WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Jan. 28, 2021 — In a semester when performing was nearly impossible due to safety precautions brought on by a pandemic, West Liberty University students still found a way to demonstrate their abilities at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
“I am proud to report that we had three students place in the semifinals of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Audition. This marks a first for us. In the past, we had several students reach the semifinals, but never more than one in a single year,” said Michael Aulick, who is the director of theater and a professor.
More than 100 students from colleges around the region, which includes Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and parts of Virginia, submitted audition tapes for consideration for the Irene Ryan Scholarship. During the festival, 32 performers were selected to move to the second round (semifinals).
“Students had to do an online audition with a professional actor and then 16 were invited to move forward to the final round, where they performed live (virtually) to the participants of the festival. Odessa Hores, Grant VanCamp, and Benjamin Games all advanced to the semifinals and then Benjamin advanced and went on to perform in the finals. Some years we don’t have anyone selected for the semifinals and we have never had more than one make it in the same year so getting three through was really a sign of the strength of the program.”
“We also had three students who advanced in the Musical Theatre Initiative. Hayden Heiserman was one of only 10 students from the region who advanced to the finals. Makenna Berka and Delaney Bird were selected to perform as part of a live musical cabaret during the festival,” he said.
Additionally, the WLU Team “Ham It Up” of Grant VanCamp, Callia Byard, and Merritt Craft performed and were selected for a cash prize during the improv event called Games and Misdemeanors.
Three WLU faculty members took part in the regional event and led different online segments.
Aulick ran the Next Steps Initiative where professional companies and graduate schools look for people to hire or enroll in their program. Cassandra Hackbart led a cold-read competition, where Odessa Hores finished third and Shelby Garrett led an improv workshop and ran the Games and Misdemeanors event.
Additional WLU students and their event included:
- Student Directing Initiative, Carly Balog
- Arts Leadership Program, Carly Balog
- Costume Design Responses, Andrew Dillie
- Allied Design Responses, Andrew Dillie
“Students participated in workshops on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Intimacy Training; Devising; and other performance and design topics. The real benefit of participating in the Kennedy Center festival is the amount of training and knowledge the students gain from top professionals in the field,” said Aulick.
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country.
Regional competitions include eight divisions that showcase students’ work annually in January and February. The national competition follows in April.
For more information on the Theatre Department, please visit the College of Arts and Communication website or call 304-336-8006. For more information on WLU, please call 1.866.WESTLIB or visit westliberty.edu.
Editor’s Note: The six students featured in the cover photo on westlibert.edu/news are from left: (top) Mackenna Berka, Hayden Heiserman, Delaney Bird, (bottom) Grant VanCamp, Odessa Hores and Benjamin Games.