Theater festival provides inspiration, training

For theater students, the second week of the Spring Semester represents an opportunity to attend an annual theater conference.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, or KCACTF, is a weeklong event for theater majors, minors and those who are interested. It is held in multiple regions across the country.

This year, KCACTF ran from Feb. 13-17 and was hosted by Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. Last year’s festival was at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

The group from Linfield consisted of 14 students and two professors, Tyrone Marshall, professor of theatre arts, director of theatre and resident designer, and Janet Gupton, associate professor of theatre arts and resident director.

Sophomore Jenny Layton said there were about 800 graduate and undergraduate students at the festival.

“I even met someone who was a high school senior,” Layton said.

Four Linfield students were nominees for the Irene Ryan acting competition.

“You get nominated by performing in shows at your school,” Layton said. “Two people are nominated from every show.  At the festival you perform for three judges.  The preliminaries cut it down from 200 or 300 students to about 30.  The semifinals cut it down to between 12 and 16 students, and then the final round has two winners and two runners-up.”

Besides being the stage for performance competitions, KCACTF is the site of workshops, classes, shows and information sessions. Some students bring technical portfolios, and some give staged readings of plays they have written.

“Every day there were workshops,” junior Laura Haspel said. “The focus varied from acting to play writing and design, and you had a choice as to which ones you went to.”

Layton said that one workshop about Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” was so inspiring that several students decided to bring it back to Linfield.

”We held our own workshop in the Church of Totem exhibit,” Layton said. “There were maybe 30 people there. It was really cool to be able to take something we’d experienced at the festival and apply it to our own setting so quickly afterward.”

Haspel said she was also involved in the workshop at Linfield.

“We just made a Facebook group and invited a bunch of people to celebrate what it means to be a woman,” Haspel said. “I was in the production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ that the Linfield Theatre Department put on a few years ago, and that was just an amazing experience. To bring it back to life was really incredible.”

Information about graduate schools and internship programs is also available to the students at the festival. One series of auditions gives seniors a chance to audition for several schools and theater companies all at once.

There are four full-length shows put on during the week, one every night from Monday through Thursday.

“One was about electroshock aversion,” Haspel said. “It was a study at BYU where they tried to reverse homosexual fantasies through electrocution, and the playwright was one of the participants. Another was a play called ‘Us’ that was basically devised by our generation for our generation. It covered everything from Facebook, to 9/11, to Taco Bell; everything that’s a part of our culture. It was really interactive with the audience—we were cheering, we were crying.”

Layton said coming back to school was hard, having to adjust to real school again after the festival.

“All of us came out wishing it had lasted longer,” Layton said. “It’s so rewarding to be surrounded by so many people with a passion for theater. You only get that in a very small scale in the theatre department here.”

Haspel compared the feeling to culture shock.

“You learn so much in that week and it’s exhausting, not just all fun,” Haspel said. “I think we all took something from that trip and brought it back.”

Sharon Gollery/
Culture editor
Sharon Gollery can be reached at


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