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Taking Center Stage

February 24, 2015

More than 800 college and university theatre students have converged on the Angelo State University campus for the five-day Region VI Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, which began Tuesday, Feb. 24.

For ASU seniors Janae Hatchett and Chloé Casey, helping to host the festival is an opportunity to showcase the campus they love.

“It’s a really big deal, especially since we’re a smaller four-year university,” said Hatchett of Lubbock. “I’m proud that we’re not shying away from an event like this, that we’re willing to do something to better the community.”

“We wouldn’t be able to pull this off if we didn’t have a lot of students willing to help and the facilities available,” said San Angelo native Casey.

As student co-hosts for the festival, Hatchett and Casey are overseeing more than 40 student volunteers, all working under the direction of Mike Burnett, assistant director of ASU’s University Theatre.

“It’s a big honor and a big undertaking,” Burnett said. “We have to have multiple performance venues and locations for workshops and displays.”

Every year, five or six full-length theatre productions from schools across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma are invited to perform at the Region VI festival.

Even though they are just an hour or two long, the festival workshops might be something you can’t get a course in at your school. You can enrich your education.

Chloé Casey

This year, Texas Southern University will present “Marcus or The Secret of Sweet” and Sam Houston State University will present “Machinal.” Texas Wesleyan University’s student-written play, “In & Between,” will be performed, as will “Delta v,” a student-written play from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. The University of New Orleans will stage the Pulitzer-nominated Broadway play, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” and the University of Central Oklahoma will present “Woyzeck.”

The full-length plays will be staged in the ASU Auditorium in the Mayer Administration Building and in the Modular Theatre in the Carr Education-Fine Arts Building.

These plays, however, are far from all there is to experience at the festival. The Design/Technology/Management Expo will fill the C.J. Davidson Conference Center in the Houston Harte University Center.

“There are at least 76 workshops scheduled in playwriting, design, acting, stage management and working with the community,” Hatchett said. “One of our students, Larry Hettick, is going to do a workshop on how to start up a nonprofit community theatre.”

While ASU has hosted the Texas festival twice, this is the first time to host the regional festival. Casey and Hatchett both attended the Region VI festival last year in Shreveport, La.

“Even though they are just an hour or two long, the festival workshops might be something you can’t get a course in at your school,” Casey said. “You can enrich your education.”

Many of the student volunteers will also be participating in the wide variety of contests. Hatchett, for one, is a nominee for the Irene Ryan Foundation’s acting scholarship. The foundation awards 16 regional and two national scholarships annually to student actors. Students also will compete for honors in such categories as lighting, scenic art, costume, sound and props.

Twenty-nine schools, including Angelo State, have also been invited to present scenes from plays staged in this academic year, and readings will be held for student-written one-act plays.

“ASU’s facilities are primed for something like this,” Burnett said. “We’ve worked closely with a lot of campus logistics people to make sure we have it all ready and flowing smoothly.”

A big part of the preparation was upgrading the audio system in the Auditorium, parts of which dated to the 1970s, and purchasing new lighting to allow multiple performances in multiple spaces at the same time. A grant from the Higher Education Assistance Fund helped pay for the improvements.

“We’re already proud of our facilities and even more so now,” Burnett said. “This will have additional benefits for ASU. Especially for students interested in careers in theatre tech, this makes a huge difference. We will be able to promote our high-quality technology to prospective students.”