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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

Northeast State Theatre students earn KCACTF nominations

Northeast State students were nominated for awards selected in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Region IV competition.
Northeast State students were nominated for awards selected in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Region IV competition.
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January 20, 2019

Northeast State Theatre’s fall production of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" garnered several award nominations for the play’s cast and crew.

Northeast State students were nominated for awards selected in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Region IV competition. This year’s festival takes place Feb. 5-9 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The festival’s competition recognizes the best theatre work of two- and four-year colleges and universities from across the Southeast.

“We had a number of students in their first production,” said Brad McKenzie, instructor and technical director for Northeast State Theatre. “I am always really proud of everyone’s hard work and dedication.”

A proctor representing the region attended a performance of "20,000 Leagues" to judge the production’s work from acting to sound design. The play’s quality was graded and considered for nominations to the festival competition.

Rebecca Hopson earned a nomination for her work as stage manager. As part of the competition, she and other stage manager nominees are tasked with managing the festival from presentation set-ups to rehearsals.

“The stage manager runs the show so anything that went wrong it was on me,” said Hopson. “You make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be at the right time.”

Gavin Strawn earned an Irene Ryan Award nomination for acting for his performance as Prof. Pierre Arronax. Jacob Lewis picked up Irene Ryan Acting nominations for two roles, as Artax in "The Neverending Story" produced in spring 2018 and as Ned Land in "20,000 Leagues." Lewis previously earned a Irene Ryan award nomination as Rev. David Marshall in the fall 2017 production of "The Foreigner."

“I was a sciences major but didn’t feel that was quite right for me so I switched to theater,” said Strawn. “I really enjoy theater, it is what makes me happy.”

Strawn and Lewis chose the scenes they would perform and secured the rights to use them in the competition. The nominees began prepping those performances before the fall semester ended. They’ve been rehearsing with acting partners who will accompany them to the festival.

“We been rehearsing a lot to get to where we need to be,” said Strawn. “By the time the competition gets here, I think we will be doing really well.”

Lewis graduated from Northeast State in December. He enrolled as a theater major at East Tennessee State University this spring. He said finding the theater department changed his focus on academics and life. The nominees praised McKenzie and theater director and Professor Elizabeth M. Sloan for setting high expectations of them and their fellow students.

“Meeting Brad and Elizabeth and getting into this theater program, it definitely changed me as a person for the better,” said Lewis.

Other "20,000 Leagues" nominees to the festival are Brenden Dykes for his work in lighting design and Olivia Skeens for costume design.

McKenzie said an exciting new component at this year’s festival was the Next Steps program. Two-year college students attending at the festival will have the chance to audition for theatre faculty from four-year institutions and representatives of professional theatre companies.

“The Next Steps gives our students opportunities to go further in theater outside the region,” said McKenzie. “This is the first time the festival has extended such an opportunity to students from two-year colleges.”

McKenzie earned a KCACTF award this year for Meritorious Achievement Award for Excellence in Directing. He will be presented with that award at the festival. A Northeast State alumnus with multiple KCACTF awards, McKenzie has served as technical director and a theatre faculty member for several years.

“I’ve been here more than my home, so this department has kinda become my home away from home,” said Hopson. “The people in our department are so close you don’t want to see anyone leave.”




This year’s festival takes place Feb. 5-9 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The festival’s competition recognizes the best theatre work of two- and four-year colleges and universities from across the Southeast.