Southeastern students nab awards at regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Fest
Contact: Tonya Lowentritt
HAMMOND – Six Southeastern Louisiana University theater students were honored with awards at the Region VI Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, Feb. 26 – March 1.
The students were among 600 competing at the festival from colleges and universities in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
“Our students participated in more aspects of the regional festival than ever before and made Southeastern an important part of the festival,” said theater instructor Jim Winter.
Regional festival winners advance to the national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C. Southeastern students who were first runners up in festival categories -- Kathryn Steele and Gabrielle Renee LeBlanc of Baton Rouge -- could make the trip to the national competition as alternates to the top winners.
Steele, who received an Excellence in Lighting Design Award, also received the Excellence in Playwriting Support-Directing Award for the ten-minute play competition.
“Kathryn’s work was entered at the regional level after her success with Southeastern Theatre’s production of ‘Dead Flowers’ in the fall,” said Winter. “She is the first Southeastern student to finish first runner up in this facet of the competition, and she should be very proud.”
Wade Kerr of French Settlement, Tara Bennett of Covington, and LeBlanc were awarded certificates of excellence from the National Critics Institute for their participation in the theater criticism competition. LeBlanc finished first runner up in this competition round, which required participants to write reviews of all festival plays.
“For Gabrielle to finish first runner up is impressive considering that this is the first time Southeastern had any students participate in this aspect of the festival,” Winter said.
Shawn Curry of Luling and his acting partner Rachael Johnson of Mandeville also brought home honors. Curry and Johnson finished 18th out of 156 student teams competing for prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Curry advanced to the semi-final round of the competition and was selected as second alternate for the final round, the strongest competition showing ever for a Southeastern student.
The scholarships were endowed by the late Irene Ryan, best remembered for her portrayal of Granny Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Southeastern hosted the state American College Theatre Festival last November, and the Southeastern contingent’s administrative support at the regional festival received accolades, particularly the efforts of Jenna Smith of LaPlace, who served as administrative assistant for the Irene Ryan competition.
“I’m extremely proud of our students. They worked really hard all week long,” Winter said. “To receive all these awards in competition against some really big schools like Texas State University, University of Arkansas, University of Oklahoma, and University of New Mexico -- schools with long established theater programs -- is pretty impressive.