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Taking Center Stage

When the curtain rises on the 2017 Region 6 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), Angelo State University’s theatre facilities, faculty, staff and students will play host and be in the spotlight for the third straight year.

Founded in 1969, the KCACTF celebrates the excellence and achievement of both individuals and full-scale productions in the art and craft of theatre. Participation starts at state festivals and then continues by invitation to the eight regional festivals. Region 6 includes colleges and universities in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

“More than 750 students attended the 2016 KCACTF Region 6 at ASU,” said Mike Burnett, assistant director of ASU’s University Theatre and KCACTF Region 6 vice chair. “It draws a wide range of participation, from junior colleges that just send two students to Tier 1 universities that send 40 or 50 people.”

A centerpiece of the regional festival is multiple performances of five or six invited full-length plays, staggered so students get opportunities to see and learn from them all. New student-written plays are also presented through live readings, and individual students compete for scholarships in acting and musical theatre, as well as for awards in design, technology and management skills. Students can also attend a variety of workshops taught by educators, professionals and fellow students.

KCACTF Region 6 Chair Chase Waites, a professor of drama and chair of Drama, Dance and Live Entertainment Technology at Lone Star College-Montgomery, finds ASU an ideal home for the theatre festival.

“The madness that is KCACTF logistically includes being able to schedule all the elements we need,” Waites said. “There’s a lot going on all the time. The festival’s host campus has to have the facilities and the willingness to serve. Here at Angelo State, there are plenty of staff and students helping to facilitate it and make it run smoothly.”

It benefits our students, helping them build that skill set needed to run a major festival. - Mike Burnett

During the 2017 Region 6 festival, which will run March 1–4, the University Auditorium, Modular Theatre, Studio Theatre and C.J. Davidson Conference Center will be in continuous use.

“To run everything, we call upon 50 students and our full department’s staff and faculty,” Burnett said. “It benefits our students, helping them build that   skill set needed to run a major festival. It adds to their résumés. They also get a lot of networking opportunities and access to VIPs while picking them up at the airport, driving them around town and helping as runners in workshops. The students get professional contacts and contacts for graduate school.”

“ASU also gets transfer students,” he added, “especially from participating junior college theatre programs.”

ASU theatre majors also participate in the various scholarship auditions and design and technical presentations.

“Our students are going up against their peers in the real world,” Burnett said. “It gives them a taste of what it is going to be like auditioning beside their peers, of how they will stack up in the real world of theatre. Our kids do show well in these competitions. They get out of it what they put into it, and that’s what we try to stress with them. The kids who want to succeed after ASU are the kids who want to work hard now.”

Josiah HernandezJosiah Hernandez

The KCACTF concludes with the national festival, held annually in April at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, d.c. Recent ASU theatre graduate Josiah Hernandez of San Angelo attended the national festival twice after being awarded KCACTF Leadership Fellowships. He also worked on the 2015 and 2016 Region 6 festivals hosted by ASU.

“It seemed to run a lot more smoothly this year,” he said. “It didn’t seem as stressful. It was the second year for all of us, including Mr. Burnett. All the hard work that we put into it in advance really paid off.”

“This has been a very unifying thing for the theatre program at ASU,” he added, “just planning for this and participating in this. I think it brought us closer as a program and a department.”

ASU costumer Eldra Sanford took time during the theatre festival in February to look over ASU student Brittani Beggs' entry in costuming, saying, "That young lady is exceptional. She did all of the beadwork on the costume. She did good research."ASU costumer Eldra Sanford took time during the theatre festival in February to look over ASU student Brittani Beggs' entry in costuming, saying, "That young lady is exceptional. She did all of the beadwork on the costume. She did good research."