From January 31th to February 4th, Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) hosted the Northeast Regional of The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). Through the course of the week, select Bates students had the chance to showcase their work and participate in workshops designed to improve American collegiate theater. The Festival offered a multitude of theater programs from journalism to playwriting. The Festival was started in 1969 and now reaches over 600 colleges nationwide annually. The program brings together students from around 50 colleges and universities to exchange experiences and learn more about theater.
Since its founding (by Roger L. Stevens), KCACTF has affected over 400,000 college theater students, creating around 10,000 with over 16 million spectators in total. Even though the numbers are certainly impressive, the Festival’s impact goes much deeper than numbers. KCACTF was designed to promote creative exchange, critique, and networking among college students in a unique chance to showcase works and develop new ideas. The week of events was organized as a competition, along with workshops and lectures on all theatric areas. John Dello Russo ’18 was one of the Batesies who had the opportunity to experience the Festival first-hand. According to him, the conference “was a great opportunity to compete against and be around others who shared that same passion.”
Dello Russo and Nora Dahlberg ’18 partnered to create two short scenes and one monologue. It was not an easy journey! In interview with Dello Russo, he mentioned that the Festival participation was full of challenges. “The hardest part was trying to provide the judges with something they would want to see without doing the same thing that everyone else would do.” Even though they had to compete at 8:00 a.m. after a long night of driving to get to WCSU, Dello Russo was very positive about the outcomes. “As a science major it was great to be able to experience and be immersed in the arts for a week to expand my horizons and think in a different way.”
KCACTF had much more than just acting. The Festival had opportunities for playwrights, directors, undergraduate scholars, art administrators, art journalists, critics, and others. Some of the areas, such as the “scholarly papers” section, awarded cash for winning submissions.
There was an impressive diversity of categories. “One thing that surprised me was the many different people that were there. I feel as though many people have a particular vision of theater kids in their mind, but to meet so many other students who came from different walks of life was refreshing,” Dello Russo mentioned. The event mobilized an entire structure and engaged students from the most diverse backgrounds to promote the development of college theater. According to the WCSU website, the 2015 version of the Festival was expected to bring as much as $1.5 million in total benefits to the surrounding community.
The Kennedy Center for American College Theater Festival had much to offer. A quick look at the Kennedy Center’s website shows that there is an entire task force associated with the event – there are multiple support structures, partner institutions, media professionals, lecturers, and administrators that make the event possible. Events like this come to show that theater is alive, and has an enormous presence and potential in American colleges and universities today.