By Miguel A. Gastelum
In her first attempt writing as a theatre critic, Theatre Arts student Lia Dewey found herself at the top of the region and among four finalists who will compete at the national level at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. She will get the opportunity to work with journalists from national media outlets such as The Washington Post and National Public Radio.
“Having no prior experience with theatre journalism, winning this competition wasn’t even in the realm of possibility for me,” says Dewey. “I am so excited to show everyone that the Fresno State Theatre Arts Department crafts students who are able to fight for and secure a spot on the national stage.”
Dewey won the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy Fellowship at the Region 8 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). At all eight KCACTF Regional Festivals, nominated student critics write critiques of plays performed at the festival. Of the eight Regional Festival winners, four finalists are selected to compete at the national level in Washington D.C. The national winner attends the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut during the National Playwrights Conference in July, working with leading professional newspaper, magazine, and new-media critics from across the United States.
Fresno State also brought home accolades in the acting field. Theatre Arts student Arium Andrews — nominated for the Spring 2018 production, “Den of Thieves” — and her partner Jimmy Haynie advanced to the final round of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition.
“Being a college student has its challenges, but being a part of the Fresno State Theatre Arts Department reminds me of why it’s all worth the ride,” says Andrews. “I’m so honored that the department gave me the opportunity to embark on this journey with them. I would not want to change anything about this entire experience.”
Ultimately, the duo was selected as the Region 8 alternate and will travel to the Kennedy Center if the finalist is not able to attend.
KCACTF is a national theatre program involving 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide annually. For 50 years, the organization has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theatre in the United States. KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country. Through state, regional, and national festivals, KCACTF student and faculty participants celebrate the creative process and share experiences and insights within the community of theatre artists.
Fresno State resides in Region 8 of KCACTF; an area that includes California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii, and Guam. A delegation of twenty-seven students from the Fresno State Theatre Arts Department traveled to Los Angeles for the week-long festival in early February. KCACTF honors the excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, dramatic criticism, directing, and design.
The Irene Ryan Scholarship competition draws nearly three hundred nominees and their partners from throughout the region. The students participating in the competition are nominated by KCACTF Region 8 university professors who attend and respond to their productions at the students’ home campuses. The students are then tasked with selecting a partner and preparing a package for the competition; this includes two scenes and one monologue, which collectively have to clock in under six minutes.
The competition consists of a preliminary round with all the nominees, then the semi-final round whittles that number down to thirty-two, and ultimately the final round narrows it down to just sixteen nominees and their partners. From the final round, one nominee and their partner are selected as the regional finalist and have the honor of traveling to the Kennedy Center in April to represent our region and compete against seven other regional finalists.
Dewey will travel to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. April 16 through the 20th. To stay updated on her experiences, follow University Theatre on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.