MU seniors compete at national theater festival

The students attended the KCACTF in Washington D.C.

MU sent two students to this year's Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, which took place April 16-21 in Washington, D.C.

Seniors Hannah Baxter and Amanda Newman attended the festival for the first time this year. Each had to pass the regional level of competition in her area of competition to be invited to the national festival.

Baxter competed in the National Critics Institute, recently renamed the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy.

“Eight students, one from each region, participate in daily workshops to discuss theater journalism and meet with professionals in the field, such as Bob Mondello from NPR,” Baxter said. “It is an opportunity to learn about and improve your writing and reporting skills, as well as interact with other students involved with multiple areas of theater.”

Newman was a regional finalist and a national semi-finalist in playwriting for both her 10-minute play and one-act play. She took her one-act play "The Lost Slipper" to nationals as a finalist for the John Cauble Award for Outstanding Short Play.

“The actual event was one of the most exhausting things I have done in a while,” Baxter said. “Our schedule was jam-packed with meetings and workshops for three hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon and a show at night. Some days we didn't get back to our hotel until midnight and we had a review due by 8 a.m. the next morning.”

The KCACTF was created in 1969 and has since grown to include 18,000 students from more than 600 academic institutions, according to the KCACTF website.

“Mizzou has been competing since the KCACTF was created,” playwriting professor David Crespy said. “We’ve had 15 national finalists and 43 national invitations in playwriting just in the time that I’ve been here.”

The festival is more than just an awards competition for many students.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to network,” Crespy said. “The festival is filled with nationally acclaimed national artists who lead workshops for the students. Just going to national festival is important and the start of careers. You get to schmooze with the best of them. It’s a real leaping-off place with incredible experiences.”

KCACTF has been hit by economic setbacks, namely government cutback in the area of the arts and education, but the festival still managed to treat its competitors to a taste of the D.C theater realm, Baxter said.

“KCACTF could not bring in student shows from the various regions for the attendees to see and report on, as they have done in previous years,” Baxter said. “Luckily, the budget allowed us to receive free tickets for some wonderful shows around D.C. at the Wooly Mammoth Theater, Theatre J and The Shakespeare Theatre Company. The shows varied from a brilliant puppet (and) drag show to a nearly four-hour O'Neil revival that hasn't been produced in North America since 1985.”

Each girl competed against graduate students from prestigious master's programs at universities such as New York University, Columbia University and Yale University.

“Mizzou isn’t a professional training program,” Crespy said. “It’s a liberal arts training program. This way, anyone, regardless of major, can be in a play, be in an acting class (or) be in a playwriting class. There’s something special about being open rather than exclusive. I think we’re doing something right.”

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