Texas Tech University

Sweeping the Festival

Shane Strawbridge

April 2, 2020

Each year, dozens of students from the School of Theatre and Dance participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. At this year's region 6 festival, held in Abilene, Texas, students presented work in facets of theatre including design, performance, playwriting, criticism and dramaturgy.

Among the honorees at this year's festival was junior BFA student Luke Weber, a national finalist alternate for the Irene Ryan acting awards and recipient of the Milly Risso Classical Acting Award: "Each year I go to KCACTF I come back with a deeper understanding of what I have to offer as an artist," said Weber. "It reminds me that the learning process never ends, but I can still be confident with the skills I have now and believe that the work I'm doing is good. I'm so thankful to be involved. It inspires me to work even harder on my craft and to never lose my curiosity and imagination."

Elliot Esquivel, a junior BFA student, was awarded three separate Irene Ryan Best Partner awards, one in each round he participated:

"This was my second year partnering in Irene Ryan's and it's always been a fun experience. Of course it's nice to be recognized for individual accomplishments, but I know for a fact none of those accomplishments wouldn't have happened if I didn't have some sort of support from the Texas Tech faculty, grad students, and even other nominees and partners. Everyone is more than willing to help and genuinely want to see you succeed. That's what I think TTU theatre does best. The constant support and collaboration is what propels us to reach even the smallest of accomplishments."

Although there is a competition lingering in the background, students find the festival's overall tone to be convivial. In fact, Director of the School of Theatre & Dance emphasizes that this is not a competition, but a chance for students to learn, share talents, and network. MFA Design student Ian Olsen agrees:

"It's a treasure to be able to come together in this way. We get to celebrate each other and show off how awesome our program is. It's amazing to strengthen connections year after year and to witness so much excellent work from around the region."

While some students are there solely to participate, others present workshops or panels to other students and faculty in the region. One of these students is PhD student Jennifer Ezell:

"Being a PhD student at our KCACTF conference gave me multiple opportunities to talk to Master teachers, discuss the state of theatre in our region, and network for my career. I feel more confident moving forward as a working artist."

Allison Roberts, an MFA student focusing on Arts Administration, participated in the ASPIRE initiative at KCACTF:

"We had the privilege to be able to sit in the same room and speak with some outstanding arts leaders who are doing amazing things with their organization. Not only was this an invaluable learning experience, but we were able to network and get to know many other students who are just as passionate about the arts as we are. The festival gave me a strong purpose going forward after graduation."

The work of two students in the department earned them an invitation to the National Festival held annually in Washington, D.C. (The National Festival was canceled this year due to COVID-19.) Thomas Laney was chosen to represent the region in the Institute of Theatre Journalism and Advocacy and Kelly Murphey was chosen to bring his work in scenic design:

"KCACTF is always a great experience, and one of the few opportunities in our field that brings friends and colleagues from around the theatre world together. For the designers, there is usually a competitive element or two, but it doesn't overshadow or dampen the camaraderie between students, that is until the Tech Olympics comes around."

The Tech Olympics is a friendly competition held at the end of the festival in which teams compete in technical elements such as costume quick changes, cable coiling, set placement, and theatre safety. For the second year in a row, Texas Tech walked away as the champions:

"Next year, we defend our Tech Olympics title for the third consecutive year. We are building a legacy of excellence across student generations at Texas Tech."

"Raider Power isn't just for athletics."