Oklahoma Baptist University Theatre Department's presentation of "As It Is In Heaven" was named the best play presented at the Region VI Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in San Marcos, Texas, Feb. 24-28, 2009. The play received the Richard A. Weaver Award which honors the best play in the festival as chosen by directors participating in the regional competition.
In honor of the award, the group received a large silver cup trophy. The name of the school, the name of the director, and the title of the play will be engraved on the side. The trophy travels to the winning school each year.
"This was an amazing moment in my career," said Dr. Laura Byland, OBU associate professor and director of the production. "To be able to share this with so many outstanding OBU theatre students and my dear colleague, Joyce, has been an honor. To be selected the best by my fellow practitioners is a wonderful privilege - one that I will always treasure."
Dr. Joyce Spivey Aldridge, OBU assistant professor of theatre, joined the all-female cast which included nine Shaker sisters played by Lacy Hutchinson, a junior from Longview, Texas; Kacy Southerland, a sophomore from Oklahoma City; Taunia Logan, a senior from Perryton, Texas; Laura Simma, a freshman from Pawnee, Okla.; Katherine Wortley, a sophomore from Fort Smith, Ark.; Cylie Hall, a freshman from Norman, Okla.; Katie Tyner, a junior from Moore, Okla.; and Reji Smith, a junior from Grapevine, Texas.
"I can't describe how awesome it feels that our cast/crew and our school were recognized for our hard work," Tyner said. "When we took the play to regionals we knew it was ready and that it had the potential to go all the way. Although we didn't advance to nationals, the fact that the regional directors felt the same way we did about 'As It Is In Heaven' is indescribable.
"It's so rewarding to know that these great directors saw something in our work. We're ecstatic to have walked away with this honor; it was an awesome ending to this journey."
"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 filled with traditional Shaker hymns and dance. Prior to producing the play in October as part of the 2008-09 season, OBU theatre participants had the opportunity to meet Hutton, who visited Bison Hill to offer insight for the cast and crew about the history of the Shaker community, as well as an explanation of her personal experience writing the play.
The Bison theatre troupe qualified for the regional competition for only the second time in the school's nearly 100-year history to compete against more than 700 people representing seven schools. Region VI includes schools from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The only other Oklahoma school represented at the regional level was the University of Oklahoma. 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 Festival in Washington, D.C.
Three OBU theatre majors - Tyner, Hall and Hutchinson - also competed in the Regional Irene Ryan Acting Competition. Hutchinson advanced to the semi-final round. The Irene Ryan Foundation awards 19 regional awards and two fellowships annually through the Kennedy Center Festival. Irene Ryan (1902-1973) was an Emmy- and Tony Award-nominated actress widely known for her portrayal of "Granny" on the TV series, "The Beverly Hillbillies." With no surviving relatives, Ryan began the Irene Ryan Foundation for aspiring actors.
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.