Last week students and faculty from Emporia State attended the 50th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Students from around the Midwest attended the Region 5 competition which included Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.
“KCACTF is really where all collegiate theaters around our region come together and we have workshops where we can learn more about every aspect of theater,” said Andrew Ralston, senior theater major.
“But there’s also competitions as well.” Ralston was among 337 entries in the competition, of which 64, including Ralston and fellow student Hewleek McKoy, advanced to semifinals.
“It was a lot of fun.” Ralston said. “I submitted my design for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I was also involved in the drag intensive. We ended up having two sold out shows at the conference...I was so empowered, it was so great to have that communal experience with so many other people who all wanted to support each other and make sure we could put on the best show we possibly could.”
While the events were student focused, they were accompanied by faculty members of the theater department.
“We had five faculty members come with us, who were also leading workshops and were responding to things and helping other educators guide the conference,” Ralston said.
“I’ve worked with all of them pretty closely, so it was nice to have them there to give us support whenever we needed...This year I think Emporia really represented itself well.”
Jim Bartruff, director of theater and accompanying faculty member spoke about how important the festival is to students.
“It has been since its inception a place for students in all disciplines of theater to share one another’s experiences to share one another’s growth, to observe one another’s work and be a part of a true national theater,” Bartruff said.
Of those entries, Ralston and McKoy of Emporia State made it into the semifinals.
“In Andrew’s case, he entered his costume designs from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He was selected as the runner-up from the region for the Kennedy Center in Washington...his was acknowledged as the second best,” Bartruff said. “Which is a high honor particularly because it was his first costume design as a student at Emporia State.”
With 1,500 participants, the festival was engrossed in activities from design, to technology to performances according to Bartruff.
“It was intense and exhilarating and for all those involved a great opportunity,” Bartruff said.
While speaking about the festival, Bartruff said it was unique because it has drag performances at festivals like these.
“We’re the only festival in the country right now which does a drag show as part of its week of activities,” Bartruff said. “And that’s due in no small part due to the fact that our region, region 5, made a commitment to diversity and acceptance and new opportunities.”
According to the KCACTF website, the Diversity and Inclusion Statement encourages “discourse that effects positive change in the ways that under-represented groups are portrayed... Diversity in experience and perspective makes our organization stronger.”