By Anna Meyer
For sports teams, the end goal is to make it into the conference tournament and possibly nationals. For the theatre department, they don’t have a conference tournament, but an opportunity to showcase their work. This showcase is a festival called the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).
“KCACTF is a national organization through the Kennedy Center education department that promotes, develops, and celebrates the work that is done in college and university theatre throughout the country,” said Benji Inniger, BLC theatre professor.
Bethany first started participating in the festival in 2003. They attend the regional festivals, and invite a respondent to their productions.
Inniger serves as one of these regional respondents for the festival. This means that he travels to other schools to see their productions and respond to their work.
Inniger is also involved in the organization of the festival itself and had his hand in just about every part. He was on the festival management board, taught two workshops: a three-hour class on foley sound effects, and another on composition for theatre; coordinated the college fair, helped out in the design expo and also assistant directed one of the special one act plays.
He kept busy throughout the week, but enjoyed it all.
“It was wonderful to have such a nice variety of things to do with an organization that I greatly enjoy,” Inniger said. “I’ve been around this region for a long time now, so many of the other faculty members from surrounding states are great people and becoming old friends and good collaborators.”
In the past years Bethany has received many nominations and awards varying from acting to dramaturgy (dramatic composition) to tech and design to criticism. This year, BLC received these merit awards:
Peter Bloedel for Scenic Design of Icehouse
The Cast for Ensemble Acting for Icehouse
Emily Kimball and Peter Bloedel for Playwriting for Aboveboard
This year the festival was held in Downtown Des Moines, Iowa, and eight people went to represent Bethany. Inniger led the group and sophomore Jemimah Cordes, freshman Hailey Dick, junior Lydia Lonnquist, and senior David Roemhildt attended because they were nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship competition. They performed scenes and monologues with their partners sophomore Hans Bloedel, senior Beret Ouren and junior Amir Trotter.
“The whole thing was really cut-throat; it was very competitive,” said Cordes. “The first round only 20 percent made it on, so only like 60 people out of 300-something.”
Each participant was required to choose one scene performed with a partner and one monologue scene performed by the nominee. Cordes and her partner, Bloedel, did well, but didn’t get the chance to move on.
“It was actually the best run-through that we had ever had,” Cordes said. “It’s great that they allow you to express yourself, and they don’t really have any limits on what you can do. It was fun, and it’s always good to put yourself out there and test your ability.”
Ouren was involved in the design expo part of the festival by creating a display presentation for her design of Icehouse.
“I didn’t know [the expo] even existed until this year when Benji was like, ‘hey, you should try and submit this to the festival,’” said Ouren. “So basically the expo is where student designers from all over the region can enter their projects and be judged professionally.”
The expo includes anything designed for a show, whether it be costumes, lighting, sound, stage management- any of those things. Participants put together a binder or a tri-fold board describing their concept statement, process, research and final result.
They get one day that’s just for load-in, where they’re given a spot to set up and then the next day the expo is opened up to anybody who wants to come in and observe the projects.
The next day the judges look at everyone’s projects, and the following day, they schedule 10 minute slots for the participants to come in and explain their project and get professional feedback.
Only one project is chosen to go on to nationals, and while Ouren’s project wasn’t chosen, she’s still proud of her work and the experience.
“The most helpful thing for me was my response time during the expo, when I got to talk to the respondent one-on-one,” Ouren said. “Just to be able to explain my project and have him give me feedback so that I know what I can improve on next time, and to find my voice as a designer.”
Ouren will be composing the music for this year’s spring play and hopes to enter her work there into the expo next year.
Throughout the course of the festival the participants saw a majority of the productions and attended workshops, feedback sessions and explored the city of Des Moines, which both Ouren and Cordes said was their favorite part.
“I think the highlight of my week wasn’t really the festival, per se; I had a lot of fun on Friday exploring Des Moines,” Cordes said. “Downtown Des Moines is really cool. We found this four-story antique shop that was also a coffee shop, so you can get your coffee and then explore. And it was mostly furniture, so expensive, but really cool to look at and the people there were really friendly.”
“Some days we didn’t do a whole lot so we just walked around downtown, and you meet a lot of interesting people,” said Ouren. “And if you’re not open to saying ‘hi’ to people, you’ll never have those experiences.”
The experiences and relationships that the festival introduces students to is one of its best benefits. Inniger and Ouren can both attest to that.
“For the students, it is a great opportunity for them to meet their peers, learn about their work and perspectives, and get inspired by experiencing what people their own age are doing in their own field,” said Inniger.
“Meeting people from everywhere who do the same thing is really cool,” Ouren said. “And the people you meet, you’re going to be connected to for the rest of your theatrical career. So making those connections and also seeing how everyone else does theater is really good.”