Several SMTD students were recognized for accomplishments in their crafts at the recent Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region 3 Festival. The 2023 Region 3 Festival – encompassing university theatre entrants from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and western Ohio – was held January 11–15 at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Student Dramaturgy Award
Senior (BTA ’23) Nya Johnson has been a “motivating force behind initiating dramaturgy” at SMTD, noted Karin Waidley, resident dramaturg and lecturer. Johnson won the Student Dramaturgy Award for Sophisticated Ladies – her sixth production as a student dramaturg. “Her skillful and conscientious work on Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies helped guide audiences in SMTD’s vital mission to celebrate the voices and legacies of artists many times left out of the theatrical canon,” added Waidley.
“Working on Sophisticated Ladies and being able to share that experience with the world in this capacity is truly an honor,” said Johnson. “Thank you to Michael McElroy, Karin Waidley, Torya Beard, Ayodele Casel, Paul Hunter, the cast of Sophisticated Ladies, and many others for your collaboration, creativity, love, and support!” The award includes an all-expense-paid residency at the National Festival at the Kennedy Center in July and other professional development opportunities. (Watch this video to learn more about Johnson’s SMTD studies.)
SMTD student nominees earned honorable mentions in other award categories.
In lighting design, an honorable mention went to Abi Farnsworth (BFA ’23, design & production). “Her work on Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow was beautiful, and I’m happy to see it recognized at KCACTF,” shared Jess Fialko, assistant professor of theatre & drama. “Abi is an incredibly skilled student with fantastic design instincts, and she put together an excellent presentation to showcase those qualities.” The regional festival “was a wonderful learning opportunity,” according to Farnsworth – “and I’m extremely grateful to my department for their help and support throughout the process.”
In the Design Storm category, two SMTD students collaborated with other students across institutions to prepare a team design concept presentation. Their proposals for a hypothetical production of Much Ado About Nothing received honorable mention. Nate Sheehan (BTA ’24) served the team as director and dramaturg. “It’s a privilege to be honored,” Sheehan said. “It was a lot of fun to work with students from other schools.” The team’s costume designer was Ellie Van Engen (BFA ’26, design & production). The Design Storm, said Van Engen, was “such a cool opportunity to collaborate with many people from different schools and create a new take on a classic show. It definitely made me think very creatively and I’m so proud of my team.”