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OU Drama Students Dominate Regional Competition

Students from the Helmerich School of Drama won top honors at the recent American College Theatre Festival.

Students from the Peggy V. Helmerich School of Drama at the University of Oklahoma won top honors at the recent Region VI Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Shreveport, La. Drama students won top honors in the Irene Ryan Acting competition, and the Design, Technology and Management, Dramaturgy, and Playwriting competitions. Several awards include special invitations to compete or train at the national festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in April.

“It is not surprising that OU drama students would do so well, as we have led in national awards at the Kennedy Center in the past three years,” said OU President David L. Boren. “OU’s Peggy Helmerich School of Drama is a strong center of excellence and a great source of pride for the University.”

Invited theatre productions are another key facet of the festival. The Helmerich School of Drama’s production of Miss Evers’ Boys, directed by OU assistant professor, Alissa Millar, was selected and performed to a full house. The play was then awarded the coveted honor of Director’s Choice. In addition, the ensemble including actors, designers and technicians won the Golden Hand Truck for smoothest load-in before the show.

“The entire Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts salutes our talented and award-winning acting and design students, plus our dedicated drama faculty for an unprecedented sweep of 16 awards at the regional competition last week,” said Rich Taylor, dean of the college.

Competing against 170 teams from across the region, the Helmerich School of Drama swept the two highest acting awards. Jake Lozano and his partner Josh Bonzie, and Kamron McClure and his partner Gabby Reyes won top honors in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions, which provide recognition and financial assistance to outstanding student performers. All four students will receive an all-expense paid trip to the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C., in April to compete against the representatives from the seven other regions for the nation’s top honors in collegiate acting.  

In addition, Chandler Ryan and her partner Blake Henry were named First Alternates. Meredith Little won the title of Best Partner in the semi-final round, Bonzie won Best Partner for the final round, and Lozano was also awarded the Molly Risso Classical Acting Award.

In the area of Design, Technology and Management, OU Drama students won a total of nine top awards. Ethan Hartman won the regional National Design Award–Design Excellence for Coram Boy, which includes a trip to the Kennedy Center for national competition. Dalyn Boyd was awarded Meritorious Achievement in Scenic Design for Miss Evers’ Boys. Also winning Meritorious Achievements in Costume Design were Melissa Perkins for The Drowsy Chaperone and Jenava Burguiere for Carousel. Matthew Barnard received Meritorious Achievement in Sound Design for Coram Boy.

The Don Child’s Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas Award was presented to Boyd for Miss Evers’ Boys. The Doug Getzoff Award for Undergraduate Design Excellence went to Paul Kim for Contemporary Dance Oklahoma.

In the Regional Category, the Region 6 Award for Excellence in Properties Design was presented to Boyd for Coram Boy. Costume designer Stephanie Sandidge won the United States Institute for Theatre Technology-Southwest Award for “Excellence in Technology” for her work on Clybourne Park. In the area of Dramaturgy, Bree Windom was named first runner-up for her work on Eclipsed.

In the playwriting category, John Steel was named a finalist in the John C. Cauble One Act Play Contest. Meredith Dee Dee Beard was named finalist in the 10-Minute Play Contest.

Rena Cook, professor of voice and speech in the Helmerich School of Drama, received the Region VI Innovative Teaching Award, which is given by Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in conjunction with the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

“The national competition is scheduled for April 14 through 19 in Washington, D.C.,” said Tom Huston Orr, James Garner Chair and Helmerich School of Drama Director. “This is a wonderful experience for all our students – they get to celebrate theatrical work with other college students who share a common passion. It opens their eyes to the larger world of theatre, reinforcing lessons of professionalism, generosity and artistic excellence. For Jake Lozano, Josh Bonzie, Kameron McClure, Gabby Reyes and Ethan Hartman who go on to represent the school in D.C., it can be life changing.”