Student performances in this semester’s production of “James and the Giant Peach” are getting a little help from lessons learned in a Las Vegas theater festival.
Six students–five of whom are starring in the “James” production–attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 55 – Region 8 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in February. Accompanied by Prof. Ruff Yeager, the students learned much and racked in some awards.
Kevin Stevens, majoring in communications, was nominated to attend the festival for his performances in the 2022 play “Frankenstein Project,” where he performed three roles: Henry Clerval, Dr. Blanchard and Smith.
“It was a really great event,” Steven said, adding that he was able to meet many people and see a lot of shows.
“At the Irene Ryan (scholarship competition), we got to see a bunch of people showcasing their own work,” he said.
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 55 – Region 8 returned to an in-person format after being offered online the last two years. The festival included colleges and universities from Arizona, Central and Southern California, Guam, Hawaii, Southern Nevada and Utah.
Southwestern College participated in the festival after a five-year hiatus and this is the first time in Yeager’s tenure that students advanced to the semifinals or final round of the Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition. Four of Southwestern College’s six participants advanced to the semifinals and two advanced to the final round.
Jacob-Adam Lopez, a dual-enrollment student who is fairly new to theater, was invited to the festival for his performance in “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.” Fellow students Annabelle Ramos and Santiago Gordillo were also invited to the festival because of their roles in the same production. All three advanced to the semi-final round of the Irene Ryan Scholarship Auditions.
“It was a great experience to just go and be educated on what theater is,” Lopez said. “It was a lot of work. It was stressful, but I enjoyed it.”
Southwestern College Theater student Ina Lelevier, who advanced to the musical theater finals at the festival, expressed her gratitude to Yeager and the theater department.
“He’s, like, the best director I have ever worked with,” Lelevier said. “He’s so kind and patient. And he truly cares about his students. Because of that, I have grown so much as an artist. And the whole theater department, as a whole, is just very supportive here.”
Yeager expressed the importance and benefits attending the festival gives students.
“By attending the KCACTF Region 8 festival, our theatre arts students have the opportunity to gain performance experience, develop their craft through guided practice, expand their knowledge of the art form by attending workshops and build their self confidence,” Yeager said.
“James and the Giant Peach” runs through March 25 at the Performing Arts Center.. For event dates and times, visit James And The Giant Peach Tickets, Multiple Dates | Eventbrite