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.
A total of 24 students,
along with several IUP faculty members, are at the festival, which opened Tuesday,
“It’s a great validation
of the student’s work,” Actually director
Rick Kemp said.
“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.
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.”
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
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
“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.”
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.”