Theatre Students Dazzle Judges at Kennedy Center Festival

  • CSUN Theatre majors sitting in a row in doors.

    CSUN Theatre majors awaiting the start of the final award ceremony. Photo courtesy of Matthew Jackson

  • CSUN undergraduate Theatre majors standing in a group with Matthew Jackson in the back row

    CSUN undergraduate Theatre majors, with assistant professor in CSUN's Department of Theatre Matthew Jackson in the back row. Photo courtesy of Jackson

CSUN student actors, directors, stage managers and playwrights dazzled judges this spring at the Region 8 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, an annual theatre program involving 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide. Twenty-five CSUN students, including three graduate students and 22 undergraduate theatre majors, participated in the festival, Feb. 11-15 at Cal State Fullerton.

“Because It’s Sunny in LA (Especially on Skid Row),” a play written by graduate student Thaddeus Nagey, was cast at the festival and performed on Friday morning. On Saturday, judges named it the winner of the Region 8 competition. Nagey’s play is now a national semifinalist — considered among the top 16 plays in the nation this year from the Kennedy Center festival, said Matthew Jackson, assistant professor in CSUN’s Department of Theatre, who accompanied the students at the festival. Nagey’s play qualifies for the National Festival in Washington, D.C., which was originally scheduled for April 6-10.The Kennedy Center has cancelled performances through May 10.

Undergraduate matadors Shyhiem Parker and Megan Broyles — and their respective acting partners, Jasmine Ibrahem and Shiku Thuo — made it to the final round of 16 pairs, of nearly 350 pairs of students auditioning for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Parker and Broyles and their partners performed on the main festival stage in front of hundreds of guests, Jackson said. The acting scholarship recognizes, honors and financially assists outstanding student performers who want to pursue further theatre education. Three additional CSUN students made it to the semifinal round of 64 pairs for the scholarship: undergraduates Rob Murray, Jenna Rico and Sebastian Guerrero.

Thuo and Kelli Tays were finalists for the National Stage Management Fellowship, which entailed one-on-one interviews with the festival judges. Thuo was the runner-up for the scholarship, receiving an honorable mention. Ibrahem and Elyse Durand received scholarships to CSU Summer Arts programs.

Graduate student Lindsay Jenkins was a finalist in the area of dramaturgy — the study of dramatic composition — and she received an honorable mention as the runner up in the field.

Several CSUN students also received callbacks, partial scholarships and invitations to follow-up interviews through the InterAct program, which lets students audition for graduate schools, regional theatres/festivals and professional workshops.