Monday, January 14, 2013

SVSU theater students win big at Kennedy Center regional festival

by janet i. martineau

Three theater students from Saginaw Valley State University won top honors during last week’s five-day Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Region 3 Festival which took place at SVSU.

And one of them, though three rounds of acting competition, bested 248 other actors to win one of the two prestigious regional Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships awarded at the festival. 

Rusty Myers, a theatre major from Breckenridge, received the Irene Ryan by performing scenes and a monologue lasting three, five and six minutes as the rounds progressed. Myers’ partner in presenting the scenes was Lexee Longwell, a theatre major from Howell.  
Rusty Myers in "Strange Snow"

A senior at SVSU, Myers has amassed a long list of acting credits at the school -- among them the brutish Stanley in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the boozy professor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” the angry Vietnam vet in “Strange Snow” and the Hairy Man in “Wiley and the Hairy Man.”

Said Myers of the award, “This is a high  watermark in my career and something that will most likely spring board me into something far greater than I ever imagined for myself.”

Cameron Thorp, a theater major from Vassar, took first place for his prop design, and Mara Berton, a theater major from Howell,  was honored for her excellence in stage management -- both for their work in the SVSU production of “Buried Child.”

Myers, Thorp and Berton will advance to the national Kennedy Center festival in Washington, D.C., in April.

The regional Irene Ryan win earned Myers $500 in scholarship money, and his regional win is a first for SVSU. At the nationals, the two Irene Ryan winners will each receive a $2,500 scholarship.

Cameron Thorp and prop display
“It is immediately going to give these students connections to industry insiders,” said SVSU associate professor of theater Ric Roberts of the trip to D.C.. “Many casting directors and agents are on hand at the finals because they want to meet the top theater students in country. 

“These students are going to be exposed to people that, under ordinary circumstances, would take many years of auditioning in New York to get exposed to. Basically, they’re jumping ahead two or three years in their careers.”

Roberts also lauded Isaac Wood, an SVSU  freshman theater major from Flint, who with his partner Mykaela Hopps of Bay City made it to the final round of the Irene Ryan Award Acting Scholarship competition.

“Making it to finals in your freshman year is almost unheard of,” Roberts said.

The weeklong festival at SVSU brought more than 1,200 theater students from 67 colleges and universities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin and included full-length productions of six plays.

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