Region 5 KCACTF and the Stage Crew Showdown

I am spending this week in Ames, Iowa.  It is home of the Iowa State University.  It is also the location of this year’s iteration of the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.  A full explanation of this organization would be several blogs in and of themselves.  For our purposes, suffice to sat that KCACTF is a nationwide organization of college and university theatre departments that celebrate, encourage, and strive to improve the art of theatre and the training of future theatrical professionals in our nation’s colleges and universities.  The organization divides the nation into several regions.  During January and February each region stages a festival wherein all regional colleges and university theatre departments and their faculty and students are invited to a single location where the best practices and work of the past year are shared and celebrated.  Exceptional work from the regional festivals are invited to participate in a national festival based at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  later in the spring.

The region 5 festival  (including schools from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota) gathers this year in Ames Iowa on the campus of the Iowa State University.  Each year my department goes on a one-week hiatus the second or third week of spring semester and travels with 20 or 30 of our students to that year’s location.  There is a vast array of opportunity for our students to share their work and get feedback on it from regional and national respondents.  Actors participate in Irene Ryan acting scholarships, Design and technical theatre students share design work (realized and non-realized) and can qualify for awards in set, lighting, costume, makeup and sound design as well as stage management and other areas.  Other opportunities for recognition exist in areas of directing and playwriting.  Students can attend workshops throughout the week on a vast array of subjects.  One of the central functions of the festival is to showcase fully mounted revivals of the best theatrical productions produced by participating college and university theatre companies from the region in the past year.   In addition to national awards and events, each region develops programs and events particular to that region.

One such regional event particular to region 5 is the Stage Crew Showdown.  This year I was tapped as event coordinator.  This meant that I worked with a small team of other design and technical theatre faculty from across the region to stage a friendly and often light-hearted competition featuring teams of four students from different schools engaged in tasks related to activities that stage crew personnel might be called upon to perform.  This event is one that has been in existence on-and-off for many years.  After a hiatus of some time, it was revived in region 5 six years ago (coincidentally the last time the festival was held in Ames, Iowa).  The event was well received then and continues to gain in popularity.  This year 15 teams from 13 schools (two schools each had two teams in the event) participated.  The 15 teams competed against the clock (with penalty times added for inaccurate or unsafe performance) in  several events.  The events included:

The instrument focus.– wherein team members participate in a relay to accurately and safely hang, circuit, gel, install a gobo in, and focus a source 4 ellipsoidal reflector spotlight.

The Border Hang—wherein team members install tie line on a short border and then hang it on-center of a batten to a proscribed fullness.

The Prop Shift—wherein team members shift a small setting of table and two chairs (complete with tablecloth, 2 full place settings, table decorations and prop entre on and off stage.

The Rope Tie—wherein team members demonstrate their ability to quickly and accurately tie a series of stagecraft-related knots.

The Costume Quick-change—wherein two team members dress their other team members in costumes (one male and one female).

While grounded in reality, the events are designed to celebrate the discipline, while also providing a healthy heaping of good clean fun.  While I am not at liberty at the moment to divulge the results of this year’s Stage Crew Showdown, I can guarantee that quite a number of students had a ridiculous amount of fun.  On Thursday evening, awards will be announced.  One team will be the proud recipient of a traveling trophy consisting of an enormous 24 “ adjustable wrench set in a trophy stand in honor of the team demonstrating the fastest overall times (with time penalties added for unsafe or inaccurate performance of the tasks).  Another traveling trophy festooned with beads, a light and even a miniature mirror ball will be presented to the team (and school) demonstrating the best  “team spirit”.  These awards will have to be surrendered next year as teams will once again compete for the right to hold them.

That’s all for now.

Have fun (after all, they don’t call it a play for nothing).  But be safe!

SJM

KCACTF links:

http://www.kcactf.org

http://www.kcactf5.org

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