Fringe festivals, Shakespeare festivals and New Play festivals may be the big draw for adult theatregoers, but for cultural college students, the real siren call is to the American College Theatre Festival, an annual showcase of acting and writing talent that brings performers from all over the country to various regional fests and to one big, national showcase in Washington DC. This year’s ACTF, the 32nd, takes place April 17-25, as ever under the auspices of the Kennedy Center. Gregg Henry, of Iowa State University, has been named the Fest’s new co-manager and artistic director.
Created by Kennedy Center founding Chairman Roger L. Stevens, the KC/ACTF labors to “encourage and recognize exemplary work produced in college and university theatre programs...and encourage performances of new plays, including those written by students.” As such, eight different colleges held mini-Festivals this winter, including Clarion University (PA), University of Nevada and University of Milwaukee (WI). Judges in those fests looked at full productions by those universities, as well as individual monologues and scenes for Irene Ryan Acting Award Scholarships (Ryan was best known as Granny on TV’s “The Beverly Hillbillies”), and ten-minute plays penned by students.
The DC event, though billed as “non-competitive,” does give out some prizes, such as the Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards, the aforementioned Ryan Scholarships, and Barbizon & Mehron Awards for theatrical design.
This year’s mainstage shows are Weber State University’s mounting of The Serpent, University of Southern Mississippi’s The Rimers of Eldritch, Butler University’s Five Plays by Samuel Beckett, and University of New Orleans’ Lot’s Daughters (by student playwright Rebecca Basham), as well as the ten-minute play fest.
As a festival adjunct, the Tinderbox Theatre Company of Belfast, Ireland will offer three performances of Ian McElhinney’s solo, The Green Shoot, about Ulster poet John Hewitt. For information about the American College Theatre Festival call (202) 416-8850.
-- By David Lefkowitz