California State University, Northridge student actors, writers, stage managers, designers and directors showed their stuff — and wowed judges — at this year’s Kennedy Center American College Region 8 Theatre Festival.
One thousand students from 30 colleges in Arizona, Central and Southern California, Guam, Hawaii, Southern Nevada and Utah participated in the event, with 28 of those students from CSUN (23 undergraduates, three graduate students and two who have graduated since their selection). It was held in the Los Angeles Downtown Theatre Center and the Millennium Biltmore Hotel from Feb. 12 to Feb. 16.
The festival is an annual national theatre gathering for theater students and non-theatre students alike to share their work and ideas with peers from across the nation. It is split up into eight geographical locations around the United States and has welcomed more than 400,000 college theatre students since its inception. The regional finalists then move on to the national festival in Washington D.C, April 15-20.
A handful of CSUN students earned honors and awards from the festival for the caliber of their work.
Nina Gioiosa, a theatre senior, was a stage-management fellowship finalist and honorable mention for her work on the CSUN fall production of Sam Shepard’s “Mad Dog Blues.” She will serve as an alternate if the region 8 finalist is not able to attend.
“It was an exciting experience and it reaffirmed my desire to be a part of something that I truly love doing,” said Gioiosa.
Ed Refuerzo, a theatre alum, was an Irene Ryan competition nominee and semi-finalist for his ensemble work in ”Night and Day,” by Charles Mee, which took place in the fall. He recently was accepted into an MFA program for acting at Louisiana State University.
Matthew Jackson, an assistant professor in CSUN’s Department of Theatre, served as faculty liaison for the festival and presented two workshop sessions there.
“I managed the students’ schedules, funds, and helped prepare them to present their work at the festival,” Jackson said. “This is my fourth year doing this, and it has been an honor seeing students participate and get recognized for their work and skill.”
Karen Casady, who will graduate this spring with a master’s in English/Creative Writing, was awarded Best Monologue at the festival for her piece “The Builder of Things.” The monologue is voiced by a mollusk who existentially contemplates its own existence in the world.
“The idea started while I was in a class that focused on climate change and creative writing,” Casady said. “I wanted to explore climate change from the perspective of non-human entities. The monologue became the opening scene to my play, ‘Octopi Wall Street’ which looks at those issues from the points of view of the mollusk as well as other plants and animals including humans.”
The playwright, who spent most of her career writing for business journals, said she is producing her play in this summer’s 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival. It will be her second Fringe play.
Jolie Hall, a senior majoring in cinema and television arts and minoring in theatre, received two awards from the festival: the Heart of the Art award, which is given by the festival board to students who remind them of why they love theatre and a scholarship to the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, which partnered with the festival to invite students from each region to a one-week master class in the area of their choice. She received these awards for her work on “When At Last We Arrived,” an immersive performance that took place last spring.
“When I went to the festival, I didn’t expect to win anything. I mainly went to support my peers who were also nominated,” said Hall. “When I won, I was completely shocked. It was an amazing feeling.”
Hall credited her success to mentorship she received at CSUN from Dan Weingarten and Efren Delgadillo, theatre professors, which helped her grow as an artist by pushing her to look at her project design from different angles.