Theatre students from Indiana Wesleyan University competed in the Irene Ryan acting competition over Christmas break, going toe-to-toe with collegiate actors from across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Approximately 250 acting pairs – five of whom were from IWU – converged on the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois Jan. 3-7 for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region III events.
KCACTF respondents selected Elizabeth Potter (so) and Rachael Stuckey (so) as Irene Ryan nominees after attending a production of “Little Women” at IWU in spring 2011. Phil Herbruck (sr) earned a nomination for his acting in “Talley’s Folly.” Cody Konschak (sr) acted in an IWU Theatre Guild production of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” for which he garnered a nomination. Most recently, Adam Fike (so) was nominated for his role in “The Importance of Being Ernest.” Each of these nominees then selected an acting partner and three scenes for the competition.
“We were going over our lines, back-and-forth, just trying to calm each other down,” said Stuckey, a first-time participant in the competition, of her experience with acting partner Julie Schaefer (fr) just prior to their round one performance in front of approximately 100 people.
Stuckey said the festival provides a great context for actors to practice taking constructive criticism of their best work “with a grain of salt.”
Each acting pair performed their first scene for the first round of the competition. Of the 250 participating nominees from across the region, 34 continued to the semifinals, where they performed their first and second scenes. Sixteen pairs made it to the final round, where they performed all three of their scenes back-to-back.
The Region III winner will compete against winners from the other seven regions in April at the national festival in Washington, D.C.
Upon arriving in Urbana-Champaign Jan. 3, Dr. Katie Wampler and Dr. Greg Fiebig offered critical feedback as each IWU acting pair rehearsed their scenes in the corner of a La Quinta Inn hotel room.
Wampler, assistant professor of theatre at IWU, who currently teaches “Advanced Acting” and “Script Analysis,” said she tries to help students move beyond relying solely on their own personalities when they act, freeing them to make distinct choices that the characters in each scene would make.
“For actors, especially, they aren’t able to see themselves,” said Wampler. “They need to know about the world their characters live in.”
At 8:30 a.m. Jan. 4, Fike was the first nominee to represent IWU in the competition, followed that morning by Herbruck, Konschak, Potter and Stuckey.
At 2:50 p.m., KCACTF officials used a silent PowerPoint presentation to announce the Irene Ryan semifinalists. But none of the five acting pairs from IWU proceeded to the second round of judging which began only 30 minutes after the announcement, leaving virtually no time for the semifinalists to polish their second scenes.
Last year’s competition marked the first time IWU students made it past the first round of the Irene Ryan competition. Konschak made it into the semifinals in 2011, and Emily Tritle (sr) proceeded to the finals. This year, the pair collaborated after Konschak asked Tritle to serve as his acting partner.
Irene Ryan nominees were not alone in their trip to Illinois, however. Altogether, 14 students and two faculty members from IWU attended the festival, which included a lengthy lineup of collegiate theatre productions from all four states in the region, alongside design exhibits and audition opportunities for students intending to pursue acting after graduation.