Photo to come.
All’s well that ends well for the New Paltz Theater Department, as two of its members struck gold last month during a weeklong collegiate theatrical competition.
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) was held in Hyannis, M.A. from Tuesday, Jan. 28 through Sunday, Feb. 2 and brought together students who had been nominated for their work in any sect of the arts (playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design) to show their skills for a chance at scholarships or cash prizes.
This year, 11 students from New Paltz were nominated regionally to participate in KCACTF for their work in previous school productions on or off stage, and were whittled down to a select few to compete on a national level.
“It’s always great to be around a bunch of people with the same love and passion for something, bringing forth their best stuff,” Patrick Pierpoint, a fourth-year theater performance major, said. “These are all really good actors from all around the northeast. Being around them pumps you up.”
Pierpoint was nominated to participate in KCACTF for his role as Caliban in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which graced the stage of McKenna Theatre last semester. After choosing a scene partner, Pierpoint and his partner performed two scenes of their choice for the judges of the competition and participants from other schools in the northeast region.
Pierpoint said his choice of a scene partner wasn’t difficult, and went with fourth-year theater performance major Emma Larsen because he said he wanted a strong partner who could push him to the next level.
After rehearsing several scenes, Pierpoint and Larsen decided to choose two comedic pieces from the plays “Impassioned Embraces” by John Pielmeier and Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” to perform at the competition.
Pierpoint said he and Larsen chose to perform these scenes because they were the two strongest they had rehearsed and because his strength lies in being a comedic actor.
“I wanted to emphasize comedy and wanted the contrast to be between classic and contemporary instead of comedic and dramatic,” Pierpoint said. “I really liked the use of movement in theater and these scenes gave us the opportunity to play with movement and comedy and pace and energy.”
Even though Pierpoint and Larsen’s run at KCACTF ended at the semifinal round, Pierpoint was recognized as the competition’s best comic actor during the award ceremony and walked away with a cash prize. Although he said he’s hesitant to call his win “validation,” he said it’s always nice to be acknowledged.
Larsen’s experience at KCACTF didn’t leave her empty-handed either, as she ended up being the recipient of a partial scholarship to apprentice with the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company over the summer.
The company, which is based in Boston, sends representatives to the competition and allows students to audition for partial scholarships to their summer apprenticeship — which includes the opportunity to take classes and understudy mainstage productions.
Larsen chose to audition with a piece from Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well,” and one from “Thanksgiving in the Wilderness” by Kellie Powell, as she said she had been working on both pieces for a while.
“It was my first professional audition where I had a chance, and I was afraid I didn’t have the right pieces at first,” Larsen said. “You can be really nervous before performing but you have to use that nervous energy to propel you forward.”
Students attending KCACTF were accompanied and coached by Lecturer Joe Langworth and Associate Professor Nancy Saklad, who helped polish their performance pieces for weeks prior to the competition.
Langworth said a common thread among all participants at KCACTF was pride in the effort they put into their work and pride in the work that came out of it.
“I think the best reward [students] can walk away with is the recognition of the hard work and training they’ve been doing here at SUNY New Paltz,” Langworth said. “When you receive affirmation that your personal choices, backed by your training, are reaching the audience in a positive way, that’s a beautiful thing.”