The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is a competition held each year to showcase the work of talented student performers in each region. Out of the thousands of student artists who perform in this competition, 125 are selected to continue on to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. where they will compete in the National Festival. This year, two of those 125 selected will be Eastern Washington University theatre students.
MJ Daly, Irene Ryan Finalist and winner of the Musical Theatre Scholarship Award, poses on set for The Seagull.
MJ (Maddy) Daly, whose outstanding performance at the Region VII festival led her to win the Musical Theatre Scholarship Award (MTSA), will be traveling to D.C. in April with Lysbeth Neel, who won first place in the Stage Management competition. While there, both students will attend master classes, network with professional artists, and visit prestigious theaters and performing arts organizations in the D.C. area.
“There’s the competition aspect,” said Daly, “but a lot of it is also training and meeting with people in the professional industry.”
Along with winning the MTSA, Daly was one of 16 finalists in the Irene Ryan Auditions, a highly competitive acting competition comprised of close to 300 participants. Not just any competition, the Irene Ryans are open to performers on an invitation basis with recruiters from the Kennedy Center choosing the two most talented performers from each region.
It’s been a busy couple of months for Daly, who is currently playing the role of Masha in Eastern’s winter production of The Seagull, Anton Chekhov’s dark but beautiful story of unrequited love and unfulfilled happiness.
For Neel, whose first time stage managing was in Eastern’s showing of The Tempest, winning a national award was not something she had considered a possibility. “I was interested in becoming a better stage manager and seeing how I could better my work. I really did it for the experience.”
National Stage Management Competition winner Lysbeth Neel, in action backstage.
In order to win the award, Neel submitted previous work and participated in a stage management simulation, during which she was required to call a play in front of an evaluator and critique her own work.
“It’s a high stress job, but it’s so worth it,” said Neel in regard to stage managing. “There’s something so great about being backstage and helping the whole production run smoothly and when the actors succeed, you know you’re succeeding.”
Both students are excited to represent Eastern at the Kennedy Center come April.
Those interested in learning more about the National Festival can visit the Kennedy Center’s website.