'The 39 Steps,' produced in fall 2017 by Eastern Mennonite University's theater department, has been invited to present at the Region II Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

‘The 39 Steps’ invited to regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, fundraiser now in progress

Eastern Mennonite University’s spring 2017 production of “The 39 Steps” has been selected for presentation at a regional event of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF).

The Region II festival is Jan. 16-20 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and includes university and college theater programs in Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., New Jersey, western New York, northern Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“Only a handful of productions are selected each year to appear at the festival,” said Justin Poole, the production’s director and a professor of theater at EMU. “This is a great opportunity for the students to show off their outstanding work to peers, academics, and professionals in their field, and all the faculty, staff and students of EMU Theater deserve to be recognised for this accomplishment.”

The department is now conducting a fundraising campaign and will present three benefit performances to cover travel costs. Those performances are as follows:

  • Sunday, Jan. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Lehman Auditorium;
  • Monday, Jan. 8, at 10 a.m. in Lehman Auditorium;
  • Sunday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the Mainstage Theater.

An Alfred Hitchcock spoof, The 39 Steps has been called “zany” and “quirky,” and Poole has described it as “a mashup of Looney Tunes, Charlie Chaplin, Monty Python, and good old-fashioned spy thrillers.”

The seven-character cast, which received a Certificate of Merit for Ensemble Acting from the KCACTF in spring 2017, includes Esther Ajayi, Clara Bush, Collin Dutt, Abigail Greaser, Jeremiah Hines, Dylan Peachey, Emma Roth and Robert Weaver. Greaser and Bush also earned nominations for the KCACTF’s Irene Ryan Acting Competition, and stage manager Ezrionna Prioleau was recommended for the KCACTF national competition in stage management. Also working on the play were Jim Clemens (musician), Ethan Eldred (sound), Holly Labbe (costumer), and David Vogel and Phil Grayson (lights and set).

KCACTF selects students each year for individual competitions. For example, for their work with the fall 2015 production of the musical “A Year with Frog and Toad,” Derrick Turner was awarded the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s (KCACTF) Student Dramaturgy Award, Christian Parks and Myriam Aziz were invited to participate in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, and Caitlin Randazzo in stage management.

The KCACTF boasts 18,000 student participants from college and university theater programs across the United States, and seeks to be “a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater.”

To donate towards travel costs, click here.