Black Hills State University theatre students Jared McDaris, a senior theater and psychology major from Spearfish, and Katie Severns, a senior vocal music and theater major from Rapid City, recently were selected to participate in  the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) region five festival in Iowa.

Two Black Hills State University students recently competed in the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) region five festival. Katie Severns, a senior vocal music and theater major from Rapid City, and Jared McDaris, a senior theater and psychology major from Spearfish, participated in the festival in Ames, Iowa.

The two BHSU students are among approximately 800 theater students who participated in this year’s festival for Region Five covering the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Participants are also considered for the national Irene Ryan Scholarship.

Bert Juhrend, BHSU assistant professor of theater, nominated the production “Playing Doctor,” to the festival’s committee and after a visit by an adjudicator, Severns and McDaris were selected.

Juhrend is excited about this opportunity for the theater students and the opportunity for the university to receive additional recognition.

“It’s the first time BHSU has participated in the ACTF. I think it’s good for students to get out and see where they stand with other universities,” Juhrend says. “I really wanted to get the university into more of a regional spotlight.”

“We do two contrasting five-minute scenes. Then if we make it to the third round, we do a monologue or sing,” says Severns. For the first two rounds, the short pieces chosen must demonstrate their versatility while performing. Both have chosen a comedy and a drama as their contrasting pieces.

McDaris’ first acting experience, when he was a young child in kindergarten, is not a pleasant memory. He recalls that he was chosen for the role of a snake in a production of “Santa Gets Stranded in the Desert.” However, due to fears of ridicule, McDaris declined to go on stage at the last minute. After that he didn’t participate in plays until junior high. From that point on, he has been very involved in theater.

Severns has always had an affinity for the arts, even though she was worried what people would think of her when she went on stage.

“I was so shy in my freshman and sophomore years of high school.  I used to think that people would think I was weird for acting,” she says.

Severns and McDaris are both considering a graduate programs after they earn their degrees from BHSU. McDaris already has a degree in psychology, which he wants to keep as a “back-up plan.”  His main motivation in getting the psychology degree was so that he could understand people better as he pursues a career in acting and writing. Severns is looking at a master of fine arts degree and is open to the idea of either acting or teaching.

Both nominees agree that BHSU has been a great asset to their career and personal growth.

“BHSU has really been great. It’s nice to have a small theater department because you get to do everything from learning acts to designing costumes and sets,” says Severns.

“We have great faculty here at BHSU. They’re very attentive and helpful,” McDaris says. He also likes that fact that the BHSU theatre department has four productions every year which creates additional opportunities for participation.

Being a part of the regional festival will give both students the chance to learn more of their future professions through experience and have a opportunity to possibly be awarded the Irene Ryan Scholarship.

Irene Ryan is better known as “Granny” from “The Beverly Hillbillies” and for her role in the Broadway musical, “Pippin.” At her passing away in 1973, she left her $1 million estate to a foundation, which is used for giving scholarships to theater arts students who compete in the KCACTF.