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Theater Students Compete at Regional Festival

February 12, 2018

Emporia State Theatre had excellent representation at last month’s regional festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). Four faculty members and 21 students traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, for the annual festival for Region 5 of KCACTF which includes colleges and universities from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. Commendations for outstanding work in the region were presented to Senior Dustin Bittel for his stage management of “Family Furniture” and to Alum Nathan Dale Short for his direction of “Six Characters in Search of an Author.”  Susan Mai also received a commendation for her costume designs for “Sense and Sensibility.” 

Eight ESU students were among the 325 nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship  including Fran Opheim (senior, Olathe) and her partner Andrew Ralston (junior, Topeka); Mollie McClanahan (sophomore, Topeka) and her partner Matthew Mahr (junior, Olathe); Barry McAnulty (senior, Bronson) and his partner Olivia Nunnelley (sophomore, Goddard); Justin Scheck (junior, Gardner) and his partner McKenzie Needham (freshman, Andover); Torin Horvik (junior, Fargo, ND) and partner Hewleek McKoy (junior, Olathe); Paige Lundin (senior, Wichita) and partner Cassidy Tilden (senior, Topeka); Rachel Muirhead (senior, Hays) and partner Tyler Lang (senior, Topeka);  and Abbi Timmermeyer (senior, Andover) whose partner was also Andrew Ralston. 

Hewleek McKoy was a finalist in the Music Theatre Institute.  Along with fellow finalists, he performed the final musical number at the festival “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the musical “Hairspray.” After the final round of Ryan auditions, the festival was treated to the Region 5 costume parade, featuring costumes by professor emeritus Susan Mai.  Five of her costumes from the spring 2016 production of “Sense and Sensibility” were selected for the costume parade and were featured as the opening act. The auditions and the costume parade were presented in the historic Hoyt Sherman Theatre in downtown Des Moines on the final night of the festival.

The work of several ESU student designers, playwrights and stage managers were also displayed in the Design Expo in the areas of dramaturgy (Allison DeMeyer), stage management (Dustin Bittel and Abbi Timmermeyer), scenic design (Fran Opheim), costume construction (Andrew Ralston and Madison Simmons), makeup design (Cassidy Tilden) and lighting design (Matthew Mahr). The stage crew showdown team, comprised of Isabella Harvey (senior, McPherson), Tyler Lang, Mollie McClanahan, McKenzie Simmons and Madison Simmons (junior, Emporia) failed to break out of the first round, but was awarded the Spirit Award, given to the team showing the best school spirit at the event. ESU also won the Spirit Award last year.  In fact, ESU Theatre has won this award in three of the past five years. The event provides an opportunity for technical theatre students to imporove their stagecraft skills in a series of timed events.


Members of PANTS (Pantomime and Non-traditional Theatre Society) were asked to present a brief performance at the Devised Theatre event at the conference.  Led by Tyler Lang, performers included Opheim, Bittel and Lang.  Instructor Bob Hart was a respondent at the festival for Irene Ryan auditions. Workshops were presented by Costume Designers Susan Williams and Amanda Dura. Director of Theatre Jim Bartruff coordinated the Institute of Theatre Journalism and Advocacy along with guest journalist Michael Morain, former drama critic for the Des Moines Register.



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