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Students Receive Top Honors at Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance has announced the following students earned awards and recognition from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region V. Almost all of the work stemmed from KU’s University Theatre productions.

National Awards

Emily Hunsucker, senior in lighting design and psychology from Boca Raton, Florida
First place in National Lighting Design for KU’s production of “In the Blood” (fall 2019)

Additionally, Hunsucker earned KCACTF’s Student’s Choice Award, and representatives in attendance from the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas awarded her a one-week, tuition-paid internship.

Kayleigh Shaffer, senior in theatre design from Olathe
First place National Sound Design for KU’s production of “The Wolves” (fall 2019)

Shaffer has represented KU at nationals in sound design since her sophomore year (“Metamorphoses,” 2017; “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” 2018).

Kate Smeltzer, third-year MFA student from Prairie Village
First place in National Scenic Design for “In the Blood”
Honorable mention in National Costume Design for “In the Blood”

Lexey Jost, third-year MFA student from Hutchinson
Second place in National Scenic Design for “The Christians” (fall 2019)


Stagecraft Institute Internship

Erick Carranza, senior in theatre design from Garden City
It marks three consecutive years KU theatre students presenting at the KCACTF competition have been tapped for the internship opportunity, an intensive theatre studies opportunity in Las Vegas.

Regional Award

John Rohr, first-year MFA student, from Arkansas City
First place Regional Scenic design for “Barefoot in the Park,” an academic project

One faculty member and the following students earned certificates of merit from the KCACTF Region V judge who attended and responded to the University Theatre productions.


Rana Esfandiary, assistant professor of scenography, costume design, “Sycorax” (spring 2019)

Timmia Hearn Feldman, graduate student, progressive direction, “In the Blood”

Hollyanna Mathews, senior in theatre performance from Bentonville, Arkansas, stage management, “The Christians”

Harlan Shoemaker, senior in visual arts and theatre design from Tonganoxie, makeup design, “Sycorax”

Jost and Smeltzer also received commendations for scenic designs for “The Christians” and “In the Blood,” respectively.

“This is the second year in a row where several theatre design students fared so well at the KCACTF conference. It gives our students a chance to meet fellow student designers, look at other designers’ work, attend workshops and present their research and designs while conferring with professionals,” said Kelly Vogel, academic associate/resident artist in the department. “The level of competition is impressive, and through the experience of showing their work to professional artists and peers in the region, they learn to detach the emotion from their work and enhance their communication and critical thinking skills.”  

"We would not be able to attend this festival without the support of Friends of the Theatre, the support organization for the University Theatre. We are grateful for our Friends’ dedication and passion for theatre students,” Vogel added.

Hunsucker, Shaffer and Smeltzer were invited to compete at the National KCACTF conference in Washington D.C., which was slated to begin April 6 before being canceled over COVID-19 concerns. The KCACTF-Region V annual conference and awards took place January 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Region V includes Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. At various times during 2019, representatives of KCACTF came to Lawrence to judge the submitted plays and provide critiques.

The University Theatre is a production wing of the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance, offering six public productions during the academic year. The University Theatre productions are funded in part by Student Senate fees, and supported by Truity Credit Union. For more information on the University Theatre, visit KUTheatre.com.

The Department of Theatre & Dance is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies. For more information on the Department of Theatre & Dance, visit theatredance.ku.edu

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