WMU News

WMU shines at regional theatre competition

Jan. 19, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- WMU's Department of Theatre received high accolades at the Region III competition of the American College Theater Festival held in Milwaukee. The department's production of Native Son is now in consideration for national competition, and several students received honors for their individual work.

More than 40 productions were critiqued in Region III, which consists of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Only seven were selected for regional competition, and Native Son is one of only two productions now in consideration for the national competition. If selected, the production team will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The announcement of productions selected for national competition will be made in late February after all the ACTF regional competitions have been held. Only five productions from across the nation will advance to the Kennedy Center.

ACTF reviewer Christopher Carter of Muskingum College wrote in his critique of the production, "If you are not to see another collegiate performance the remainder of the year, let Western Michigan University's production of Native Son be the last [The play] manages to elevate beyond the classification of black and white [and] pleads for an examination of what defines the human condition" The entire cast was commended for its sense of ensemble, and Felton Page Kennedy received high praise for his portrayal of Bigger Thomas, the young man whose life is the center of the play.

The design elements of the production were also applauded by ACTF. Matt Hodges of the University of Evansville notes the "scenery designed by Alexandre Corazzola is stunningly inventive Patricia Nichols adds texture and evocative shadowing with her lighting design, complementing the foreboding sounds designed by Andrew Nagel The smooth transitions between these different scenes are unusually engaging with subtle grace and the intricate choreography of set pieces." The production team was recognized as being one of the most professional at the competition.

Several WMU students were entered in individual competitions, and four received honors in Milwaukee. Alexandre Corazzola won the Scenic Design award for his work on Native Son while Patricia Nichols took the Lighting Design award for the same production. It is rare for two design awards to be given to students from the same university, and even more rare that they are awarded for the same production. Both students advance to national competition at the Kennedy Center. Carrie Beth Mossman received a Certificate of Merit for her scenic design for last season's Angels in America.

WMU entered nine pairs of actors into the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition. There were 298 entries in Milwaukee; of the 43 actors that advanced to semi-finals, 5 were WMU students. Bryan Kelly, last seen on the WMU stage as the title character in The Imaginary Invalid, was one of 16 to advance to the final round. Kelly's scene partner Suzie Barrett was chosen as Best Partner for the competition.

Media contact: Shauna Thieman, 616 387-3227, shauna.thieman@wmich.edu

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