Theatre Students See Success At Festival

Faculty and students from the Bethany Theatre Department had the opportunity to explore and learn more about their craft at the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). The annual event was held January 21-27 in Des Moines, Iowa. Region V includes over 100 colleges and universities from a seven-state area. Attendees took part in workshops and productions at the Festival, in addition to earning recognition for several past performances by the Bethany Theatre Department.

Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.

Bethany has been participating at KCACTF V for nearly fifteen years according to Associate Professor of Theatre Benji Inniger. He noted, “It is a great place to promote and celebrate all of the good work we do in collegiate theatre. Our students often leave energized and invigorated to see their craft in a different context and hopefully gain inspiration from all of the work and ideas to which they are exposed.”

Inniger explains that the event is a way to strengthen the camaraderie that is such vital part of both theatre and a Bethany education. “I love the opportunity to get to know our own students even better away from the classroom, and seeing them be active and successful at the festival energizes me too.”

Inniger also believes the experience sheds light on the role of Christianity in Bethany’s theatre program and beyond. “The performing arts can be a challenging place for Christians. The festival provides a unique opportunity to let our lights shine, and I believe it also helps the students to realize the niche and need for the Christian theatre artist. It is safe to say that doing theatre through the lens of Christ puts us in the minority. When you’re representing a minority, you can either shy away from your identity and try to blend in, or stand strong, embrace your beliefs, and see the need for the influence of Christian artists in our culture. If we all shied away, there would be none left to influence the world. Above all, I would hope that the students feel emboldened by being active and successful among their peers, hopefully validating and reinforcing their right to a voice as Christian artists.”

Bethany Lutheran College students and staff were blessed with many commendations and achievements:

Lydia Lonnquist, Sophia Weisensel, Tessa Snyder, Amir Trotter, and Anna Meyer along with their acting partners Hans Bloedel, Beret Ouren, Maren Thompson, and Olivia Lippert were nominated to participate in the Irene Ryan Scholarship Program. This year, 330 students from the region participated in the event. Lydia Lonnquist was among the top 20% of students who were chosen to advance to the semi-final round. 

Bethany was honored to participate in the Invited Scene Showcase. Lydia Lonnquist, Sophia Weisensel, and Amir Trotter performed a scene from our production of The Women of Troy for an estimated 1,200 audience members at the Des Moines Civic Center.

In addition, Lydia Lonnquist participated in the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy Program, Patti Lilienthal and Maren Thompson participated in the Dramaturgy Program, and Beret Ouren participated in the Design Expo. Patti Lilienthal was awarded first place in the regional dramaturgy competition, and Beret Ouren was awarded first place in the regional sound design competition. After the awards ceremony, Bethany was one of eight schools selected to be in the costume parade finale, featuring Emily Kimball’s costumes from The Women of Troy.

In addition, Bethany was awarded the following special certificates of merit from Kennedy Center representatives:

  • Beret Ouren for achievement in original music and music direction for Tell It To The Wind
  • Emily Kimball for achievement in costume design for Tell It To The Wind
  • Jake Yenish for achievement in lighting design for Tell It To The Wind
  • Benji Inniger for achievement in original music for The Women of Troy
  • Jacob Kempfert for achievement in translation for The Women of Troy
  • The Cast for achievement in ensemble performance for The Women of Troy