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Sterling College Theatre Students Attend Festival


By Sterling College


DES MOINES, Iowa.  — A bit of Broadway came to life for the 14 Sterling College Theatre students who attended the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KCCTF) in Des Moines, Iowa, recently.  They were among the 1,500 college theatre students and faculty from seven states who attended the annual regional theatre conference which included workshops, auditions, competitions, and performances, including a performance from Vanities: The Musical from Sterling College Theatre. 

The Sterling musical was presented on campus last August and was invited to present a scene at the regional festival. Vanities featured three Sterling students – seniors Keeley Coon, Eureka and Rachel Thomson, Buhler, and sophomore Mary Little, Hutchinson. Music Theatre Director Marisa Callan accompanied the trio who performed the show’s opening scene and song “I Can’t Imagine.” 

“Performing for other college theatre students was a unique experience,” Coon said. “We all loved the energy in the theatre. That audience knew how to react, and they certainly did. Everything was amped up. It was exciting to perform for that crowd.”

Senior Cate Gutteridge, Oklahoma City, OK, applied and was accepted into the Directing Intensive Workshop as part of the festival. The workshop included two three-hour sessions for the select group of theatre students interested in directing. Topics such as casting, creating stage pictures through blocking (stage movement), working with sound and color as well as practical things such as scheduling and pacing were covered. “I really appreciated that the leader did not have a ‘do-it-this-way’ kind of approach. There was great round-table discussion,” Gutteridge said. 

Prior to the Festival, nine Sterling students submitted video auditions for the professional theatres and programs attending. All nine received “Call Backs” in which companies requested to meet with them in person during the festival. Some were offered opportunities for summer theatre work and are considering those now. 

Acting, singing, and dancing competitions were also part of the week. Three Sterling College students were part of the final performance Showcase. Mary Little was named a finalist in the Musical Theatre singing competition and performed “Over and Done” from the TV musical “Schmigadoon” in the Showcase. There were over 150 singers initially, then 40 were named as semi-finalists and 20 for finals. Thomson was also among the semi-finalists in the musical theatre singing competition. 

Thomson and sophomore Noah Svaty auditioned for and were accepted to the Musical Theatre Intensive Dance Cabaret. That select group rehearsed during the conference and performed for the closing Showcase. Broadway choreographer Josh Walden used the song “Cvalda” for the dance group. His staging of the number highlighted three young aspiring performers coming to New York City. Thomson was the leading dancer in the song and Svaty was part of the New York City ensemble. 

The Sterling trio in the Showcase had all attended last year with the Sterling group. “This year we all felt better prepared. We knew better what to expect and I made it my goal to be more involved in the competitions this year and through that it turned out to be even more enjoyable than last year,” Svaty said.

In addition to the dance cabaret and singing semi-finals, Thomson also had a total of five callbacks from professional companies. She said, “I feel like it’s important to attend something like KCACTF so you can gauge where you and your theatrical journey stand in comparison with other students in surrounding states. It’s a good reality check! I feel like I gained a lot of experience and knowledge from this trip in terms of how to audition, how to do ‘cold reads’ and how to pick up choreography more quickly.”

Besides Sterling College Theatre’s production of Vanities, the fall play The Crucible was also recognized for achievement. Sterling College Technical Theatre faculty member Brian Sechrist also attended the festival. Other Sterling College students who attended the regional festival and not already mentioned include Luke Harding, and Caleb Brownlee, Sterling; Katie Lumbert, Wichita; Josh Morris and Mariana Inchauriga, Hutchinson, Anya Billings, McPherson; Kim Skirvin, Emporia; and Makenzy Carter, Haysville.   

“It was an exciting week for our theatre students. We are proud of them and how they performed and conducted themselves,” said Sterling College Arts Director Dennis Dutton. “I think everyone returned to campus filled with renewed excitement and more of an understanding about what professional theatre is all about.”

The Sterling College Theatre students return to an ambitious semester with three stage productions slated. The first is the one-person show Every Brilliant Thing on February 15 and 16. The comic mystery play Baskerville will be presented on February 29, March 1 and 2. Then the popular Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods will be staged April 12, 13, and 14. The theatre season will conclude on April 27 with an evening of one-acts and dance.  

Sterling College is a Christ-centered, four-year college located in Sterling, Kansas, with a mission to develop creative and thoughtful leaders who understand a maturing Christian faith. For more information, visit