OBU Theater at Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival conference

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor  (Courtesy Photo/The Bison)

This past week, Feb. 27-Mar. 3, a portion of the students and faculty of Oklahoma Baptist University’s theatre program participated in numerous segments of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region Six conference.

OBU reprised their rendition of the musical number “Tango de Amor” from “The Addams Family” to rousing applause at the Evening of Invited Scenes performance.

The selection included Caleb Schantz as Gomez Addams, McKenzie Reece as Morticia Addams and Brenna Bergeron, Sarah Smith, Tori Smith, Harmony Dewees, Chase Davis, Grant McGee, Garrett Wheeler, Joel Tetmey-er, Anna Tyler and Hunter Vicars as the Add-am’s Ancestors.

Three of the costumes from the dance reappeared in the festival’s costume pa-rade, modeled by Brenna Bergeron, Tori Smith and Hunter Vicars.

Director of theatre and professor Matthew Caron served the festival as an Irene Ryan responder, attending several segments of the Irene Ryan acting competition and providing feedback to the students who compete.

Some students who participated in KCACTF came for the opportunity to view the numerous theatre performances from across the region and to benefit from the event’s many workshops.

“Regardless of whether or not they compete, attending the conference is beneficial for students,” Caron said. “The festival is home to workshops, competitions and performances highlighting work from all areas of theatre: acting, directing, management, design, dance and journalism. Even though there are competitions, the main point of the festival is to celebrate the work of college students from around the nation.”

KCACTF Region Six offers OBU students the chance to interact with the rest of the theatrical community in Texas, Oklahoma and the surrounding areas.

“I’ve always enjoyed getting to hone my craft and be together with people who have similar interests as me,” junior theatre major and music minor Chase Hendrickson said.

However, some of the workshops and performances offered at the conference may raise ethical questions for students.

“The biggest challenge for OBU students is the content of many of the works,” Caron said. “OBU students are exposed to plays that deal with many contemporary, liberal issues. This can often times be shocking to students, yet, in my opinion, it serves a greater purpose.”

“It is important for students to know what kinds of works are out there. It is important for them to know the kind of world theatre is. Once they are armed with this knowledge, they can better serve as lights for Christ.”

“Theatre, like so many other secular realms of society, is essentially one big mission field. I think that [those] witnessing the ‘bad’ things about KCACTF are better equipped to not only minister to people, but it also helps them to better understand and strengthen their personal relationship with Jesus.”

Seeing troubling themes and subject matter in the workshops invites OBU students to wrestle with reconciling their profession as theatre artists with their calling as Christians.

“It highlights the need for Christians in the theatre world–there is a lot of spiritual darkness in the theatre world,” Caron said. “Attending a festival like this makes the darkness evident. I think that students can then make two choices: to NOT pursue a career in theatre based on what the world is ‘really like,’ or they can actively seek to be a light for Christ in a world that shuns and dismisses him.”

Although students face the challenge of reconciling differing viewpoints that might be presented in the workshop, they gain the benefit of learning about areas of theatre that they may not have been able to study otherwise.

“While I have been at KCACTF this week, I have learned several new styles of directing. I also have had the pleasure to meet very many talented individuals that competed alongside in the Design, Tech and Management Program,” senior theatre major Scott Roberts said.

KCACTF Roberts' Design presentation
(Courtesy Photo/The Bison) Roberts presents his award-winning design work at KCACTF

Two of OBU’s students, theatre majors Schantz and Reece, received the nomination to compete in the Irene Ryan competition and performed prepared scenes alongside non-competing scene partners, fellow theatre majors Caleb Frank and Brenna Bergeron, for the panel of judges at the festival.

Theatre majors Chase Hendrickson, Shantz and Reece competed in the Musical Theatre Initiative.

Reece also participated in KCACTF’s Musical Theatre Initiative Dance competition, alongside fellow students Bergeron and Tori Smith. All three dancers advanced to the final round of Region 6.

Scot Roberts and Grace Wohlschlegel exhibited their design, worked and competed in KCACTF’s Design, Tech, and Management Program. Roberts was awarded a Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas Award for Excellence in Technology and Design, and the Excellence in Non-Realized Scenic Design Award for his non-realized scenic design for the “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”

Attending KCATF gave students the chance to show what they had learned to the larger theatre community, compete in their areas of specialization, and study under multiple theatre industry experts.

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