A Festival Dedicated to Love of Theatre

Montclair State University Hosts the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival

From January 3rd thru 7th,  Montclair State University was host to the 49th Annual American College Theater Festival [KCACTF.org], an event which connects theatre students and faculty from schools across the north east.  

Over winter break, 1100 ambitious theatre students hailing from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, The Virginias, Pennsylvania and Ohio gathered in studios from Life Hall to Kasser Theatre for an intensive of workshops, competitions and performances. The festival hosted by Montclair State is one of eight of the nation's regional events where selected winners are invited to a week-long study experience at the sponsoring Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. 

This year’s event organizer, Debra Otte, explains, “most conferences held at Universities are geared toward faculty.  The festival, now in its 49th year, is designed specifically for the students attending. Of the 1100 students this year, half were first-time attendees.”

Otte, who has been involved with the organization for 25 years, is a Montclair State professor and one-time KCACTF Regional and National Board Member.

“The entire organization is run on a volunteer basis,” she says, “so we are able to survive by colleges and universities allowing us access to spaces, staff and buildings.  Our volunteers organize workshop rooms, set up the university theatre spaces and lighting, while serving as hosts to the eight shows of the festival.”

“This is a place for faculty and students to come together and see shows from other colleges,” says Otte. 

The festival hosted daily competitions in every possible category one can imagine. “Heather Benton, who is part of our Montclair State faculty, did a 3-day devised theatre initiative, for a team of students who created a theatre piece on the spot." Mark Hardy, who is also on faculty, provided leadership in the Music Theatre Initiative and as Hospitality Coordinator.  "We could not have done this without the many contributions of time and talent from the theatre staffs here on campus and the great support we received from dining and custodial services,” Otte shares. 
In addition to theatre intensives, the Festival featured eight productions from programs within the region.  Those included “The Long Christmas Ride Home” [West Chester University], “anOther” [Queensborough Community College], “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” [Montclair State University], “We Are Proud to Present A Presentation About the Herero of Namibia…” [Indiana State University], “The Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” [Stockton University], “Speech and Debate” [Arcadia University], “Hamlet Lost/Found” [The Community College of Baltimore County], and “Poe: Master of the Macabre” [West Liberty University]

“Every night of the festival there was a show in Memorial Auditorium and every day there were two in the university’s Kasser Theater,” Otte shares. 

Montclair State’s own 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee ran three sold out evenings at the Fox Theatre.

“The festival’s opening ceremonies included a Keynote Address by Liesl Tommy, the first woman of color to be ever nominated by the Tony Awards for Best Director.  She shared her own story, encouraging the students to pursue their dreams, to fight for opportunity and equality, to prepare themselves through education and to believe in themselves.”

National Awards
[Student will represent Region II at the National Festival in Washington DC or at the USITT Conference.]

Lauren Carroll, Scenic Design for Iphigenia
Cheyenne Pellicoro, Costume Design for Aida
Katherine Wainscott, League of Regional Theatres Diversity Award, Festival Management
Samantha LaScala, Allied Design and Technologies Award, Makeup Design for Aida

Nomination for National Category

Best Production of a Play or Musical:
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Region II Awards

Eden Tayar, Regional Award in Costume Design for Iphigenia
Nicole Ferrigno, Honorable Mention in Costume Design for 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Curtis Shields, Honorable Mention in Lighting Design for Aida

Music Theatre Initiative

National Runner Up: Sarah Libby

Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship
Emma Wagner and Dino Curia (alumn) semi finalist