Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival – A Quick Rundown

By: Brittany Bernardini
A handful of lucky students from Fitchburg State University were asked to attend the 2016 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTFA) in Danbury, Connecticut. The event took place on January 26th and lasted through January 31st. It was held at West Connecticut University. KCACTFA is a festival in which Actors, singers, and techies alike audition, compete and attend workshops in hopes of being recognized for outstanding achievement in their craft with possibilities of winning scholarships. This year was my second time attending KCACTF. We stayed at the lovely Crowne plaza hotel and were shuttled around WCS campus.
Our own Shani Farrell and Cote Markee were selected to be a part of the Irene Ryan acting auditions for a chance of winning an acting scholarship. Both competed in the rounds, with Farrell moving up to preliminaries. Sadly in the end neither made it to finals, but both put on an amazing performance for judges.
I attended some of the workshops, including ones taught by Broadway Choreographers, famous makeup artist and technical engineers. Deb McWaters, the original Chicago choreographer, simulated an actual audition as if students were auditioning for the Broadway production.
Deb Mcwaters (Blue) caught in her natural habitat, a dance studio.
Jay Duckworth, a “props master” for public theaters taught students how to make magic happen on stage. That magic was making actors bleed safely, lights appear without wires, and how to solve any problem technical support may have with a play. I was also able to attend the Critiques workshop, which held students critiquing the plays shown at the festival. Our own Erik Nikander won runner up in the workshop, and could attend the Kennedy Center Festival in Washington if the final winner cannot attend.
“Parade,” written by Alfred Uhry was the hit of the whole week. “Parade” is a play based on a true story, about a man named Leo Frank and how he deals with being the scapegoat for the death of 13 year old Mary Phagan. This ended up being the best executed play, with beautiful lights, music and talented actors. I would suggest seeing a performance of Parade once in your lifetime.
The students rejoiced in a large and loud dance party at the end of the week to wrap up the festivities. I personally did not stay at the dance very long, but later into the night I read a “Yak” on the app “Yik-Yak” stating that someone “literally shat themselves on the dance floor.” Thank God I left before that happened.  Being in a hotel with thousands of theater students was defiantly shocking. Everyone was super kind  and willing to make friends with anyone they could get their hands on. Just walking down the hotel hallway it was hard to not make friends with 5 different people before reaching my room. And as the professor of the Critiques workshop said, “There is no audience like a KCACTF audience.” Every night play performances got a standing ovations and screams of joy as actors took bows.  It was a wonderful experience to be a part of and if you are interested in this event for following years, contact professor Kelly Morgan. He would love to have you.