I’m writing this blog post at the COI Oscar Party, which seems completely appropriate given the circumstances. This afternoon I got back from a week at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, held this year in the lovely but FREEZING Ellensburg, WA.
It was a lot of fun.
I’ve gone to KCACTF since my freshman year, when we drove all the way out to Sacramento California. I spent a week eating lunch and dinner every day at In N Out, going to crazy theatre workshops during the day, and dancing my butt off at the theatre parties every night. It was an amazing week where I got to know my fellow theatre majors and minors, and by the end of my time there I had met some really incredible actors from other schools as well. Strangely enough, this week during my third time at KCACTF, I got to see some of those same people I met the first time around performing and taking the conference by storm. Apparently theatre is one of the smallest worlds out there, because I swear during all of the play readings and performances I attended, I was constantly running into old faces. And it was so awesome, because it felt like everyone at the festival was totally ready to cheer each other on and compliment each other for whatever work we’d seen others perform. It was a very inclusive and positive community this year, and as we are all somewhat aware in the back of our little overtly dramatic, theatre-obsessed brains, we actors are a people who seek positive affirmation. So honestly, all the good acting vibes and appreciation was fun to be around.
This year was the first year I’ve ever been cast in a ten minute play! And I was soooo excited about it, it’s a great chance to meet people and be seen by directors. Essentially what happens is that playwrights in the district submit their original scripts, which have to be ten minutes or less in length. From the hundred of scripts submitted, ten are chosen, and then professional directors are paired with each script. At KCACTF there are open auditions, and each actor attempting to be cast in the show auditions with a one-minute monologue. I chose one from Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, and performed in front of a room full of directors, competing with a hundred and some other actors for approximately twenty performing spots. And I got super lucky! I was in a show called The Seagulls will Eat You, by playwright Will Homel. It was a lot of fun, and super relaxed, we rehearsed for around three hours over the course of the whole week before performing on the last day of the conference in a black box theater. It went really well, the playwright got back a lot of good feedback from the judges, and I left that stage feeling enormously happy to have tried something new.
I saw some really incredibly good theatre while I was there too. My favorite show has to have been LOON, an original piece created and performed by married couple, the Wonderheads. It was so sweet, and a very different theatrical experience than I am used to. It was what you might call a silent play, with soulful music and perfectly timed sound effects working to move the performance along, all while an incredible actress wearing an enormous but realistic mask managed to make the audience break into tears, all without ever saying a word. She played the character Francis, an older man alone in the world after the death of his beloved mother, who attempts to combat his loneliness and find affection by seeking out a partner. Eventually, sweet Francis falls in love with his childhood friend, the Moon. You know a show is good when the entire audience is screaming and clapping and standing on their feet at the end, wiping at watery eyes and wondering how it happened. My heart hurt, and the entire drama department escaped away to the van to talk about how amazing the performance was. That was sort of the unofficial rule. Everyone would go see a show, and then we’d all rush back to the van so that we could either gush over how amazing the show was, or take turns pointing out everything that went wrong, which can also be a pretty good time in and of itself. I’ve never been much of a sports fan, but I know my theatre, and there’s something really special about seeing performances with other people who love it as much as you do, and who can talk with you in technical terms about it. Loon blew everyone away, and I’m so glad I got to see it.
This is sort of just another example of why COI is awesome. KCACTF is one of the things I look forward to most every year, and it goes so far in recharging my batteries and inspiring our performing arts community to get things accomplished during the Spring Term. Not to mention the opportunity to network with some of the biggest names in the northwest theatre scene, which is no small achievement when you live in Caldwell. I can’t imagine missing out on a festival that opens up so many doors and educational opportunities for COI theatre majors. I have to give a shout out to Joe Golden, the head of our department, who took us all out there and drove us around like an incredibly patient soccer mom. Thank you Joe, you are the best, and we all owe you one. KCACTF was, like always a great experience and a truly ludicrous amount of fun, and I’m already excited for next year (Denver better watch out!).