To kick off spring semester, several Kirkwood students, all active members of the theatre department, were invited to attend the week-long regional KCACTF festival in Des Moines.
KCACTF, which stands for Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, was held this year from Jan. 2-28.
KCACTF is nation-wide, but is divided regionally. Cedar Rapids falls into the festival’s fifth region, which encompasses the Midwest. The festival is an annual opportunity, though, for the previous few years it has been hosted virtually.
Once in Des Moines, students and faculty were presented with a wide range of opportunities, both as participants and observants, in order to further their skills in the dramatic arts. Allison Holmes-Bendixen, music and theatre instructor at Kirkwood who led the group to this year’s festival, described KCACTF as having “so many different aspects… you would be attending workshops during the day and then at night you might have the opportunity to go see a play, and that play would have been put on by one of the invited institutions.”
The festival provided opportunities not only for performers but also for those who may find their interest in theatre lies behind the scenes. As Professor Holmes-Bendixen detailed, “You can take workshops in dance, you can take workshops in singing, you can take workshops in improv, in playwriting, in technical elements, like scene building and painting. You can take lighting workshops, you can take acting workshops, you can take directing-there was a workshop about personal finance for actors… there were all kinds of workshops. I went to one that was [about] women leaders in academic theatre. There’s all kinds of things offered, no matter what your interest is in, you can find something.”
Workshops also existed for multiple skill levels. While some were open to the public, others, called ‘intensives,’ were auditioned, giving attendees real-world experience about what it is like to participate in a professional casting call. The festival also presented an opportunity for aspiring collegiate stars to showcase their work.
Justeen Schoner and Connor Norfleet were two of the ten students who attended the festival as student representatives of Kirkwood, and were selected by the festival to perform a duet from “Into the Woods.” Schoner and Norfleet performed their piece at the Thursday night cabaret show to a packed audience. Schoner described the experience as “definitely unforgettable and life changing,” and Norfleet added that he “gained a lot of knowledge about theatre as a whole, including performance advice and tips on how to make theatre a successful career.”
Schoner, Norfleet and Professor Holmes-Bendixen encourage any students interested in participating in theatre at Kirkwood to seize the opportunity. Schoner described the Kirkwood theatre department as “an inclusive, safe space for all students.”
Holmes-Bendixen echoed the sentiment, said, “There is something for everyone…if you’re more comfortable on stage or off stage, there’s just so much opportunity to get involved and I think that the skills you learn in theatre can be applied to so many real life and work situations beyond… there’s so much to be learned about collaboration and community and creativity in the arts, and we are welcoming to anybody who wants to come and participate.”