IUP Students Invited to Attend Regional Theater Competition

Posted on 1/15/2020 3:59:42 PM
Student performing on stage

While most Indiana University of Pennsylvania students are enjoying the last few days of winter break, a handful of students are spending their last week of vacation competing in a regional theater competition.

IUP’s production of Actually was unanimously recommended to compete at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Region II happening this week in College Park, Maryland. Region II includes schools located in eight states stretching from Ohio to New York. 

Adrian Williams and Miranda Schuck in rehearsal for Actually in Waller Hall at IUP.
Adrian Williams and Miranda Schuck in rehearsal for Actually in Waller Hall at IUP.

A total of 24 students, along with several IUP faculty members, are at the festival, which opened Tuesday, January 14.

“It’s a great validation of the student’s work,” Actually director Rick Kemp said. 

Director Richard Kemp gives notes to Shuck and Williams, who play Tom and Amber.
Director Richard Kemp gives notes to Shuck and Williams, who play Tom and Amber.

“I’m continually moved by the depth of their commitment to what they’re doing. The fact that the show has been invited is a huge affirmation of that commitment and the quality work that our students are doing.”

Led by Kemp and fellow theater faculty member Ethan Hollinger, the cast and select crew of Actually will perform the show three times on Thursday for judging. Only eight productions were asked to perform.

Stage Managers Sam Benson and Sheon Kadish look over notes for Actually.
Stage Managers Sam Benson and Sheon Kadish look over notes for Actually.

In Actually, senior musical theater major Adrian Williams and sophomore theater major Miranda Schuck perform the roles of Tom and Amber. The two connect at a raucous party during their freshman year at Princeton, and later find themselves in unclear territory, as their actions have impacts that could affect their rest of their lives.

Williams and Schuck are the only two actors in the 85-minute performance of Actually, which, through dialogue, jumps back and forth in time and place. The play was written by Anna Ziegler.

A third of the IUP students traveling to the festival will compete as actors. Others have submitted work that will be judged on costume design, lighting, sound or set design, technical, and stage management.

“I learned so much in this production,” sophomore theater major and assistant lighting designer and board operator Hannah Kosela said. “I was working as light board operator for Actually while I was lighting designer for IUP’s production of Pippin. Switching back and forth between those two very different plays and jobs was like going from right brain to left brain. I asked Ethan four billion questions and he’d answer four billion times. He’d gently guide me to understand that I already knew what I was asking.” 

Lighting Designer Ethan Hollinger breaks down the challenge of lighting a scene with Assistant Director Aleah Krug looking on.
Lighting Designer Ethan Hollinger breaks down the challenge of lighting a scene with Assistant Director Aleah Krug looking on.

The drama unfolding in Actually pushed Hollinger and his students to come up with some creative design solutions. In one scene, they had to figure out how to light actors at a college party set in a poorly lit room. In that same scene, they had to determine how to amplify loud party music without drowning out the actor’s lines. 

“There was a lot of balance in trying to create and design the sound and light to reflect the content and feeling of spaces,” Hollinger said. “The design is based on what is happening in the play environmentally. It was a creatively challenging production.”

Junior theater major Sam Benson, the stage manager for Actually, will present two binders of notes and directions at KCACTF to be judged against his peers. 

“It’s my Actually bible, per se,” Benson said. “It’s really everything I would have ever written down about the production. From casting auditions back in April of 2019, to production notes from dress rehearsal on Monday, it’s all in here. I call 101 lighting cues, 30 sound cues, and four stage cues. I’d be lost without it.” 

Hollinger is confident about the work the students have done in preparation for the competition.

“They’ll all do a great job,” Hollinger said. “We’ll be competitive.”

When the productions are over today, January 16, students will switch into conference attendees, many taking the opportunity to network and listen to peers about job opportunities in their fields.

“It’s my first festival and I’m sort of nervous for that part,” Kosela said. “I need to network and ‘sell myself.’ That’s not my biggest strength, but I’m grateful for the opportunity. Once we get there and I see the grid system, walk through the space and do a channel check, I’ll be fine.”

Cast and crew begin the arduous of task of dismantling the set to take to KCACTF.
Cast and crew begin the arduous of task of dismantling the set to take to KCACTF.

In addition to rehearsals to prepare for the competition, students and faculty did a great deal of work to break down the sets and lights, pack the costumes and props, and load it all into a rented truck to make the four-hour drive to Maryland.

“Talent is a very vague and indefinable thing, but successful people all have one thing in common, which is hard work,” Kemp said. “It’s a real delight to see the results of this hard work acknowledged in this way.”