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KSC Hosts Kennedy Center Theatre Festival

KEENE, N.H. 1/7/03 - For the second year in a row, Keene State College will host the New England regional of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). The festival, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, Jan. 29-Feb. 2, on the KSC campus, is expected to again draw nearly 600 faculty members and students from colleges and universities throughout New England.

Seven plays are produced during the ACTF festival. In addition, students rehearse and stage one-act plays they’ve written, student actors compete daily for the prestigious Irene Ryan acting award, and more than 30 workshops in theatre arts are held.

Tina Packer, the founder and artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., will be the festival’s keynote speaker. At the company, she’s directed 44 productions; currently she’s also working with Scholastic Books on adapting Shakespeare’s stories for children as well as spearheading the international effort to construct the Rose Playhouse U.S.A. in Lenox.

Shakespeare: Monologue and Scene Coaching and Stage Combat is just two of the 35 workshops to be offered during the festival. Other workshops deal with theatre sound, character animation, makeup techniques, costume rendering, stage design, puppetry, British comedy, and acting and auditioning for the camera.

The Irene Ryan acting competition involves daily rounds of student actors vying for semifinalist and finalist positions on the regional level. The winner goes on to compete this spring for the coveted national award at the ACTF National Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The festival also includes daily rehearsals of five 10-minute student-written plays at various locations on campus and at Keene hotels, where the nearly 600 festival participants will be housed. The five student plays will be performed on Saturday, Feb. 1, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Young Student Center.

Daniel Patterson and Ronald Spangler, associate professors in the KSC Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film, are co-chairs and hosts for the New England KCACTF. The festival is part of a national theatre education program to identify and promote quality theatre production at the college level.

Seven plays were chosen from among 55 produced during 2002 by colleges and universities throughout New England and submitted for performance at the festival. The regional selection committee chose the plays to be presented at this year’s festival. One of the seven plays will be selected for performance this spring at the Kennedy Center.

Each of the plays will be presented at Keene State’s Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond. Limited seating may be available to the general public for evening, Main Theatre productions only. Please call 603-358-2196 after Jan. 19 for seating information. Otherwise, the plays and all other events are open only to people who register for the festival. On-site registration is available for $55 for the full five-day festival or $30 for one day. For registration information, call 603-358-2196 or check the New England ACTF web site at

The seven plays are:

Lebensraum by Israel Horovitz, presented by Central Connecticut State University, directed by Josh Perlstein, on Thursday, Jan. 30, at noon and 3:30 p.m. in Wright Theatre. This play offers a what-if scenario: What if, at the start of the 21st century, the chancellor of Germany invites six million Jews to move back to Germany and rebuild the Jewish communities destroyed during the Holocaust?

Anna Karenina by Helen Edmundsen, presented by Middlebury College, directed by Cheryl Faraone, on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m. in the Main Theatre. Anna Karenina, a married woman, falls passionately in love with Count Vronsky and deserts her husband and child to live with her lover. In Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, Anna’s story alternates with that of Levin, the fervent idealist, and his stormy relationship with the young Kitty - a story of hope set against that of Anna’s despair. This stage adaptation opens with a prologue for the heroine and Levin - two characters who hardly meet in the book: one heading for darkness, the other for salvation.

Othello by William Shakespeare, produced by Suffolk University, directed by Richard McElvain, on Friday, Jan. 31, at noon and 3:30 p.m. in Wright Theatre. Othello is a profoundly disturbing story of passionate love twisted by envy and jealousy. Although set in Venice centuries ago, this tale of corrupted emotion, class and racial conflict, and gender violence deeply resonates for people living in the 21st century. In addition, the play features verse of the highest order, complex characters, live music, and dance.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare, produced by Salve Regina University, directed by Alan F. Hawkridge, on Friday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. in the Main Theatre. This production adds an Asian twist to a not-so-traditional version of Shakespeare’s tragedy about murder and betrayal within a Danish court. Influenced by his love for Japanese theater culture, Hawkridge decided to create Hamlet with an Asian feel. The stylized nature of Japanese theatre deals with death and spirituality in a somber way, which the director hopes is conveyed throughout the performance.

Translations of Xhosa written and performed by Kira Lallas, produced by Boston University, on Friday, Jan. 31, at 10:30 p.m. in the Alumni Recital Hall. This one-woman show relives the playwright’s experiences as a young white American girl in a black township in post-apartheid South Africa as she is introduced to its women, its politics, and herself. The play follows one transformative day as Kira’s perceptions of herself, America, South Africa, and her place in the world all change. Kira plays a host of South African characters.

but the rain is full of ghosts, written and directed by Robert Lawson, produced by Franklin Pierce College, on Saturday, Feb. 1, at noon and 3:30 p.m. in Wright Theatre. The play was inspired by a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay and incorporates fragments of her poetry as well as material from Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, a radio drama from the 1930s, and Lawson. The plot follows the twisting emotional journey of Millay as she moves from sudden tragic loss to a kind of salvation. Popular songs from the 1920s and 1930s are incorporated into the work along with new music composed by Lawson and Laurel Browne, a music faculty member at Franklin Pierce College.

Training Wisteria, by Molly Smith Metzler, produced by Boston University, directed by Sidney Friedman, on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 8 p.m. in the Main Theatre. It’s been a year since Stephen and Lynn were divorced, and Lynn and her three children bear the weight of great pain. Forcing herself to address her son’s self-destructive tendencies, Lynn sees her children anew and reevaluates the training they need to survive the turmoil of familial heartbreak.

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