by Gillian Puma, Senior Writer
The Manhattan College Players found themselves taking their talent outside of Manhattan College, taking on a new stage for The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. A select number of students from the Players were chosen to perform at the festival in Cape Cod, Mass.
Respondents from the festival come to see the musicals and plays performed throughout the year. After watching the students perform, the respondents nominate certain cast members to compete in the festival. The festival had several different workshops for students to participate in. Camryn Kidney, Maren Kain and Jenn Bueti competed in the Irene Ryan competition, while Maria Summerville competed for the Richard Maltby Jr. Award for Musical Theatre Excellence. Kathryn Ronan was nominated for stage management and Alyssa Zduniak competed in dramaturgy.
The players took home some honorable mentions, with Kidney and Bueti reaching the semi-finals for the Irene Ryan Award; Summerville won 2nd Honorable Place (3rd place) for the Maltby Award. Bueti and Kidney made history by being the first MC students to make it to the semi-finals. They were two of 36 semi-finalists chosen from a group of 220 participants.
Summerville was nominated for the Maltby Award when respondents saw her performance as Little Becky Two Shoes in the MC Players production of “Urinetown”.
“I had to prepare two songs to perform at the festival to compete against all the other students nominated for other shows at their colleges”, Summerville said.
Summerville competed against students who were musical theatre majors at their respective colleges. “I was definitely the odd one out,” she said. “It didn’t faze me at all though because the other Manhattan students had camped out in the theater to get front row seats.”
Summerville was surprised by the turn of events, as no one from Manhattan College made it past the preliminary rounds in 5 years for the Maltby Award. “I only packed one stage outfit because I didn’t expect to make it past Round 1,” she said. “I had no expectations going into it, so when my name was on the list of finalists I was in shock.”
When the award ceremony occurred that Saturday, Summerville was slumped back in her seat eating a bag of trail mix. Hearing that she won 2nd Honorable Mention was a surprise and one she took with pride. “It was unreal to know that the hard work I had put in was paid off. J.R. was so proud of everyone that was there and I know that we would have never achieved what we did without him” she said.
While the performers get the spotlight, the stage managers make sure everything went smoothly for the event. Ronan was the only stage manager present for the festival. As stage manager, Ronan’s responsibilities include making the rehearsal schedule, coordinating with the production team and making sure the show runs smoothly.
“I was nominated for my work on Dead Man’s Cell Phone and I was able to go to the festival and present my stage managers book and then get more feedback and compete for a fellowship,” Ronan described the process. “KCACTF also accepts volunteer stage managers to help run their events, so I volunteered and was assigned to the design and tech management expo,” she continued. Her responsibilities in the volunteer position were to keep time for the responders during the performers presentations.
Director James Ryan Caldwell (J.R.) shared his pride in his students performances. This was also Caldwell’s first trip to the KCACTF as a professor.
“They were auditioning against students from four-year conservatory schools with classes dedicated to acting and singing,” he said. “If they were intimidated, they didn’t show it. They kept cool heads and focused on their work and did very well overall.”
Caldwell also shared that this was a bonding experience for all of the students that participated. “I would say it was extremely successful not only because of their performances, but in the way they were able to grow closer as a group,” he said.