Sun. Jan 16th, 2022

While most spent the last few days of winter break catching up with old friends, relaxing and preparing for the new semester, select students from the WCU Theatre Department were representing the university at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (ACTF). The festival was formed in 1969 by Robert L. Stevens, the founding chairman of the Kennedy Center. It began by splitting the country up into eight regions (West Chester belongs in region two – which includes Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania). The participating schools in these regions submit their performances to be adjudicated by festival critics, in hopes of being one of a few selected to perform at regional, and possibly national, levels.

Along with the show competition,there are also scholarships and contests in acting, technical theatre, dramaturgy, directing, stage-managing, playwriting, and criticism, as well as countless workshops. Over 18,000 students from more then 600 academic institutions participate annually in this prestigious festival. Though West Chester sends students each year to ACTF, several of whom usually return with awards in hand, this year the university was particularly well represented.

The fall production of Hair!, the hippie-loving ʻ60s love-rock musical, was selected to compete at the regional level. This involved packing up and shipping the cast, crew, designers, orchestra, set, lights, costumes, make-up, projections and sound equipment to Muhlenburg College in Allentown, Pa. (the host-school for this yearʼs festival).

Audience members began to line up several hours before the house was opened to ensure seats in the large theatre. Some were decked out for the occasion in ʻ60s-style clothing, complete with face-paint and daisies in their hair. Costumed cast members mingled throughout the crowd, even forming a drumcircle at one point, to help stir up some excitement. The theatre was completely packed, with some people even seated in the aisles. A large number of people were turned away at the door.

The audience sporadically erupted with cheers throughout the performance, and the show concluded with an immediate standing ovation. According to WCU sophomore and Hair! cast member Megan Pisors, “Everything that Hair! represented on paper shone through at ACTF because of how much our audience embraced it; it let us as the actors experience everything in a whole new way. We were living it, not performing it.”

While the unforgettable performance would have been enough of an honor for the university, at the closing ceremony Hair! was nominated to move on to the national level – something that has never before been achieved by West Chester. The final decision will be made by the end of February, after all the regional festivals have been completed. With a national nomination, the WCU theatre department made an impression at the festival, and gave the university a stamp of quality when it comes to theatrical excellence.

Author profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *