Northeast State students, alumni win big at Kennedy Festival

With the impressive productions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and She Kills Monsters, Northeast State Theatre participants again made their mark as nominees and winners at a prestigious theater festival competition.

Theatre students and alumni received a record number of nominations to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region IV competition held earlier this month at Georgia Southern University. The competition recognizes the best theatre work of two- and four-year colleges across the Southeast.

“We are very proud of our students and recent alumni that participated in the KCACTF Region IV festival,” said Brad McKenzie, instructor and technical director of Northeast State Theatre. “Our students carried themselves with confidence and professionalism the entire conference.”

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Northeast State student winners and participants in the KCACTF Region IV festival.

Northeast State alumnus Dustin Lawson won 1st place in Allied Design and Crafts for his work on the of She Kills Monsters. He will compete in United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) later this year.

“Without Northeast State’s involvement in KCACTF, I wouldn’t have some of the best memories or experiences that I have ever had,” said Lawson, now a theatre major at East Tennessee State University. “Having graduated from Northeast State, I can honestly say the Theatre Department is one of the best around.”

Lawson also received a Don Childs Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas award. That award qualified him to take a master class with industry professionals in Las Vegas.

Art work and design by Jonathan Brooks
Art work and design by Jonathan Brooks

Northeast State student and Theatre major Shelby Ashley won a 1st place award in the Weiss Lighting Design category. Ashley created a lighting design project from sketch to stage the play Sunday in the Park with George.

Northeast State students Madison Grace Phillips and Hayley Forbes received Irene Ryan Acting nominations for their work in Monsters. Alumna Meredith Muse also won a nomination for her role of Nurse Ratchet in Cuckoo.

“Attending the festival was an indescribable experience for me,” said Phillips. “This trip provided me with newfound knowledge not only about the art of Theatre, but about my fellow thespians and friends.”

The College’s Theatre Department has established a strong record of student and faculty excellence. KCACTF proctors have nominated more than 20 Northeast State students for awards during the past five years alone.

“It was nothing short of a life-changing experience for me,” said Forbes. “It has lit a fire in my soul to delve deeper into this incredible world of theatre.”

Cuckoos NestAndrea Marshall received an Honorable Mention Weiss Costume Design Award while Andrea Greer received an Honorable Mention Weiss Set Design Award. A non-traditional Northeast State student and double major, Marshall credited McKenzie and theatre director, Elizabeth M. Sloan, for their encouragement to succeed.

“Bringing my costume design project to the Kennedy Center was a surprise and an honor,” she said. “I only have to thank both of my mentors Brad and Elizabeth, they gave me the tools and the encouragement to succeed.”

Northeast State students have competed at the festival side by side with their peers from larger four-year schools and graduate-level programs. Students present and past affirm the influence of McKenzie and Sloan for their love of theatre and dedication to help them succeed.

“I cannot thank Elizabeth and Brad enough for giving us this opportunity; Northeast State is lucky to have them,” said Shelby Minogue, a Theatre major and Weiss Design contestant. “They give us the tools and experiences we need to make it in this career, and then some.”

Nominees and winners expressed a shared the feeling of family within the department that made the program special to them. Lawson noted through the acting rounds and designer presentations, students supported each other.

“Hearing my peers announced as winners for their hard work was one of the proudest moments of the trip,” he said. “We took home five awards! If that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what will.”

McKenzie said that awards were a great honor, but seeing the students’ hard work recognized was inspiring as a faculty member. He said the winners and nominees returned from the festival with a fire and a hunger to grow and push themselves even further towards their dreams and career goals.

“We invite and challenge up and coming high school graduates and even curious community members to come see what Northeast State Theatre Department is all about,” said McKenzie. “With our recent and past successes, we are taking strides to hopefully becoming the first and obvious choice for students to get a jump-start on their careers and a solid foundation of theatrical education.”

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