Taking Center Stage

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UMD Students Finish Strong at National Theater Festival

UMD theatre students Jayson Speters and Kayla Peters not only participated at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, they triumphed. The pair recently returned to Duluth, having earned six of the festival's fourteen merit-based awards and prizes.

Kayla Peters and Jayson Speters (center left and right) attended the festival with theatre faculty and accompanist Andy Kust (left) and theatre faculty Tom Isbell.  

Theatre department Professor Tom Isbell couldn’t be happier with his students' performance. “These were some of the top college actors and playwrights in the country, and for our students to receive so many awards and so much recognition speaks volumes about their talent,” Isbell said, “I love it when good things happen to people who work hard.”

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) involves nearly 18,000 students from colleges throughout the nation. The program is designed to provide feedback to talented young theatre professionals from experienced voices in their field. Yearly, regional festivals give theater students the opportunity to showcase their work and receive feedback from KCACTF respondents.

In April, college undergraduates from across the nation gathered at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to participate in the KCACTF. Less than 200 students make it to Washington, D.C. for the final round of the festival, where they compete for awards, fellowships, and scholarships provided by theater-related institutions throughout the country. This year, UMD students Jayson Speters and Kayla Peters not only made it to the final stretch, they finished strong. The pair earned six of the 14 awards given this year.

A Place Among the Best

Jayson Speters, SFA junior, earned four accolades. First, the College of Fellows of the American Theatre’s Jane Alexander Award for Acting provided a $2500 cash prize. Second, the Shakespeare Theatre Company Acting Fellowship provided a place in two future productions with the company, along with a stipend and apartment for the duration of his stay. Third, the Actors Theatre of Louisville Apprentice Company Scholarship will allow Speters a full season opportunity with the ATL. Fourth, the National New Play Network Award for Outstanding Performance in a Contemporary Work affords Speters a $500 Cash Prize and an offer to be a member of the Acting Company of the MFA Playwrights’ Workshop at the Kennedy Center.

Kayla Peters also took center stage for her work. She earned The Society of American Fight Directors Scholarship, which will provide her a three-week residency at an upcoming National Stage Combat Workshop. The residency will include a full scholarship, travel, room, and board. Peters also achieved the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre Mad River Festival Scholarship, which is another all-inclusive opportunity to learn from a theatre institution complete with travel, housing, and meal allowance.


Jayson and Kayla perform their scene on the Kennedy Center stage. Jayson with award-winning actress Jane Alexander (he won the first-ever Jane Alexander Acting Award).
Jayson and Kayla perform their scene on the Kennedy Center stage. Jayson, the first-ever Jane Alexander Acting Award recipient, with award-winning actress Jane Alexander.


See the undergraduate application page. To learn more about theatre, and other fine arts at UMD, check out the SFA homepage.

UMD Those who can Duluth

Written by Zach Lunderberg. April, 2015.

UMD News Articles | News Releases
Cheryl Reitan, creitan@d.umn.edu

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