by Janet I. Martineau
They’re headed here again -- 1,500 college theater majors for a five-day festival hosted by Saginaw Valley State University.
“It’s unusual to get asked to host this again so soon; usually it’s six to eight years between,” says Richard B. Roberts Jr., associate professor of theater at SVSU.
He is talking about the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival that after eight regionals like the one at SVSU culminate in a national festival taking place at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
SVSU is in Region III, with participating colleges and universities from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin as well as Michigan. Competition can be intense to host the regionals. SVSU got the nod in 2009 and 2010 -- a first for a Michigan school in 25 years. And recently came word they were picked again for 2013 and 2014.
“As I said from the last one, I have never worked harder or had more fun,” says Roberts of the early January festivities.
The upwards of 1,500 theater students are joined by 150 theater professors and theater professionals and collectively view eight full productions, “An Evening of Scenes,” and assorted 10-minute plays as well as attend 100 workshops.
The students also compete for nearly 40 awards -- in acting, directing, reviewing, costuming, playwriting, sound, lighting, make-up and tech -- from which the regional winners are sent on to the finals at the Kennedy Center.
The last two Region III festivals pumped an estimated $2.5 million into the Great Lakes Bay region economy since the students, professors and others attending book rooms in area hotels and frequent restaurants and shops. They are not housed at SVSU.
“The Saginaw County Convention and Visitors Bureau is projecting $3 million for the economy for the 2013 and 2014 festivals,” says Roberts.
Of the eight regionals, Region III attracts the most attendees.
In 2010, SVSU’s hosting of the event won and All-Area Arts Award from the Saginaw Arts and Enrichment Commission.