The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival awarded YSU Theater’s production of “The Spitfire Grill” earlier this fall with Certificates of Merit for direction, overall ensemble work and overall production value.
In addition, two cast members – senior musical theater majors Carly Magnuson of Canfield and Natalie Martzial of Youngstown – were chosen to showcase their talents at the Kennedy Center’s Region II theater festival at Cleveland State University in January.
“It was a wonderful, impactful learning experience for the students,” said Scott Irelan, associate professor and chair of Theater and Dance, who invited the Kennedy Center program to review the production.
A representative of the Kennedy Center program attended a show, met with the director, music director and costume designer, and finally, with the entire cast and crew. “He didn’t tell us to change it, he just shared what he experienced watching the musical,” Irelan said. “It was a dialogue really.”
“The Spitfire Grill,” a musical, was performed in October in Bliss Hall.
Irelan worked with the Kennedy Center as a volunteer previously, when he was on the faculty at Augustana College in Illinois. He wanted to get YSU theater students involved with the Center’s American College Theater Festival program since he arrived here in 2012.
Another Kennedy Center representative has been invited to view the theater department’s next production, “A Steampunk Christmas Carol,” scheduled for Dec. 5 and 6 in Ford Theater at Bliss Hall. Several theater students have also submitted their original plays to the festival for consideration.
In all, Irelan hopes to see eight to 10 YSU students chosen to represent the university at the Region II event.
“In creative arts, rehearsal and the process that goes into creating a work of art is considered research, as long as it’s peer-reviewed, so this is really good for our students,” Irelan said. “It’s giving them a chance to see and compare their work to the work of their peers. There’s also a lot of national recognition available.”
Founded in 1969, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival aims to be a catalyst to improve college theater in the United States. More than 600 universities nationwide participate. YSU is in Region II, which includes Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Western New York, Northern Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.