KCACTF is presented and produced by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, supported, in part, by the U.S. Department of Education. The aims of this national theater education program are to identify and promote quality in college-level theater production. To this end, each production entered is eligible for a response by a regional KCACTF representative, and selected students and faculty members are invited to participate in KCACTF programs involving scholarships, internships, grants and awards for actors, playwrights, designers, stage managers and critics at both the regional and national levels.


The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival was started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center's founding chairman. The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide. It has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.


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; and achieve professionalism; to improve the quality of college and university theater in America; 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.


The Irene Ryan Scholarships provide recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. The Irene Ryan Foundation bestows 19 regional awards and two fellowships annually. Sixteen of the awards consist of a $500 scholarship for each regional representative of KCACTF. There are two scholarships of $3,000 each for the winners at the national festival in Washington, D.C. In addition, the student judged the Best Partner in the national auditions is awarded a cash prize of $250. The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships, which help defray the cost of tuition and fees, are not necessarily limited to theatre arts.