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Students Excel at Kennedy Center Theatre Festival

Written Anne Pappalardo

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Willimantic, Conn. - A number of Eastern Connecticut State University students recently attended the Region I Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). The festival, held this year in Hyannis, MA, is annual event attended by more than 1,000 students and faculty from colleges across the Northeast. The KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide that has served as a catalyst for improving the quality of college theatre in the United States.

The Eastern students were accompanied by Professor Ellen Brodie, Assistant Professor J.J. Cobb, Assistant Professor Kristen Morgan, Associate Professor Chase Rozelle, and Lecturer Alycia Bright-Holland.

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Eastern's students were active in the conference's events, workshops and competitions. Joseph Staffa's projection design work for "Once on this Island," directed and choreographed by Bright-Holland, won first place for Scenic Design Excellence at the conference. He was awarded a one-week trip to the KCACTF national conference in Washington, D.C. This is the second year in a row that one of Morgan's students has won a first-place national KCACTF award for their projection design.

Keri Smart, mentored and supervised by Assistant Professor Anya Sokolovskaya, won a one-week scholarship to the prestigious Stage Craft Institute of Las Vegas for her costume design of Eastern's production of "The Birds." Smart may be remembered for her highly creative use of feathers in her costume design for last February's production, directed by Brodie. The cast of last year's production of "Once on This Island," directed and choreographed by Bright-Holland, won a regional Merit Award for Excellent use of African and Caribbean dance and performance.

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Four student actors -- Stephanie Madden, Kinde Queenan, Dan Fernandez and Kelsey Guggenheim -- were nominated to participate in the event's Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition. Emily Rieser, Mya Ta, Chad Dominique and Alexis Kurtz were scene partners in the competition. Guggenheim and Fernandez also participated in the festival's New Play Project initiative.

Design/Tech/Management students Amanda Conkey, Joe Staffa, Matt Pryke and Keri Smart were nominated to participate in the conference's Design/Tech and Management Exhibition. Staffa, Pryke and Smart were also selected from among 15 finalists in this competitive event. In addition, Conkey was selected to compete in the Malty Musical Theatre performance on the final night of the event based on her performance in Eastern's musical, "Once on This Island."

Maggie Casto, Megan Velasquez, Stephanie Madden, Alexis Kurtz, Emily Rieser and Liz Pelletier made up of more than half of the participants in the festival's Play Slam performances. Zach LaSala auditioned for and received a part in the conference's One-Act Play competition. Abby Weston was one of four students from the Northeast region to be selected to be an administrative intern for the event.

March 2015

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