In late November 2017, Professor Justin Poole learned that Eastern Mennonite University’s spring theater production of “The 39 Steps” had been invited to perform at the Region II Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Pennsylvania in mid-January.
Then followed weeks of fast and furious fundraising to help cover travel expenses, planning to bring together the dispersed cast and crew, and now, in January 2018, rehearsing the Alfred Hitchcock spoof that Poole, also the production’s director, describes as “a mashup of Looney Tunes, Charlie Chaplin, Monty Python, and good old-fashioned spy thrillers.”
To raise funds and fine-tune their production, the ensemble offers three more performances (if you’re unable to attend, click here to donate towards travel expenses — we’re close to our fundraising goal!):
- 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.
The suggested ticket price for these special benefit performances is $10. Tickets are available at the door (pay with cash or check only).
Only a small number of productions are selected to appear each year at the festival, said Poole, a professor of theater at EMU. “The support from our community to enable us to travel to this festival has been amazing,” he added.
The Jan. 16-20 Region II festival includes university and college theater programs in Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., New Jersey, western New York, northern Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The seven-character cast, which received a Certificate of Merit for Ensemble Acting from 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 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.”