“What an opportunity for all of them,” said OUL Theatre Director Victor Jones. “There were workshops every two hours that the students could attend on things like Broadway dance, fencing, stage combat, auditioning workshops, and many more. There were all the elements that go into educating and enhancing the lives of theater students.”
The Kennedy Center American College Theater is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide. The Kennedy Center festival has served as a catalyst to improve the quality of college theater in the United States, and has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country where theater departments and student artists showcase their work to receive outside assessment.
The entire cast of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was selected to perform one scene from the show at the festival. It was a 15 minute courtroom scene during the trial of Tom Robinson.
“After we did our scene, there was silence. It was beautifully acted. It touched everyone in the audience,” said Jones. “They didn’t know how to respond other than silence. There was that moment -- that beat of ‘Wow! That was great!’ Then, there was the applause.”
Three student actors from the show were also nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship and asked to perform. The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship is named after the woman who played “Granny” on the television program “Beverly Hillbillies.” OUL students Mason Taylor, Shannon Webb, and Jordon LeuVoy competed at the festival in an effort to be awarded scholarships. The scholarships provide recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education.
“Out of the 1300 students that attended the festival, 198 competed in that category,” said Jones. “The first day it was taken all the way down to 32 students. What an achievement for them to participate in that and compete in round one. It was so rewarding for all of them; they did an excellent job.”
Taylor went on to compete in another category called the Musical Theatre Initiative. That competition was for students who excel in acting, singing and dancing. The pool was narrowed to 16 the first day and Mason Taylor did go through to round two.
“That opportunity was so exciting for Mason, and all the students learned there is so much more out there that they weren’t aware of as far as the education of theatre,” said Jones. “They learned what they need to do to become more well-rounded actors.”