the award’s announcement.
Gross and Marcy are grateful for their experience with the theatre department and KCACTF.
“Our theatre has a larger purpose,” Gross said. “For the glory of God.”
“God, the greatest creator, has put beauty in each of us,” Marcy said. “Be a witness to the work he is already doing.”