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During the fall production of Noises Off by Michael Frayn in Elstad Auditorium, a few special visitors sat among the applauding students, faculty, staff, family, and friends. They were judges for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) who selected the show to compete for the top slot in the region. The student actors in the comedic play-within-a-play will perform at the festival’s Region 2 portion, which will be held at Towson University January 11 to 15. From there, they could earn a spot in an April showcase at the Kennedy Center.

This is a great honor, said Theatre Arts Department Chair Willy Conley, but it shines even brighter because Noises Off was student-directed. Theatre arts major James Caverly, with the help of Technical Theatre Specialist Jacob Fisher, collaborated with a group of fellow undergraduates to create the stand-out main stage production that ran in November. “This reflects a fantastic team effort from our students, and from our department’s faculty and staff who have really pulled their weight to support this student-centered production,” said Conley. This is the second time that a Gallaudet play was selected for this prestigious competition. The production Goya: en la Quinta del Sordo (in the house of the deaf man) rose to the national round in 2008. As in past years, a selection team chosen by the Kennedy Center and the KCACTF national committee will review the show. The team will select winners based on line delivery, physical interpretation of the text based on genuine emotions, the humanity of individuals, and the relationships between characters. This panel will select four to six of the best and most diverse productions from eight regions around the country to appear in the noncompetitive spring showcase.

In addition to the recognition of Noises Off overall, three student actors were nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Caroline Suggs, Colin Analco, and James McGowan will compete for the highly selective awards at Towson from January 11 to 15. Students could advance from that point to vie for a national scholarship. The Irene Ryan Foundation awards sixteen regional and two national scholarships annually, selecting actors based on criteria that include the ability to pursue strong, clear objectives; make varied, specific and bold acting choices; demonstrate facility with language and a clear understanding of the text; and show range and contrast. Not only did the steep competition of the KCACTF and the Irene Ryan scholarship present a challenge-the logistics in themselves required a tightrope act. In this production of Noises Off, the audience sees both the back and front of the set, with one side exposing the goings-on “back stage.” To compete in the KCACTF, the structure had to simultaneously accomplish that reversible look and be easy to disassemble and move. This is no small puzzle for an apparatus with two floors, two different flights of stairs in the front and back, more than twenty different platforms, and eight doors. But Caverly and his crew were undeterred. “Every day during rehearsals, my mind always thought of KCACTF,” he said. “I knew this was going to be a great experience if we made it so I pushed as far as I could to bring the best out of this show.”

Working as a team, they achieved their objective. “No words could really express how proud I am of the cast and crew,” said Caverly.

–Rhea Yablon Kennedy

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