Theatre and Dance student wins top acting honor at Regional Kennedy Center Festival

Jimmy Haynie

By Miguel A. Gastelum, Communications Specialist – Department of Theatre and Dance. Photo: Jimmy Haynie in the Spring 2019 University Theatre production of “Book of Days.”

In February, the Department of Theatre and Dance sent nearly 40 students to compete in the Kennedy Center American College Regional Theatre Festival (K.C.A.C.T.F.) at California State University, Fullerton. This year the Fresno State Theatre and Dance Department had a particularly strong showing in what many consider the highlight of the festival, the Irene Ryan Acting Competition. 

Five students and their scene partners were lucky enough to move to the semi-final round of the Irene Ryan Competition, and one student, Jimmy Haynie, and his partner, Arium Andrews, were able to snag a spot in the final round; they would go on to win the entire competition. 

The Irene Ryan Acting Competition is a scholarship competition carried out during the week-long festival that includes upwards of 300 participants for each region in the United States. The Preliminary rounds span over two days. Each participant performs one monologue and one scene. The semi-final round requires two scenes, and the final round requires two scenes and one monologue. The material for the final round must be completed in 6 minutes or less. The winner of the regional competition, Fresno State’s Jimmy Haynie and partner Arium Andrews, were invited to compete at the National Festival in Washington D.C.

“Jimmy and Arium’s performance in the final round of the Irene Ryan regional competition was extraordinary,” says Fresno State Theatre Professor Brad Myers. “The audience response was one of the most enthusiastic that I have ever seen, topped only by the audience reaction when he was announced the winner. I was in a state of disbelief and exuberant joy. I cried; I howled; I laughed uncontrollably. It took me a long while to calm down and stop embarrassing myself.”

The win was a huge success for Fresno State, the College of Arts and Humanities, and the Department of Theatre and Dance. The win validates that the work crafted and developed at Fresno State is on par, and exceeds, what is being taught and developed in theatre schools in the Western United States. 

Jimmy Haynie was nominated for his performance in the Spring 2019 University Theatre production of “Book of Days.” 

Once nominated, the work to prepare for the festival and the competition began almost immediately.

“Jimmy, Arium and I started discussing their Ryan material a year ago,” says Myers, “as soon as we found out that he was nominated for ‘Book of Days.’ Jimmy would send me scenes and monologues, and we would discuss whether or not we should hold them as contenders.”

One of the significant challenges in the Ryan competition is getting the material edited so it fits within the Ryan’s time limits,” continues Myers. “Once that had been accomplished, we had regular rehearsals starting in early January.”

“Preparing for K.C.A.C.T.F. was nitty-gritty,” says Haynie. “We worked extremely hard every time we met up because we wanted to make sure we weren’t missing any marks. I’m never truly satisfied with anything, I can imagine I probably wore Arium out most days, but it was all worth it.”

Jimmy and Arium were set to travel to Washington D.C. in early April to compete at the Kennedy Center in the National Festival. Of course, due to the current COVID-19 situation, the festival was canceled, but there are hopes that this year’s festival might be rescheduled for a later date. 

“I am so hoping that the Kennedy Center will be able to reschedule the national Irene Ryan competition,” says Myers. “I am sure that Jimmy and Arium will be contenders to win the national title.”

For now, reveling in the glory of winning the Regional competition will have to do. 

“Winning felt surreal,” says Haynie. “I had a feeling, but I never would have imagined my first time attending the competition as a nominee would be so successful.”

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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