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SMC students discuss potential ACTF plays

| Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Saint Mary’s will submit two performances to the American College Theater Festival in hopes of having them selected and performed at the event in January.

The American College Theater Festival (ACTF) is sponsored by the Kennedy Foundation. According to the festival’s website, ACTF is “a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide.”

Thespians Unplugged co-president Stephanie Johnson, a junior, said ACTF is a multi-faceted theater experience.

“ACTF is a festival which allows thespians of all natures and backgrounds to grow and explore their talents and interests, offering performance, workshop and technical opportunities for the student and artist,” she said.

Thespians Unplugged co-president Makena Henell, a senior, said the College’s theatre program will submit two shows to the festival — “Lucky, Liar, Loser” which premiered in April, and a performance directed by the Tectonic Theater Project which will premiere in November.

“We’ve submitted two shows — ‘Lucky, Liar, Loser,’ and we will be submitting the Tectonic Theater Project,” she said. “I would love to see Tectonic accepted into the festival because it’s Saint Mary’s story.”

Johnson said she feels the two shows are reflective of the student performer.

“Our two shows prospective for the festival are designed for the students in mind, catering to a desire for creating dialogue and harnessing our talents,” she said.

Sophomore Elizabeth Ferry said she hopes “Lucky, Liar, Loser,” a show that allowed female characters to share their stories about violence, is selected for the festival.

“I feel confident it will be selected,” she said. “It’s a show that provokes a conversation that we all need to have in this day and age, especially in college settings. Bringing it to ACTF will help facilitate a larger conversation.”

Sophomore Sandy Tarnowski said she also believes “Lucky, Liar, Loser” has a chance at being selected to perform at the festival.

“I definitely think ‘Lucky, Liar, Loser’ has a chance of being performed,” she said. “It is a very relevant piece and something that needs to be talked about and shared, and it is very well put together and understandable.”

Ferry said she feels the plays appeal to the theater community and those who consume theater.

“ACTF is theater people, so the demographic of people who would come to our show would be more apt to see artsy shows and abstract shows, which is what ‘Lucky, Liar, Loser’ and Tectonic Theater Project are,” she said. “We’re trying to make art and theater accessible to everyone, but the people who attend ACTF might have a deeper appreciation for unconventional or more modern forms of theater.”

Ferry said official ACTF judges observe the plays and report their critiques in order to determine which plays will be performed at the festival.

“Our directors apply to have their play adjudicated,” she said. “Official adjudicators come in to watch the show and they talk with the cast about it and take notes. At the end of the year, all the adjudicators get together and discuss the shows they want to put on. Five to ten shows from the region are then selected and performed at the festival.”

Henell said Saint Mary’s hosts ACTF representatives even when the directors are not submitting their plays to the festival.

“We have two ACTF representatives come to all of our shows here at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “Even if we’re not promoting the show or sending it to ACTF, they still come and we get great feedback. Normally, it’s so positive and it’s great to get applauded for our hard work. They usually praise the stage managers and backstage crews so I feel like a lot of unsung heroes then can get their turn in the spotlight.”

Ferry said she is eager to see the adjudicators’ results.

“It’s secretive the way they choose the plays,” she said. “We don’t know what they’re looking for or if they want certain types of shows.”

Henell said if one of the plays is chosen, the cast and crew get to attend the festival for free.

All students have the opportunity to attend the festival, however, she said, and there are workshops and theatrical performances sponsored all throughout the week.

“There are fun workshops all week,” she said. “There’s ones in stage combat, dance, lighting design and costume design, just to name a few. They also have workshops on how to do your resume for theater or apply for a job or internship in theater. You’re encouraged to take as many as you want. There’s also ten minute scenes to go see and short competitions to watch, as well as a musical theatre intensive.”

Tarnowski said she feels having a play selected to perform at the festival will draw more attention to Saint Mary’s.

“I feel like having one of our plays performed would bring a lot of attention to Saint Mary’s,” she said. “It might inspire more people to go to Saint Mary’s and do theater here, and it would give a small, all-girls, private college a chance to shine and show people that even though the College does not have a huge, over-funded theatre program, we can still put on a great show.”

In December, Ferry said, Saint Mary’s will find out if its plays have been selected for the festival. Having a play chosen by the ACTF would be an esteemed honor, she said. 

“It would be an amazing experience to get our shows selected because we would get to perform for our peers all across the region,” she said. “It’d be an honor to be chosen.”


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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

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