THAD thrives at festival invitational
Michaela Gaffke / Winonan
Seventeen students from Winona State University’s department of theatre & dance (THAD) returned home Saturday, Jan. 28, after a successful trip to this year’s week-long Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in Des Moines, Iowa.
Certificates of Merit were awarded to Casey Howe, a graduating senior, for lighting design and Jackson Ramsland, sophomore, for original music in their contributions to the play “As You Like It” that THAD performed last spring.
Senior Abby Schmidt was also awarded for costume design and faculty member Jim Williams for sound design for their contributions to the play “The Nether,” performed last fall.
Junior Sam Scherrer won the Best Acting Partner award. The Winona Warrior Wombats, consisting of seniors Gavin Johnson and Howe, junior Lance Urbick, and sophomore Andy Glischinski won first place in the stage crew competition, winning the coveted “Golden Wrench,” according to professor Jim Williams, who attended the festival with the students.
Junior Kayla Williams-Schwarze auditioned and was selected to perform in a musical theatre intensive to a sold-out audience by the professional music theatre organization “Open Jar.”
Seniors Kayla Nelson, Adam Calcagno and Gavin Johnson, and junior Ella Dierberger received call-backs from professional theatres based on their auditions.
Bekah Bailey, senior, won the National Stage Manager award and an all-expenses paid week-long trip to participate in the Kennedy Center American Stage Festival in April, in Washington, D.C., according to Williams.
Senior Cody Anderson, Irene Ryan acting nominee, and his partner Scherrer were one out of 16 to advance to the Irene Ryan finals out of 320 plus competitors.
“We just went out and had fun; we put on a good show, and gave the crowd a lot of laughs. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Anderson said.
On Monday, the first Irene Ryan nominees performed their first scene and monologue. Over 320 nominees were dwindled down to 66 who moved on to the semi-final round, 16 moved on to the final round. Anderson and Scherrer were the only two out of the 10 students who were participating who moved on to the semi-finals.
“This final round of the competition was held at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place, with nearly 1,000 in attendance. We didn’t place in the top 4, however we got a lot of great feedback and the crowd absolutely loved it,” Anderson said.
Anderson did not think they would advance to the final round, but he was ecstatic that they did. He has competed the last three years as a nominee in the Irene Ryan competition, and once as a partner in 2011. He advanced to the semi-final round in 2011, 2016 and 2017.
“It was the greatest experience I have had in my four years attending ACTF,” Anderson said. “It was a huge honor and is, without a doubt, something I will never forget.”
Winona State was one of eight schools that were invited to perform, according to Anderson.
Over break, Anderson and Scherrer memorized their scenes. They met almost every day for the first two weeks of classes, while being assisted by professors Jim Williams and Heather Williams-Williams. Williams received a Certificate of Merit for sound design for his contributions to the play “The Nether.”
“As in year’s past, the time and effort that the Williams’ put in to preparing the Irene Ryans for their competition is above and beyond the ‘call of duty’ for most professors,” Anderson said. “Their level of commitment is unparalleled and their aid in preparing us for the competition was integral in us advancing to the second round.”
THAD also attends ACTF to experience workshops, see productions from other schools and to audition for professional theatres in acting and also tech and design, Williams said. The days are packed full, with a typical day starting at 8 a.m. and ending at midnight.
“The festival is highly educational and also a chance to see the work of other students and faculty from the schools in the ACTF Region V. Our region includes colleges and universities form Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska,” Williams said.
THAD brought a scene from “As You Like It” to the festival, and was nominated by an outside respondent because it was outstanding, according to Williams.
“It is truly an honor when a scene is nominated out of the three hundred productions within the region who are also in contention,” Williams said.
They performed the scene on Monday night on the main stage of the Des Moines Civic Center, a massive theatre with seating for over 2,000 people. There were well over 500 audience members, Anderson said.
“It was a great week, with a really strong showing for WSU. Everyone worked hard, and had a lot of fun and I was proud to be a part of it all. It was my fourth and final ACTF and I couldn’t have asked for a better year,” Anderson said.
By Michaela Gaffke