Putting it Together: Emerson at KCACTF 2011

By Rafael Jaen

Last week the lobby of the Four Points Sheraton in Leominster, MA, was lit up with the energy of hundreds of college theater students from across New England. They were sharing their creativity as part of the 43rd-annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region I.

As Co-Chair for Design, Technologies and Management for the region, I get to partake of this energy!

From Left to right: Emerson students Liz Zevin, Suzanne Calhoun, Jen Bertha, Erik Skovgaard, Tyler Kinney, Michele Teevan and Kelley Holley at this years KCACTF

At Emerson, Design-Tech faculty helps choose what shows will get KCACTF responses during the fall. Once vetted, students go through a rigorous process to prepare displays that include clear design concepts, extensive research, workbooks that emphasize process, graphics that meet industry standards, and clear layouts. At the January festival, substance, professionalism and good interpersonal skills are a must during the adjudication process.

This year Emerson design-tech students received the following awards:

1. The National Barbizon Award for Excellence in Scenic Design went to Tyler Kinney, for Bud Not Buddy, Emerson College. He will go to the national Festival in Washington in April.

2. The National Barbizon Award For Excellence in Lighting Design went to Jennifer Bertha, for Bud Not Buddy, Emerson College. She will go to the national Festival in Washington in April.

3. The National KCACTF Award for Excellence in Sound Design, Honorable Mention went to Erik Skovgaard, for Bud Not Buddy, Emerson College

4.  The S*P*A*M* Award for Excellence in Stage Properties went to Elizabeth Zevin, for Actor’s Nightmare, Emerson College.

In addition, Kelley Holley was the Runner up  for the LMDA/KCACTF Student Dramaturgy Award and Gabriel Graetz received the Dramaturgy ATHE/KCACTF Regional Award for Program Notes for Actor’s Nightmare, Emerson College.

Respondents were truly impressed with our program and the quality of the work presented.

Erik Skovgaard and Rafael Jaen preparing for the festival

Region I involves institutions from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Eastern New York. DTM students bring their best projects; featuring innovative design solutions; technical innovation and management excellence. We had a total of 135 entries and I was able to coordinate, organize and install the exhibit with the help of a great DTM team. It takes many months of planning and communications to pull this off. Once the festival starts it is a 24/7 proposition…Why do it? The Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise paper wrote: “Rafael Jaen, a professor at Emerson College and the event’s design chairman, said he learns something new every year. “It’s great for me as a teacher because I can see what the trends are in our region and what the talent is coming up,” he says. “It’s great to not only mentor my students at Emerson but students from other colleges. It’s really exciting to see where theater is going.”

Tyler Kinney's winning model for the show Bud Not Buddy

DTM Adjudicators included the directors of the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas , lighting designers from Herrick Goldman’s, representatives from S*P*A*M* Society of Properties Artisan Managers and Goodspeed Musicals plus design chairs from regions II and VI. Various companies and organizations offered classes and awards including ALPS, Barbizon Lighting, Alcone Makeup, USITT NE and FOCAL Press.

KCACTF is a year-round program in eight geographic regions in the United States. Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theatergoers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide.

Why do it? … As the song says:

“Bit by bit, putting it together,

Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art,

Every moment makes a contribution

Every little detail plays a parts

Having just a vision’s no solution

Everything depends on execution

Putting it together, that’s what counts!”

Rafael Jaen

For more information on Emerson at KCACTF click here.

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