During the week of January 18-22, the students competed with other programs from Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota for regional awards and opportunities to advance to the national festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Nearly 1,500 students participated in the festival and took part in other professional and education opportunities, including open auditions for theater companies, theatrical workshops and viewing productions from universities throughout the Midwest.

Rebecca Bailey, a third-year graduate student at USD, was honored with a merit certificate for her direction of "Venus in Fur." Natalie Hining, a third-year graduate student, received a certificate of merit for her "Next to Normal" scenic design. And recent bachelor of fine arts (BFA) alum Jill Clark was acknowledged for her scenic design of "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?."

The festival features a design expo with regional and national competitions. BFA senior Hayat Dominguez won the regional first place honor for her sound design of "Bus Stop" and was runner up for her lighting design of "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?." Tyler Micheel, a third-year graduate student, won first place for his lighting design for "Bus Stop." In the national competition, Natalie Hining was awarded first place for her scenic design for "Bus Stop," which qualified her to present her design in April at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the second consecutive year she received the honor.

The festival also offers an opportunity for stage managers to work with the numerous planned events throughout the week as well as interview with professional stage managers and discuss their previous stage management work throughout the year. This year, junior Leah Geis participated in the national Stage Management Fellowship Competition and advanced to the semi-final round with her work on "Bus Stop."

Ryan Fortney, a second-year graduate student, participated in the Stage Directors and Choreographers 10 Minute Scene Scholarship. Ryan and senior actresses Kelsey Mitteness and Jackie Webb as well as junior actress Leah Geis presented an excerpt from Eric Overmyer’s "On the Verge." The scene advanced to the final round where it was critiqued and well received by members of the nationally renowned Guthrie Theatre and the Kennedy Center. The scene won first place in the competition. Ryan will attend the weeklong national festival at the Kennedy Center in April where he will work with top professionals in his field.

USD students also took part in the Musical Theatre Intensive (MTI) over the week. BFA seniors Brianna Adams, Kit Asfeldt, John King and Kelsey Mitteness, sophomore Braeden Garrett, and freshmen Alyeska Krull advanced to the MTI dance finals, where they performed a re-staging of the act one closer from the recent Broadway revival of "Anything Goes" in the MTI showcase. Only a select few were allowed to audition for showcase and nearly half of the final 14 chosen to perform were USD theater students.   

Throughout the week the festival features several workshops that are open to all attendees. Graduate students from our program offered a number of engaging workshops that were very well attended and widely successful as indicated by the four to five out of five star ratings all of our groups received by the workshop attendants. Natalie Hining, Ryan Fortney and Raimondo Genna, Ph.D., conducted a workshop called “Getting In, Staying In, and Succeeding in Graduate School from Those Who Have Been In There and Done It” that discussed strategies for success in the graduate world. Their room was filled to capacity and they talked with a number of students who were interested in their topic well after the formal session was over. Taylor Clemens, a third-year graduate student, conducted a workshop entitled “Scansion Now” that demonstrated the effectiveness of applying tools normally limited to Shakespearean texts to contemporary plays. Through the exercises conducted during the workshop, there were notable improvements to the various cold readings of the sample texts that demonstratively proved Taylor’s techniques and their applications successful. Finally, Rebecca Bailey conducted three separate workshops that focused on performing Shakespeare that explored various entry points into unlocking Shakespeare’s texts to performers and audiences, along with applying Laban’s efforts and action-drives-performance theories.

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