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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 25, 2000)
UNL theater students leave mark at competition
■ Group sets records at
regional festival, surpass
By Jason Hardy
It is virtually impossible to be a stu
dent of the University of Nebraska
Lincoln theater department without
learning a thing or two about criticism.
With a program as big as UNLis, the
atrical productions generally attract a
large audience. And, by the end of the
production, almost every person in
every seat has decided whether he or she
liked it or didn’t
But seldom h5ve theater arts and
criticism been so intertwined as at the
Region V Kennedy Center/American
College Theater Festival.
UNL students taking part in the
KC/ACTF left the confines of their
beloved Temple building to pit their the
atrical capacities against those of other
students from Colorado, Iowa, Kansas,
Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and
By the end of the event, the UNL
theater department had left its mark.
“We were really strong,” said Kyle
Johnston, a junior theater major and par
ticipant in the festival. “UNL has always
done very well, and so has the
(University of Nebraska at Omaha). I
think that both UNL and UNO have a
strong reputation there.”
The festival took place Jan 18-23 in
Sioux Falls, S.D., and featured different
events for students to enter, including
scene design, costume design, props
design, lighting design, acting ability
and even foil productions. The competi
tion winners are now eligible for the
National ACTF in Washington, D.C.
Of the featured events, UNL earned
Included were: graduate student
Robert Copley who won the graduate
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The Uruvereity of Nebraska is an affirmative “
UI knew they were going to do well,
but I was very surprised they did as
well as they did because the
competition was so hard.”
theater department faculty adviser
scene design award; freshman Shawn
DeCou, who won the undergraduate
costume design award; graduate student
Kris Kling, who won best partner;
junior Kyle Johnston, who won the
Irene Ryan best actor of the region
award and the cast and crew of “Three
Sisters,” which was selected as a possi
ble featured play for the national com
“Three Sisters” was one of two pro
ductions in Region V to be selected, and
of the eight regions total, six will be
invited to the Kennedy Center pending a
decision the first week of March.
In the acting competition, UNL did
well, accounting for eight of the 40
semifinalists and five of the 16 finalists.
Ken McCulouch, the students’ faculty
adviser, said the department was very
proud of how the UNL students fared.
“I knew they were going to do well,
but I was very surprised they did as well
as they did because the competition was
so hard,” he said. “To have so many from
one institution make it to the semifinals
and finals is unusual. In fact, many are
saying that at this region that was a
“It’s amazing and very gratifying, so
I think we were all surprised that it went
to that level.”
Johnston, who also wrote the two
works he performed at the festival, said
the event was rewarding, both in terms
of personal accomplishment and artistic
“Everyone was doing a great job of
looking at each other’s work critically,
and I was very happy to see everybody
doing great stuff on stage,” Johnston
said. “I was really overwhelmed with
the sharing that was going on and with
the communication of the students from
UNL and other schools.
“They were true and enthusiastic
responses to art, and it makes me want
to represent all those people the best I
can by being myself in the nationals.”
The reward was not without its sac
rifices. The competing students spent
weeks working with faculty to prepare
for the event. It was a kind of prepara
tion that McCulouch said was unfamil
iar to many theater students.
“I guess it’s more of a concept of
coaching rather than teaching or direct
ing like we usually do,” he said. “So it’s
a lot of individual discussion with each
nominee about their material, then work
on the actual presentation of their mate
“The pressure is much greater and,
for some, it’s really an eye opener that an
audition is not like doing a role in a
Despite UNUs recent successes, the
theater department is already gearing up
for the national event, which will take
place at the John F. Kennedy Center for
the Performing Arts on April 17-27.
Nevertheless, as department chairman
Jeffery Scott Elwell said in an e-mail
Monday, it’s nice to enjoy the success.
“It really says a lot about our faculty,
staff and kids when we dominate a
region that has the universities of Iowa,
Colorado, Missouri and Kansas in it.”
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