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Critical Darlings: Northeast State shows earn regional acclaim

January 1st, 2014 10:00 am by Entertainment Staff

Critical Darlings: Northeast State shows earn regional acclaim

“The Odyssey Abridged: A Puppet Tale of Epic Proportions” was one of two Northeast State Theatre productions to earn nominations to the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Photo by David Grace.

Northeast State Theatre’s 2013 productions “The Odyssey Abridged: A Puppet Tale of Epic Proportions” and “Treasure Island” were hits with audiences and critics alike.

Both productions have now earned a slew of nominations to the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in February, where the best theatre work of colleges in the Southeast will be recognized.

“‘The Odyssey’ was a pretty complicated show to run for students but they exceeded my expectations completely,” said Brad McKenzie, adjunct faculty and technical director of Northeast State Theatre.

McKenzie directed and wrote the stage adaptation for “The Odyssey” and received a Faculty Directing nomination. The play was the first NST production with all technical aspects performed by theatre students. All the nominees will travel to the Region IV festival to be held Feb. 4-8 at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va.

“I’m thrilled this group of students gets to experience the competition,” said Elizabeth M. Sloan, professor and director of Northeast State Theatre. “They represent Northeast State Theatre very well, and we are so proud of their work.”

Kevin Carrier earned a nomination in Stage Management for his Herculean task of coordinating “The Odyssey” production.  With hundreds of stage cues, fight scenes, a cast of human actors and puppet characters, Carrier orchestrated play movements from opening curtain to final bow.

“It took a while to get familiar with rehearsals,” said Carrier. “We just got better every performance and by the second weekend we were going strong.”

Will Lambert earned two nominations for Lighting Design with his work on NST’s spring production of “Treasure Island” and “The Odyssey.” Lambert returns to KCACTF competition after being nominated last fall for a Weiss Lighting Design award.

“I used up all the available lighting sources we had in the theatre for ‘The Odyssey,’” said Lambert. “We had more than 100 lights going to pull the production off.”

Richard Curtis earned his fourth KCACTF nomination in three years as Puppet Designer for “The Odyssey.” Curtis put together the character puppets and designed the puppeteers’ harnesses and hand sticks used to manipulate each puppet. He also built the gigantic Cyclops character as well as the Lotus Eaters and Singing Sirens.

The KCACTF Regional Festival gives each nominee display space to exhibit his or her work. Judges review the work as it fits into the overall production. Lambert and Curtis explained that all their work from the earliest schematic designs to the final cue lists would be included in the competition exhibit.

“You want to set it up like a judge can simply walk up, look at your display and understand what you were trying to do without you having to say a word,” said Curtis, who won a regional KCACTF award for his designs on NST’s “Oedipus Rex.”

Hannah Duncan and Michelle Goodwin earned Irene Ryan acting nominations for “The Odyssey.”

Duncan played Greek goddess Athena. Goodwin portrayed Eumaeus and also served as assistant sound designer. Student Richard Jackson also picked up an Irene Ryan acting nomination for his work in “Treasure Island.”

“We spent a lot of late nights and early mornings putting it all together,” said Goodwin. “I was excited to see all the technical aspects come together with the actors.”

All three acting nominees will perform in dramatic scenes at the festival. Actors are judged with winners advancing into new rounds with longer scenes and more stringent critics.

“When I saw the list of nominations I squealed, got excited and cried,” said Duncan. “We were all pretty happy.”

A proctor from Region IV attended performances of “Treasure Island” and “The Odyssey” to judge both productions. The play’s quality was graded and then considered for nominations to the regional competition. McKenzie noted the judges said the productions “gave them hope for theater studies” at colleges and universities in general.

“The proctor said it was very ambitious to try a production like ‘The Odyssey’ at a two-year school,” said McKenzie. “To me, that says our students are doing it right, and Northeast State Theatre offers a lot to our students and our institution.”

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