By Miguel Gastelum | Republished from FresnoStateNews.com
The Department of Theatre and Dance at Fresno State sent nearly 40 students to CSU Fullerton in February 2020 to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The students had a particularly strong showing in what many consider the highlight of the festival, the Irene Ryan Acting Competition. Student Jimmy Haynie and his partner, Arium Andrews, won that year’s acting competition.
“Jimmy and Arium’s performance in the final round of the Irene Ryan regional competition was extraordinary,” said 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 winners of all eight regional festivals typically travel to Washington, D.C. to compete at the National Festival at the Kennedy Center. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the festival had to be postponed.
Nearly a year later, the national Irene Ryan Acting Competition switched to a virtual format. The winners of each region were asked to submit a video recording of their acting package. The package included two contrasting scenes and a monologue; all to be performed in under six minutes.
Haynie and Andrews both took home national awards. Haynie was awarded the National Partners of the American Theatre Classical Acting Award and Andrews received The Kingsley Colton Award for Outstanding Partner. Both awards come with a cash prize, and typically an international internship is included with Haynie’s award, but it is unclear if that company will be offering a summer season.
“The recognition has been nothing less than rewarding,” Haynie said. “I am so thankful for my experiences as a young, Black actor, and to everyone who has contributed to my success thus far. It is still quite a shock to receive such a prestigious honor, but I can proudly say that I worked my butt off for it. I feel so blessed to have my hard work validated and seen at the national level.”
Andrews said, “The win makes me feel so much more confident in my talent. “I feel like my passion for acting and connection to my art has grown. I know my work has improved, which makes me curious as to what my future holds. I’m determined to find out.”
Myers said the students’ accomplishments are something everyone at Fresno State can be proud of.
“Winning either of these prestigious awards is a noteworthy accomplishment which can help vault a professional career,” Myers said. “These honors are a validation of the actor training that is provided by our department. The Fresno State brand is enriched, and many students who are choosing a university for theatre training may be more likely to consider our University because of this visibility. Also, the impact of such an honor can instill a great pride in our past and present theatre students.”
Both Haynie and Andrews will travel to Washington, D.C. in August to participate in the workshop component of the national festival. They both plan to finish their education at Fresno State and then pursue acting professionally. Haynie hopes to attend a graduate acting program next spring.
One thing is certain, both students carry an undying and resilient passion for their craft.
“Whatever it is you decide to do as a career, be sure to put love behind what you want to do,” Andrews said. “To be successful in any field takes hard work and sacrifice, so make sure it’s worth doing. So that, even when you fail, you learn from your failure and your ambition and love for your career keeps you driven.”
“I am so lucky to have the opportunities that I have had, and the capability and strength to carry them out with passion,” Haynie said. “There were many times I felt like giving up. There were many people wanting to bring me down, but I took charge of my craft and decided there isn’t anyone or anything that will hold me from achieving my highest goals. I won a small win. I am ready for so much more of what the world has to offer.”