Theatre Department attends festival

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More than 30 students from the SHSU department of theatre recently attended the Region VI Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at San Jacinto Central College in Pasadena. During the festival, the cast and crew of the comedy “Uncle Vanya,” which was performed on campus earlier this semester, competed and were recommended to advance to the regional competition.

According to theatre professor Penny Hasekoester, the cast and crew of the production put in many hours of rehearsals preparing for both the on campus performances in October and for the festival.

“This group put in a lot of hours and rehearsed for six or seven weeks, three to four hours a day, five to six days a week,” Hasekoester said. “In between the campus shows and the festival we also held several interim rehearsals mostly so the crew could practice re-constructing the set in the short amount of time they would have at the festival.”

Hasekoester said the performance was very well-received but added the show must still be reviewed on videotape by members of the five-state regional committee to determine if it will move on to the regional level. “Uncle Vanya” will be up against shows recommended from eight other festivals in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico and will know next month if it made the cut.

“The committee will look at the shows, and they will be voted on, and if we make it, we’ll find out in December,” she said. “If we do then we’ll probably hold more rehearsals to prepare for the regional competition in Fort Worth in February.”

According to Hasekoester, the ultimate goal of the department is to reach the National Festival, where they would have the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. She said she thinks SHSU has a production that has what it takes to make it to the top.

“I think it’s definitely a realistic goal for ‘Uncle Vanya’ to make it to nationals,” she said. “You never know who you’ll be competing against, and the thing about live theatre is that anything can happen. We have a great show and if we have great performances we’ll go far.”

In addition to receiving a recommendation to nationals, both students and faculty were commended for superior work behind the scenes and onstage in the production.

Faculty member Kristina Hanssen received individual American College Theatre Festival honors for her costume design, and Shawn Fisher was honored for show’s set design.

Production cast members Jeremy Sutton, Sofia Gomez, Spencer Plachy and Leanne Hill were nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Award based on their performances.

“These four students will now get to audition at the regional competition in February,” Hasekoester said. “They will get to perform something of their choice like a monologue, song or scene with a partner who may not be nominated. The judges will then award scholarships.”

At the festival the students attended nine full-length productions, several forums and critiques of all the shows performed. They also had the opportunity to participate in workshops in acting and areas of technical theatre.

Hasekoester said the festival was a complete success for the theatre department.

“I absolutely think the festival went extremely well,” she said. “I am very proud of all the students that participated and know they will continue to do well at the higher levels of competition.”