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University Theatre production earns national honors

March 11, 2005

KALAMAZOO--The Western Michigan University Theatre production of "Othello" has won national honors in American College Theatre Festival competition, and a WMU student troupe will head to Washington, D.C., next month to stage the play twice at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Directed by James Daniels, professor of theatre, the WMU production won kudos from judges during regional competition in January and was one of only three college theatre productions in the nation to win an invitation to the national ACTF event in Washington. An invitation to perform at the ACTF's Kennedy Center gathering has been called the college-theatre equivalent of winning the Heisman Trophy.

"This is about as good as it gets," says Joan Herrington, chair of the Department of Theatre. "There are eight regional festivals leading to this one national event. You always want to hear the judges advise you to 'save your set' after they've watched your production at regionals. It's an indication that you're in the running for one of those three national slots. We saved our set this time, and we're ready to go."

One judge's comments were especially welcomed. WMU's "Othello," the adjudicator said, "has reset the standard for collegiate performance of Shakespeare."

The winning production was first performed for Kalamazoo audiences in November. It will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 18, and Tuesday, April 19, in the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center. The performances will mark University Theatre's first appearance at the national event since 1988, when its acclaimed production of "Quilters" won a similar ACTF invitation.

Individual performers also shone brightly at the ACTF Region III competitions, held at Illinois State University in January. Of the 16 semi-finalists for acting, five were from WMU: senior Katie Duthler of Holland, Mich., senior Larry Herron of Mattawan, Mich., junior Joe Johnson of Flint, Mich., junior Prescott Seymour of Northfield, Ill., and junior J. Steadman of Traverse City, Mich. Region III is composed colleges and universities from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Duthler won the Judges' Choice Award in the region for "boldness and range." Herron captured the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship for the second year in a row--the first performer in the region to do so in 35 years. The prize comes with $500 for use as tuition at a college of his choosing, plus a personal invitation to compete in Washington with the winners from the seven other regions around the country. Of the acting semi-finalists, Duthler, Johnson, Herron and Seymour have roles in "Othello."

Media contact: Patrick Donnelly, 269 387-6222, patrick.donnelly@wmich.edu

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