Eleven theatre students represented Black Hills State University at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 21-26. BHSU students networked with hundreds of professionals in the field, trained under faculty from across the nation, performed in front of thousands, and took home four Certificates of Merit.
Thousands of student artists from colleges and universities across the nation presented their work at KCACT festivals in eight regions. Each year, KCACTF invites 125 of these outstanding theater students to participate in the National Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, which will be held Apr. 9-14 in 2018.
Students from BHSU participated in the Region Five KCACTF, which includes students from universities in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The weeklong festival includes a night of awards, countless workshops, auditions and rehearsals for festival productions, and competitions in choreography, singing, dancing, and technical categories.
BHSU students competed across the board, were cast in multiple productions, and took home several awards.
Kyle Graves, graphic design and communications, communication studies and theatre, and theatre production major from Rapid City; Tarina Nye, elementary education major from Rapid City; JD Schroeder, communication studies and theatre major from Yorktown, Texas; and Tyler Schone, English major from Sturgis, were all nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition by BHSU faculty in conjunction with KCACTF judges for their achievements in and contributions to BHSU productions. Throughout the week, these four students competed in group scenes with a partner, then either sang solos or delivered monologues before judges.
Kyla Christensen, human services and communications studies & theatre major from Kaycee, Wyo., presented a technical entrée during the ASPIRE Arts Leadership Intensive. She pitched a theatre company business plan that would promote diversity, inclusion, and acceptance by accepting and growing everyone’s abilities— from athletic coaching to painting lessons.
Four Certificates of Merit were awarded to students for their work in productions at BHSU: Rachel Munce, an art graduate from Souix Falls, and Kayla O’Neal, a graphic design graduate from Ord, Neb., for puppetry in Hand to God
, Graves for choreography in Godspell
, and Nye for stepping into a lead role at the last minute.
Graves was involved in multiple competitions and productions. Between attending the awards ceremony, getting hands-on experience from regional experts at various workshops, and presenting two publicity and poster design projects to a panel of judges, Graves also auditioned and was cast in a dance performance with 23 other students. The performance was led by Karen Burthwright, a Broadway choreographer who taught the students her original choreography for “Can’t Stop the Beat,” the finale of the Broadway show Hairspray
. After three days of rehearsal and two performances, the dance team closed out the festival in a theatre of over 2,000 seats.
“This whole festival is something that we all look forward to,” Graves shares. “When you’re there, you’re surrounded by people who feel and think just like you do, they are passionate about the same things you are. We are all there to contribute our talents and abilities to tell stories, to create art.”
“This festival is an amazing opportunity for students to network amidst professionals and to be regionally recognized for the work they’ve accomplished,” says Bert Juhrend, professor of theatre at BHSU.
“The experience is something you don’t get anywhere else,” says Graves. “This shows that all the work you put in at BHSU has paid off because you deserve to be at the festival.”