Thursday, May 18, 2017

University of New Orleans Theatrical Production Earns Eight National Awards from Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Theatre UNO’s production of “The Aliens,” a drama centered around a high school dropout and a college dropout loitering behind a Vermont coffee shop, received eight national awards at the 49th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Theatre UNO is the production arm of the University of New Orleans Department of Film and Theatre.

“The Aliens” garnered the highest level of national recognition in five categories, including outstanding production of a play and outstanding ensemble. Graduate student Kristin Shoffner received an outstanding director award, Cooper Bucha received an outstanding performance award and guest artist Asher Griffin received an award for outstanding achievement in sound design. The festival also recognized faculty members Kevin Griffith for distinguished scenic design, Anthony French for distinguished costume design and Diane K. Baas for distinguished achievement in lighting design. Other members of the production ensemble included undergraduate Jowhara Thompson as stage manager and cast members Austin Krieger, an undergraduate, and Ryan Decker, a graduate student.

Festival organizers awarded director Kristin Shoffner and actor Cooper Bucha an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to represent UNO at the festival, which was held April 16—22.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our students and everyone involved in this production of ‘The Aliens,’” said David Hoover, chair of the UNO Department of Film and Theatre. “We are honored and thrilled to have our work recognized at the national level by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, the preeminent organization in this field. 

“Having achieved national awards in so many aspects of the play—production, performance, direction, sound, lighting, scenic design and costumes—is a reflection of the quality of our program. As a university in a city with such a robust theatre and arts community, we have a responsibility to ensure that students develop a wide range of strengths during their time at UNO and have the skills they need to thrive in a competitive environment,” Hoover added. “These awards affirm that not only are our students competitive at the regional and national levels, they are among the best in the field.” 

“The Aliens” was written by Annie Baker and won the 2010 Obie Award for best new American play. The Theatre UNO production was part of the organization’s 2016-17 performance season, running Nov. 10-20, 2016, at the UNO Performing Arts Center Lab Theatre. Soon after, the production was selected for presentation at a regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in a highly competitive process. Fifty productions entered the regional competition, 16 were held for consideration and only four were selected for presentation at the festival, which took place at Angelo State University in Texas from March 1-5. Productions from universities invited to regional festivals were eligible for national awards celebrating outstanding achievement. 

Housed within UNO’s School of the Arts, the Department of Film and Theatre is an accredited member of National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST), which establishes national standards for related undergraduate and graduate programs. The department fuses the artistic, technical and analytical dynamics of theatre and film in a collaborative environment, educating the next generation of professional storytellers to develop careers in film, theatre and allied fields. The University of New Orleans was recently recognized for offering the best college theatre program in the state of Louisiana. 

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 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide annually. Through state, regional, and national festivals, KCACTF student and faculty participants celebrate the creative process and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, dramatic criticism, directing, and design.