Audra Kooi — Staff Writer
This year, the Dordt University Theatre Arts Department took a scene from last year’s spring mainstage, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), and several students returned with awards.
Besides the mainstage scene, KCACTF also invited Dordt to participate in three other portions of the festival. Judges selected senior theatre major Tommy Shin to direct a concert reading of a student-written play. Sommer Schaap, a senior theatre major, wrote a play called “Almost Lifelong,” which was one of three selected from a pool of 50 plays to be performed in a rehearsed reading at the festival. Anna Janssen, a history and education senior who choreographed a tap dance for last year’s spring dance concert, was also able to bring that performance to the festival.
KCACTF is a theatre program involving colleges from across the nation. Judges from the program attend theatre productions at participating universities to determine whether to invite the program to perform at the yearly festival. In some cases, like that of Dordt’s 2022 mainstage, schools perform select scenes; other times they recreate entire productions. Through this opportunity, students can be exposed to stories they might not otherwise get to see.
“I really like being immersed in theatre,” Lindsay Kuiper, a senior English and secondary education major, said. “There is something to be said about the diversity of perspectives and the way in which the stories are shared.”
The program is divided into eight regions. When a show or individual student wins one of the highest awards in their region, they move on to nationals, which are held in Washington D.C. While attending regional festivals, students are encouraged to watch productions and attend a variety of available workshops.
“There were a lot of workshops for people in all sorts of areas of theatre,” senior theatre arts major Sofia Schaeffer said. “They highlighted technical theatre, and there were some really cool workshops.”
KCACTF highlights more than productions and selected scenes. Individuals are invited to be judged on things like sound design, original works of theatre, and choreography. Sophomore Elizabeth Brouwer won first place for her work on the poster for “Our Town.”
“This particular design process was unique from what I’ve done before,” Brouwer said. “I was in direct communication with the director about the design. The poster went through a lot of drafts and revisions before we arrived at the final product.”
Brouwer was not the only Dordt student to take first place at KCACTF. Senior Lindsay Kuiper won the first-place award for her sound design work in “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Her design included original compositions created to fit with the Victorian era piece.
“I like seeing how I can fit my composition style into the style of the play we’re doing,” Kuiper said. “But there is a temptation for designers to go too big and blow everyone else out of the water; using restraint can be one of your biggest tools.”
Successful theatre productions require collaboration among all the parties involved. The art, costuming, sound, and lighting all must come together to tell the same story the actors are portraying on the stage. KCACTF gives theatre students an opportunity to celebrate their successes in the greater theatre community.
Lindsay Kuiper will leave for Washington, D.C. in April to present her sound design among the other regional winners.
Photo credit: Nathan Hopkins