Oklahoma Baptist University

OBU Theatre Advances to Regional Competition

For only the second time in Oklahoma Baptist University theatre history, a production by the campus' theatre department has advanced to the Regional Competition in The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The regional competition will be conducted at the University of Texas, San Marcos, Feb. 24-28, 2009.

OBU's production of "As It Is In Heaven" received state awards from the festival in October, as well as the nomination for advancement to regional competition. The cast and crew of the play received "Excellence in Directing," "Excellence in Design," and "Excellence in Ensemble."

"This was a wonderful ensemble piece - all the actresses worked hard and were committed to tell the story," said Dr. Laura Byland, OBU associate professor and director of theatre, who directed the production. "I am honored and humbled to have been a part of this project and journey. It will be a college highlight for these actresses as they travel together, perform again and commune with other university theatre students from the region."

In addition to the production awards, three OBU theatre majors received the Irene Ryan Award for Excellence in Acting: junior Katie Tyner from Moore, Okla., junior Lacy Hutchinson from Longview, Texas, and freshman Cylie Hall from Norman, Okla. All three actresses have advanced to the Regional level in competing for the Irene Ryan Scholarship. The scholarship provides recognition, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. For the regional competition, the nominated actors will perform a monologue and a scene apart from their nominated production at the festival.

"As It Is In Heaven," by playwright Arlene Hutton, is a historical drama set in the Shaker village of Pleasant Hill, Ky., in the early 19th century. The play was presented by an all-female cast and filled with traditional Shaker hymns and dance.

"My vision as director and designer was to stay true to the simplicity that enriched the Shaker lifestyle and still present the beauty and complexity that characterize that simplicity," Byland said. "I wanted to capture the Shaker mindset of a simple life; to create an ensemble that moved together, ate together, worshiped together, and studied together, because this was the essence of their existence.

"The world in which we live may be different, but ultimately the story about change and growth still finds meaning," she said. "These women had a sense of fearlessness, a sense of survival, and a sense of community that transcended time and self."

OBU's theatre department falls into Region VI which includes universities and colleges in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. OBU and the University of Oklahoma were the only two Oklahoma schools invited to regional competition. OBU's first trip to regional competition was in 1976 with its production of "Godspell," which was selected as an alternate to go to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Regional festival productions are judged by a panel of three judges selected by the Kennedy Center and the festival's national committee. These judges, in consultation with the Artistic Director, select four to six of the best and most diverse regional festival productions to be showcased in the spring at the annual non-competitive national festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center's founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theater-goers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide.

The Irene Ryan Foundation awards 19 regional awards and two fellowships annually. Sixteen of the awards consist of a $500 scholarship for each regional representative of KCACTF. There are two scholarships of $2,500 each for the winners at the national festival in Washington, D.C. In addition, the student judged the Kingsley Colton Award-winner for Best Partner in the national auditions is awarded a cash prize of $250. The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships are, indeed, scholarships, so the Foundation disburses the award through a school designated by the winner, to pay tuition and fees for further education, not necessarily limited to theatre arts.

Irene Ryan (1902-1973) was an Emmy- and Tony Award-nominated actress widely known for her portrayal of "Granny" on the long-running TV series, "The Beverly Hillbillies." With no surviving relatives, Ryan began the Irene Ryan Foundation for aspiring actors.

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