The 41st annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for Region 8 was hosted by the Department of Theatre and Dance at California State University, Fullerton. during the week of Feb. 10-14. Theatre enthusiasts participated in festivities that included acting workshops, live performances, a set design gallery, and invite-only auditions for the prestigious Irene Ryan award. The festival was presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
“The festival itself is a national event,” said Susan Merson, theatre instructor at Cal State Fullerton. “In our region we have kids from California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii.”
Over the course of the five-day period, workshops were held continuously from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thespians had the opportunity to attend approximately 65 classes that focused on everything from voiceovers to headshots, stage combat to theater make-up, and play writing to audition techniques.
In one of the many facets of the festival, invited students are able to bring their personal theater productions and work alongside business professionals. Merson was asked to be the coordinator of dramaturgy (the art of dramatic composition) for the festival. She brought in an “actress turned therapist” to physiologically analyze the new plays produced by students in an effort to add depth and insight to their performance.
A design and technology gallery displayed samples from college productions in the region and miniature set models. Costumes and lighting techniques that had been recognized were on exhibit and exceptional performances were honored with an invitation to feature their productions at the festival.
In addition to the activities, there were the awards. At the close of the ceremonies Saturday night, 15 different areas of theater production were honored with trophies, scholarships, and cash prizes. Students were honored for exceptional talent in acting, directing, play-writing, stage management, set design, and costume design.
Saddleback’s theater department was represented by Instructor Maria Mayenzet, who was asked to be a respondent, and students Aimee Macalingay and Walter Rusniaczek, who were invited to audition for the Irene Ryan Award.
“Our nominees did not make it to semi-finals but they really did a wonderful job,” said Mayenzet.