BHSU theatre students and faculty recently attended the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  Pictured, far left to right: Shonee Singer; Tyler Steffens; Pam Wegner, BHSU professor of speech and theatre; Elysia Pederson; Melissa Mason; Colin Muson; Melissa Barnard; Tytus Spivey; Hannah Kloiber; and Nick Nettle.


Eleven Black Hills State University students immersed themselves in a variety of theatre workshops during a recent regional festival held at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) is a week-long festival that includes a variety of workshops and seminars covering all aspects of theatre, auditions for summer stock theatres, and networking with other schools and students. The program involves 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide and has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country. The program allows theater departments and student artists a place to showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. BHSU students have been attending the festival since 2007.

“Our students immersed themselves in theatre in all its aspects. I saw their enthusiasm grow, as well as their commitment to each other and their pride in our program,” said Pamela Wegner, BHSU professor of speech and theatre.

This year Wegner was privileged to be a part of the judging committee for the highly honorable Irene Ryan Acting Competition award and scholarship.

Two Irene Ryan acting nominees, Hannah Kloiber, business administration marketing major from Parker, Colo., and Alexa Syverson, speech communications major from Rapid City, performed with their partners Nick Nettle, English education major from Black Hawk, and Max Downs, speech communications major from Rapid City, as part of the preliminary acting competition. While neither scene was selected to advance to the semi-finals this year, the students received valuable individual feedback from the two judges in their session, said Wegner.

Four theatre students formed a team and entered the Stage Crew competition. Tyler Steffens, speech communications major from Box Elder; Melissa Barnard, speech communications major from Rapid City; Melissa Mason, English major from Rapid City; and Elysia Pederson, speech communications major from Spearfish,  trained with Bert Juhrend, BHSU associate professor of theatre, learning and practicing required stagecraft techniques for several weeks before leaving to Lincoln.

“Being the captain of our stage crew for the showdown at KCACTF this year was so much fun but some hard work as well. We were pretty excited about going and participating,” said Steffens.

Pederson submitted her resume in the student director competition before the festival began and was selected by a panel of judges to participate as one of five assistant directors in the Faculty Directing Showcase event. She worked with a faculty member from Peru State College, to audition, stage, rehearse, and present cutting from Edward Albee’s “At Home at the Zoo.”

Another BHSU student, Jake Spivey, theatre major from Lusk, Wyo., was selected to be in the cast for Albee’s “The Goat” where more than120 actors auditioned for less than 20 roles. He was one of a few student actors who were invited to the judge’s response session.

Everyone participated in numerous workshops over the week of the festival. Shonee Singer, biology major from Dunlap, Ill.; Colin Munson, history education major from Piedmont, along with Pederson, Mason, Barnard, Steffens, Spivey, Kloiber, and Nettles, participated in workshops such as, stage combat, playwriting, directing, acting techniques, technical theatre, and more.