Over 1,000 students from six states flooded Centenary College in Shreveport, LA for the KCACTF(Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival) Region 6 festival from Feb. 28-Mar. 2 for a chance to walk away with cash prices and a national opportunity meant for only two.
According to the KCACTF website The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships provide recognition, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. The Irene Ryan Foundation awards sixteen regional and two national scholarships annually.
Brandon McKnight, 22, was one out of three Grambling State University students selected to hit the stage during the four-day theatre competition
“Enlightening,” was the best way the Bossier City, LA native and junior visual and performing arts major McKnight could sum up his experience at the festival. “It opened my eyes to so much. I learned a lot, especially the importance of preparation in not only understanding your piece, but also being astute to the ins and outs of an audition.”
Students had to audition for judges in three regional rounds, two of which must be a duo scene of contrasting performances and a one-minute monologue if passed onto the final round. The winner received a $500 scholarship and an opportunity to study and perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
McKnight and scene partner, 19-year-old Dawn Elizabeth Clemons were the only group to advance pass the preliminary round, into the semifinals.
Other GSU and Irene Ryan scholarship competitors included Michael Sandusky and partner Willie Miller, Justin Madden and partner Raje’ Iglehart.
These three students were selected based on the adjudication of a submitted play by a two-person panel from KCACTF. The Department of Visual and Performing Arts submitted Miss Evers’ Boys from October 2012. The panel from KCACTF watched and respond to the good and bad of the submitted show.
However, the competition meant so much more to Dr. King David Godwin, department head and director of Miss Evers Boys.
“It is significant because it says, for me, that we have the ability to compete and that our standards validates that we have a quality program,” said Godwin.
GSU last attended the KCACTF competition in 1978 and is currently one of five nationally accredited Historically Black College or University visual and performing arts program.
Godwin stressed the need for more HBCUs to attend competitions and conferences, as GSU and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff were the only two who were competing.
“I think it is a travesty that only two HBCUs attending, and a greater travesty and tragedy that more HBCUs don’t invest into there performing arts programs,” said Godwin, with 33 years of experience in higher education.
Regardless of leaving the competition empty handed Godwin said that his vision remains, but has high hopes for the department from this experience.
“I think my mantra for change stays the same as I came, which is to increase our visibility to increase our range of production and to reinforce our sense of belonging to find that niche in where we belong at Grambling State University,” said Godwin. “I hope this will be a continuous thing. I wish we could have at least a student and a faculty member to attend every major conference.”