Taking the Stage

SPRING15taking-the-stage

It’s a play with explicit language and uncomfortable themes, but Georgia Southern’s production of David Mamet’s play, “Race,” roused the attention of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

In January, “Race” was one of only four productions selected for performance at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) for Region IV, held at the Albany Municipal Auditorium in Albany, Georgia. The KCACTF chose “Race” from among more than 60 productions in the region, which includes colleges and universities from southern Virginia down to Florida, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Once the eight regional festivals were concluded, the KCACTF chose national winners from among the 36 finalists across the United States. Georgia Southern’s production of “Race” won the Distinguished Production of a Contemporary Play award.

“We were one of four schools nationwide given that distinction, which is pretty good,” said Lisa Abbott, professor of theatre and director of the play. “It’s like winning the Super Bowl, you know? Getting invited to regionals is a big enough deal, but being chosen as one of the national contemporary performances was a really big deal.”

At the performance in Albany, “Race” was a hit. KCACTF bloggers reported that, at the play’s conclusion, some people in the audience didn’t wait for the lights or a curtain call to begin their standing ovation. KCACTF blogger James Lex wrote, “If the goal was to light a fire of conversation about the brutal questions of racism, then this production uses an abundance of matches.”

At the Black Box Theater on campus, Abbott said students performed to audiences no larger than 120. “But at the festival, we played to about 900,” she said. “It was just amazing. There, you’re performing for a theater crowd. It’s a hard play. It’s confrontational. It’s provocative, in a style that’s difficult, and our cast just hit it out of the ballpark. They were so hyped up, I don’t think they slept for the next three days.”

In addition to the distinguished production award, members of the production—the majority of them students—won the national Distinguished Performance and Production Ensembles award. Abbott received a national Distinguished Director of a Play award and Teundras Oaks, senior theatre major and the dramaturg (responsible for research on the play), was invited to the national dramaturgy residency at the Kennedy Center in April, one of only four students in the nation.

“It was a long, intensive week, but I met the best people and understood the profession a lot more,” she said.

The residency provided even greater opportunities for Oaks in the future. She was invited back to the Kennedy Center to work at the National New Playwrights Festival in July, and was awarded a scholarship to teach theatre in India in September with Artists Striving to End Poverty, a group that seeks to help underserved people break the cycle of poverty through the arts.

“I know for certain I want to be involved in the theatre one way or another for the rest of my life,” said Oaks. “I love to travel as well, so I am willing to go wherever.” – Doy Cave

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