UWO nominees perform in the Kennedy Center Theatre Festival

Kellie Wambold

UW Oshkosh theatre students further developed their theatre specialities at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival on Jan. 6-10. KCACTF takes place throughout the country in eight different regions. UWO students attended the Region III festival, which also includes students from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and parts of Ohio. Brad Skonecki, a UWO theater major and senior, said the festival seemed to take up all of Milwaukee. “It is basically a Comic-Con for those who love theatre,” Skonecki said. “There wasn’t a time where you would walk the streets of Milwaukee and not meet someone who was attending the festival.” Skonecki, along with several other students, participated in acting workshops at the festival as well as the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. IRAS is a three-round audition process where more than 200 nominated students from varying region productions perform a monologue and two scenes. Although none of the UWO nominees made it to the second round of auditions, Skonecki said he learned a lot from the feedback of just one round. “It taught me that you can’t [censor] yourself,” Skonecki said.“You have to take risks and be confident in what you are performing.” Fellow nominee David Kurtz said the one round of auditions made the trip worth it. “I learned how to calm myself in situations where I wasn’t familiar with the setting or the people,” Kurtz said. Freshman theatre major Parker Sweeney said he learned just as much from the process as he did from the audition. “I learned how much work you have to put into your craft, whether it be going to workshops or simply just rehearsing and getting in touch with your piece and the characters,” Sweeney said. After watching different productions that were selected from different colleges from across the region, Skonecki said he learned just as much from other student actors at KCACTF as he did from the professionals. “It is wonderful to watch fellow students perform because it helps you grow as an actor,” Skonecki said. UWO theatre professor Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft said students had the opportunity to pursue areas of theatre other than acting as well. “There are so many opportunities that it’s a little daunting, but it’s fabulous because students can pretty much pursue any interest they have in theatre,” Purse-Wiedenhoeft said. UWO technical design student Jacob Browning took advantage of this by participating in Design Storm, a team competition where students designed an entire scene within three days. Browning said he enjoyed working with students from across the region and seeing new ways to do technical design. “Going to KCACTF gave me a chance to meet and talk with other students from other schools about their programs, their design process and learn new ways to work through the design process,” Browning said. Skonecki said another great benefit of KCACTF is talking with professionals that work in all the different areas of theatre. “You can’t forget all the great people you meet and get to bond with, especially in a career that depends on who you know,” Skonecki said. Kurtz said meeting other college theatre students is just as useful as meeting professionals. “We get to meet many other people in the same line of work and the same age range which is always fun,” Kurtz said. According to Purse-Wiedenhoeft, this is one of the main reasons she enjoys bringing students to KCACTF. “We take students to something like this because then they start to realize there’s a lot of people out there that are like them and are passionate about theatre,” Purse-Wiedenhoft said. Browning said meeting others from different schools was not the only important connections made. “Not only did I get to meet people from other schools, but I got to grow my friendship with other students from Oshkosh during some of our free time,” Browning said. Sweeney said he enjoyed bonding with the older students who have taught him a lot during the KCACTF process. “I loved getting to know some of the people just within our own program and truly becoming friends with these folks,” Sweeney said. Aside from making connections, Purse-Weidenhoeft said KCACTF is a great place for students to rediscover and mature in their passion for theatre. “I’ve seen many students come back from the festival and they have a much more focused approach to their studies in theater,” Purse-Wiedenhoft said.