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February 26, 2024
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UMass Boston Students Compete in Theater Festival


UMass Boston students take a quick photo at the Kennedy Center American Theater Arts Festival orientation



Eleven students from UMass Boston’s Theater Arts program were invited to the 45th Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, which took place from Jan. 29 – Feb. 2 at Cape Cod Community College.

The festival provides students in the Northeast region with the opportunity to perform, audition and participate in workshops while being critiqued and taught by the best performing arts professors in the region.

Competitions were held in which winners were selected to move on to nationals in Washington D.C. where they would compete against winners from the seven other regions of the United States. Students were nominated by UMass Boston’s Performing Arts Department’s faculty and by anonymous participants who attended UMass productions throughout the year.

These anonymous selectors chose four UMass Boston students to participate in the Irene Ryan Scholarship Award for Acting Excellence. Students Chris Louis, Alaine Norcross, Brendan Paine and Kendra White were selected to compete against 216 other students for the scholarship award.

The competition is comprised of three rounds. By the second round the competition was cut down to 36 students, and by the final round, to 16. Two contestants are declared winners and move on to nationals in Washington D.C. in the final round. Kendra White and her partner, Ezra Brown, made it to the final 16.

“I was really humbled to be on that stage auditioning with some of the fiercest actors I’ve ever seen,” said White about being in the finals. Unfortunately, White did not win but valued the experience saying, “It was a really super experience and I just wanted to represent UMass Boston in the best way possible.”

White’s role as Logan Schwartz in the “25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee” production not only got her nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship, but also for the Richard Maltby Theater Excellence Award.

The Maltby competition put on an opening number in which White and the 29 other nominees had to learn an entire song and choreography in just three days. White also had to prepare two songs to sing herself.

Although she did not win the competition, the judges and Richard Maltby described her voice as “a beautiful instrument.”

While White stayed busy rehearsing for the competitions, other UMass students were able to participate in workshops, rehearsals and audition classes.

Brendan Paine gave an excellent singing performance in the Musical Theatre Cabaret. Miguel Fana, who was nominated by UMass faculty for acting and departmental distinction, wrote and acted in a Play Slam ensemble. Play Slam’s are productions written and performed in a 48-hour window.

“It was very inspiring because I got to see what it’s like to come together as a group and formulate a play within 48 hours,” said Chris Louis, who also participated in the Play Slam.

Students Steve Joazard and Brown also participated in the Play Slam. Joazard performed in a New Play (NP) where student-written plays are chosen ahead of time and then cast and performed at the festival. Suzy Cosgrove, Alaine Norcross’s acting partner, acted in an NP that moved on to nationals.

“It was really busy because they auditioned and were cast for so many things,” said Professor Carrie Ann Quinn, who coached UMass students for the festival.

Quinn has been bringing UMass Boston students to the festival since 2009. She performed in a National Partnership of American Theater play, which was nominated and chosen to go to nationals in Washington D.C.

“The best yet. Every year they’re getting better and better,” said Quinn about this year’s UMass Boston talent.

“They’re going up against students from New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. We’re up against Salem and Emerson, and students who do this all day long, and I was very happy with how we did.”