Out of 173 plays, four were selected to perform at a regional conference at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Sacramento, Calif., Feb. 18-22, including the University of Idaho produced “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter.”
Cast member Margaret Miller, who plays “Lou” in the production, said the conference is a week full of performances, workshops, set design competitions and costume design competitions.
Jeremy Thompson, or “Donald,” said attendees will have the opportunity to audition for graduate training programs and professional acting jobs.
During the conference the cast will perform one matinee and an evening performance for the entire conference.
“We are freaking out excited. It’s a huge honor. When else do we get to perform for a packed house full of people who absolutely love theater?” Hillary Mosman or “Jenny Sutter,” said. “All these people (at the conference) are our colleagues and are just learning about all this theater stuff as well. You go into this environment where everybody just wants you to do well, there is a lot of energy in the room and everyone is so excited. You just don’t get an opportunity like this anywhere else, so we are all really over the moon about it.”
The productions are nominated through “respondents” that come to the play and give feedback, advice and their overall opinion on the performance.
“Any show that is done by a participating college, send a respondent from a different college to talk about the work and their opinion on it,” Thompson said.
Many in the cast point to the topic of the play, the style and screenplay as the reasons the production was picked to go to the conference.
“It’s the content itself. Everybody knows somebody that was affected by war, whether this one or the past. The story is timeless,” Mosman said.
Thompson attributed their selection to the freshness of the piece.
“It’s something that not a lot of people have seen before, and it’s about some very serious subject matters, but it doesn’t wallow in it. There are light moments that are funny moments,” Thompson said. “It’s only a little over ninety minutes, one act play, no intermission and so it feels cinematic.”
In the past, the UI Theatre Arts Department had shows travel down to the regional conference before, but Miller said it is still exciting for the program and those involved.
Some of the cast members are also competing for the Irene Ryan scholarship, which is held at the regional conference and has participants act out one scene with another acting partner. Thompson is participating in the competition as a main performer and Kadin McGreevy, “Marcus,” is competing as a partner performer.
Many in the cast feel this play brings up deep moral questions on how society should treat returning veterans and their scars that they bring home from war.
“The question is one that no one can really answer. What is our responsibility to veterans when they come back from the war? How do we thank them when ‘thank you’ can never be enough for someone who has risked their life?” Mosman said.
Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at email@example.com