Theater Students Honored at the Kennedy Center Festival


Benjamin Games

A few weeks ago, West Liberty University theater students and faculty attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Washington, D.C. Over 100 students in the region, including seven WLU students, participated and attended the event, some of which were finalists in the competition.
According to the KCACTF website, the purpose of the festival is to “encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs.”
Students had about a month to prepare for the event. Michael Aulick, a professor at West Liberty University, said, “There is a lot of prep work that goes into the initiatives. [Students and I] met on a regular basis but then were sent off to practice the things we worked on.” Students were recognized for their talent in performance, playwriting, management, and more. Participants had the ability to be awarded the Irene Acting Scholarship and win various contests.
The Irene Acting Scholarship is awarded to students in hopes to celebrate their work and to offer some financial assistance to help further students’ education. According to the website, “One nominee and partner from every region will be invited to the national festival and the nominee will receive a $500 scholarship. The runner-up in each region will receive a $500 scholarship, but will not attend the national festival to audition for the national scholarship.” Benjamin Games, a sophomore at WLU, was a finalist for the scholarship.
Games explained what the process was like start to finish. He said, “Anyone in our region was allowed to send in a self-nomination tape consisting of two 60-90 second monologues that will be placed for consideration to enter the competition.” From there, judges chose who would proceed to the first round, and then from there the 32 semi-finalists were chosen. Games said, “When we made that cut, we were sent three scenes to choose from. We chose one character from those three scenes to read for in a virtual reading for the next round. Essentially, we had around 12 hours to prepare this character, so it was mainly spent, reading and trying to create as many bold and interesting choices for the character as we could.” Once Games made it past to the final round, he had about 24 hours to prepare the same monologues from the previous round, but this time it was to a live audience via Zoom.
Games also shared what his experience was like while he attended the festival. “In the time I wasn’t working on preparing for Irene’s [Scholarship], I attended online workshops and lectures on different skills that may be useful in the future or that we can heighten now.” Games seemed to have an overall great experience and most importantly had fun. “Last year, I don’t really think I took full advantage of this festival, but this year, I did everything that I really wanted to. A few other students and I got on the same schedule most of the time and we were able to discuss what all we learned or found interesting on our time off. It was all around just a blast.”
Grant VanCamp, WLU student and Irene Acting Scholarship finalist and winner, had similar experiences. VanCamp originally sent in his nomination tapes in hopes to keep moving onto the next rounds. VanCamp said, “Basically I gathered a group of three people: Callia Byard, Merritt Craft, and myself. I’m friends with these two and I know Callia is bomb at improv. We went up against other teams playing improv games in a zoom call.” VanCamp and his friends were practicing for the competition.
VanCamp also shared how happy he was to be awarded the Irene Acting Scholarship. He said, “It felt great to win because out of all my years of going to KCACTF I had never seen my name on the awards slide show.” He also shared what his experience was like while attending the festival this year. “While attending the festival I joined quite a few workshops having to do with professionalism in theater, Zoom auditioning, and acting with the Meisner technique. So many skills that my notebook was almost halfway through by the end of the week. I also auditioned for a cold read contest and saw three plays.” The students at the event were kept busy while learning new skills and practicing for their auditions.
To learn more about additional students, refer to the story Maureen Zambito released on the WLU website. For any additional information about the event or the Theater Department, visit the College of Arts and Communications website, or call (304) 336-8006.