Last week, several students traveled to Des Moines, IA for the annual Kennedy Center for the Arts College Theatre Festival, or KCACTF for short. This was a five-day event in which hundreds of college students from schools in various states across the Midwest came together and took part in a wide variety of theatrical workshops, competitions, presentations and performances.
Several students from Northwestern brought in prepared presentations and auditions to the festival. One of the biggest events at this festival is the Design Expo, where students can submit their work in various areas of design, technology and management to be considered for recognition and awards at the festival.
Senior theatre major Madison DenHerder submitted a presentation of her work as the costume designer for NW’s winter 2023 production of “Silent Sky,” as well as her stage management work for the fall 2023 production of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.”
Junior theatre major Jack MacGregor went all out and submitted three design presentations for the expo. He presented two scenic design presentations. One was for his work on “Silent Sky” and the other for his work on NW’s fall 2023 children’s production of “One Snowy Night.” For his scenic design work in “Silent Sky,” MacGregor received the National Scenic Design Award. This award comes with an all-expenses-paid trip for MacGregor to the national festival at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. The NW Theatre Department is incredibly proud of MacGregor and this monumental achievement.
Another impressive and notable presentation from NW’s group at the festival was given by Marissa Leraas. Leraas submitted into a workshop titled ASPIRE. This workshop gave students the opportunity to present their pitch for opening up their own theatre company. The theatre department loves to see students taking the initiative to pave their way in the industry and making connections to help them work towards their future careers.
In addition to these wonderful presentations, students also participated in a variety of auditions and workshops at the festival. MacGregor and Anna Frangenberg both submitted auditions for the Irene Ryan Acting competition; Liam Nibbelink auditioned for the Musical Theatre Intensive Singing Event; Ailee Moquist, Leraas and Liam Nibbelink worked and performed as a group in a Devised Theatre workshop.
There are many opportunities for young artists to present their work and also learn new skills and techniques from professionals in the theatre industry. Some students participated in workshops that specified how to approach performing Shakespeare and mastering the interpretation of his iambic pentameter through monologue work. There were also workshops on musical theatre choreography, as well as tips and tricks for getting the most out of a theatre career.
Everyone had a wonderful time being in community with one another and sharing their love of artistry with hundreds of other people who shared that passion. It was an unforgettable week and the department cannot wait to go back next year.