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Theatre Productions Advance

The SHSU theatre program has moved one step closer to performing in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with the selection of two of its productions as regional participants in the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival program.

"What makes this feat even more outstanding is that this is only the second year for the SHSU Theatre Department to participate in the competition after a 20-year absence," said Jim Miller, who chairs the theatre and dance department.

The productions, "The Laramie Project," and "Rich, Red Clay," were two of only seven shows chosen for the program's Region VI Festival, which will be held at Texas Christian University Feb. 25-March 1, 2003. Region VI includes colleges and universities from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico.

Both shows were in an initial pool of over 65 plays and musicals performed at state festivals during October and November. These 65 shows were then narrowed to a group of 23. From this group of 23, a panel of Region VI committee members reviewed portfolios and videotapes from each production being considered and then selected seven shows to represent the region.

Region VI is one of eight regions in the United States. During January and February of 2003, each of these regions will hold a regional festival showcasing six to eight of the best shows from the states in that region.

From each Regional Festival, two or three shows will be selected to be considered to perform at the Kennedy Center in April, 2003. A committee will then review portfolios and videos from these top regional plays and select four to six plays to perform at the Kennedy Center.

"The Laramie Project," directed by Penny Hasekoester, assistant professor in the theatre program, and "Rich, Red Clay," directed by theatre alum Patrick Pearson, both received numerous accolades at the state festivals they attended.

"The Laramie Project," which deals with the reaction of the town of Laramie, Wyoming to the kidnapping, beating and murder of college student Matthew Shepard in 1998, was presented at the Texas I Festival at Texas A&M/Commerce in October. There the show received the prestigious Director's Choice Award and Hasekoester received an Excellence in Directing award.

Theatre students who won awards included Crys McDonald for Excellence in Stage Management, Kevin Crouch for Excellence in Video Design and Joel McDonald for Excellence in Acting. Theatre students Sofia Gomez, Spencer Plachy and Chelsea Fry all received Irene Ryan Acting Award nominations.

"Rich, Red Clay," an original student-written play by theatre major David Ervin, depicts the tumultuous relationship between Red and Clayton Carter, a father and son living near Wichita Falls.

"Rich, Red Clay" was presented at the Texas III Festival at Lamar University in November, where it also received the Director's Choice Award and Pearson took home awards for Excellence in Directing and Excellence in Sound Design. Ervin won for Excellence in Playwriting and the SHSU theatre program won for Excellence in Producing New Material.

Theatre majors Joel McDonald, Connor Bartley and Dorcas Sowunmi received Irene Ryan Acting Award nominations. Because it is a student-written play, "Rich, Red Clay" is also being considered for the National Student Playwriting Award.

The Irene Ryan Acting Program is a nationwide program through the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival program designed to recognize top student actors and actresses. While at the Region VI Festival in February, these six nominees from SHSU, along with their duet partners chosen by each nominee, will compete against hundreds of other nominees and their partners from colleges and universities within the region.

Each student must prepare a monologue and a duet that does not exceed five minutes in length. After preliminary and semi-final rounds, the field is narrowed to 16. From this finals round, the top two nominees and their partners receive invitations to perform in the Irene Ryan Evening of Scenes on April 18, 2003 at the Kennedy Center.

This process is repeated in each of the eight regions in the United States, with each region sending two students to Washington, D.C. Many scholarships and acting fellowships and internships are available to these students.

Last year, in their return to the program after a 20 year absence, the SHSU production of "Uncle Vanya," directed by Miller, also made it to the Regional Festival.

"The Laramie Project" will be performed at TCU in the University Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. "Rich, Red Clay" will be performed at TCU in the Hays Theatre on Friday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Dec. 19, 2002
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