Five UF theatre students and Heather Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor of theatre, joined students and faculty members from 87 other universities at the Region Two Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Indiana, Pa., from Jan. 10-15. The attending students were Heather Bryant, a sophomore multi-age education/drama theatre major; Maranda Knepp, a senior performance and technical theatre major; Tony Patti, a junior technical theatre major; Kristina Pritchard, a junior theatre performance major; and Aggie Sturgess, a sophomore performance theatre major.
The students were nominated to attend the festival after representatives from other region two universities viewed their performances at UF. Bryant was nominated to present her stage management portfolio from “Barefoot in the Park.” Pritchard and Patti were chosen to compete in pairs (with Knepp and Sturgess) against 200 other nominees in the Irene Ryan competition, for which they prepared two scenes and a monologue to perform. Pritchard was nominated based on her work in “Crimes of the Heart,” and Patti was nominated for his work in “Barefoot in the Park.”
Along with their competition, the students networked with other schools and professionals, attended workshops on a range of theater topics including technical design, directing and costuming and watched performances by other universities.
The students said they enjoyed watching and reviewing the other performances the most.
“We were inspired [by the performances] to believe and to make bold choices,” says Knepp. “We saw many different productions done in so many different ways. As an artist, it was really freeing to see that.”
Williams says that she is a firm believer that watching other productions is a benefit to the students.
“It’s beneficial because they get to learn from their peers,” says Williams. “As a faculty member, I learn from it every year as well because I see how other directors are working with their students.”
Overall, the entire group agreed that they left the festival feeling a renewed sense of inspiration.
“For me, I think it just helps validate what I am doing,” says Pritchard. “It reminds me why I am going into this not just as something I enjoy, but as a profession.”
By Katie Baumgart