USD Students and Faculty Earn Honors at Regional Theatre Festival

Photo from USD theatre production Three Sisters. USD theatre students practice for the upcoming Spring 2018 production of "Three Sisters."

VERMILLION, S.D. – Students from the University of South Dakota Department of Theatre recently won several awards at the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) held in Des Moines, Iowa.

At the competition in late January, USD competed with students from Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota for awards and the opportunity to advance to the national festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Besides showcasing their talent, USD theatre students took advantage of many opportunities including workshops, auditions for theatre companies, and viewing productions from universities throughout the Midwest.

Raimondo Genna, chair of the Department of Theatre, said the annual conference is a wonderful experience for faculty and students to witness firsthand the amazing regional talent found in the Midwest.

“USD Theatre had a very busy week where our creative scholarship was recognized and celebrated throughout the festival,” he said. “Our students demonstrated both their exceptional talent, as well as their first-class training. I could not be prouder of our students and faculty members who made all of our achievements possible.”

USD’s 2017 productions earned a number of commendations: Green Violin received awards for professor Chaya Gordon-Bland (direction), professor Victor Shock (scenic design), professor Jonathan Allender-Zivic (lighting design), MFA design and technology student Abby Meyer (costume design), the entire cast (ensemble work), and USD history professor Steve Miller and his Honors history class (dramaturgy). MFA design and technology student Spencer Walker received an achievement in scenic design commendation for his work on Mud; BFA design and technology major Kiah Schaeffer received an achievement in costume design commendation for her work on Rhinoceros; and the entire costume shop received an achievement in costume construction commendation for their work on Little Women.

BFA musical theatre major Josie Kasik won the Musical Theatre Intensive Scholarship and will be attending the Open Jar Institute’s Broadway Acting Intensive. Thousands of students from around the world audition to participate but only sixty are selected to go to New York City and receive a week of intensive one-on-one training with Broadway’s celebrated theatre professionals. BFA musical theatre major Isaac Otterman was awarded the Region 5 Planet Earth Play Selection Award for his "The Volcano Play." This award goes to the best play that focuses on climate change and the environment demanding urgent action. MFA Design and Technology student Abby Meyer won the Association for Theatre in Higher Education/KCACTF award for Innovative Studies.

Over three hundred students took part in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition. BFA musical theatre major Alex Newcomb-Weiland and her partner, BFA acting major Alexondrea Thong Vanh advanced to the semi-finals. MFA directing student Megan Weidner progressed to the final round in the Stage Directors and Choreographers Directing Initiative.

BFA musical theatre majors Alyssa Collett, Josie Kasik, Alex Newcomb-Weiland, and Lauren Stacks were selected to perform in the Musical Theatre Intensive song cabaret; Tabitha Bass and Becca Schuster were selected to perform in the Musical Theatre Intensive dance cabaret; and BFA acting major Drake Zuschlag and BFA musical theatre major Matthew Vidal were cast in the 10-minute play festival.

USD’s Theatre faculty had a busy week as well. Professor Patricia Downey served as the Professional Auditions Coordinator; professor Scott Mollman served as the Workshop Associate Coordinator; professor Caitlin Quinn served as the Costume Parade Associate Coordinator; professor Victor Shonk served as the Professional Auditions Associate Coordinator; professor Joe Stollenwerk offered the workshops “Start Writing Plays” and “15 Films All Theatre Folks Should Know”; and adjunct instructor Rebecca Bailey offered the workshop “How to Conquer a Shakespeare Audition.”

KCACTF is a national body whose goals are to encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs; to provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight; to improve the quality of college and university theatre in America; and to encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, especially those written by students; the classics, revitalized or newly conceived; and experimental works.


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News