Breaking a Leg and Raising the Bar

Theater has become a competitive sport at New Paltz.

Student and faculty actors, directors and designers came together in January for the annual SUNY New Paltz’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) that celebrated and challenged their work. The festival consisted of educational workshops, interviews and competitive auditions.

New Paltz competed in the Region I category, which encompassed schools in New York state, excluding the city, and New England. Several students from New Paltz were chosen from the 235 participants as finalists and semi-finalists based on their performances, auditions and design expositions.

Salvatore Nicosia, a third-year theater-tech with a concentration in lighting design, was awarded an Honorable Mention (second place) in lighting design for his work on “The Icarus Project” while he attended Suffolk Community College.

Nicosia said he recognized the rarity of this award and is humbled to be in the running for it.

“To showcase your work is pretty select,” Nicosia said. “You go up against a lot of different schools with great theatrical departments. There are only 15 lighting designers nominated, and just to be nominated is an honor.”

Reviewers, also known as respondents, nominate students or faculty members by attending school performances and seeking out outstanding aspects of the show, either in performance or design/technical categories. Once a show, performer, director or designer is nominated, those involved prepare to partake in either a design expo and interview process or an audition-style performance.

Designers must make it through an initial design expo consisting of the work they did for the nominated show, and are then interviewed by professionals in the field and challenged on their design decisions. The final judgement is based on their professionalism and the strength of their answers. Performers undergo a three-round process: the first being a three-minute long dialogue performance, the semi-final round a two-minute long dialogue performance and the final round a one-minute long monologue performance.

Ally Farzetta, a third-year theater-performance major, was nominated to attend the festival based on her performance in New Paltz’s fall production of “Three Sisters.” She was among 16 finalists out of an initial 235 students.

“It was an honor to get to perform the pieces that we’d worked so hard on,” Farzetta said. “There were many talented people who competed and it was humbling to know that I stood out to the judges.”

Nominated performers return to school a week prior to the festival to rehearse their monologues and scenes. Farzetta said fellow performance majors are chosen who have not been nominated to attend the festival as their scene partners based on work ethic and overall on-stage chemistry.

Farzetta said the subject matter is varied within each round’s performance so the judges can see versatility in their work.

Associate Professor of Voice, Speech and Acting Nancy Saklad attended the festival and helped performers prepare for it. She said she understands the immense pressure students face.

“There’s an element of nerves once they realize they’re competing with 235 other people. When you’re bumped up a level, the stakes get higher,” Saklad said. “I just ask them to ask the best of themselves.”