Arts & Culture

UK Theatre Students, Faculty Represent at Kennedy Center Regional Festival and Present Virtual Season

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photo of 3 students in Yoon Bae's "(in)VISIBLE 3.12"
headshot photo of Matthew Morse
photo of Sam-Claire Bieber and Haydon Gains standing behind Yoon Bae on lawn in front of Fine Arts Building

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 26, 2021) — Work by several students and faculty from the University of Kentucky Department of Theatre and Dance was recognized at the virtual Region 4 Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival Feb. 4–7, 2021.   

Two of University Research Professor Herman Farrell’s students were selected for the KC/ACTF Ten Minute Play Festival. Out of a total of six student playwrights selected from across the region, two were selected from UK:  

  • Matthew Morse, a chemical engineering and Lewis Honors College senior minoring in theatre from Glen Carbon, Illinois, whose play “Treatment” was developed in the Fundamentals course as his final project; and  

  • Taylor Crumrine, a theatre and musical theatre senior minoring in sociology and creative writing from Westerville, Ohio, whose play “Dear Mom” was developed in the Dramatic Writing: Fundamentals course and presented in the UK Theatre Ten Minute Play Festival last spring (via Zoom).  

Morse’s piece was selected as one of the two national semifinalists from Region IV, one of only 16 in the country, for the Gary Garrison Ten Minute Play Award

This is the second year in a row that two student playwrights have been honored with the juried selection in the Ten Minute Play Festival at KCACTF-Region IV. Last year's attendees, Kelsey Waltermire and Kristen Karem, were also awarded top prizes for their short plays. Kristen Karem won the Gary Garrison Award. 

“The recognition of these theatre students is a testament to the quality training in dramatic writing that students are receiving here in the Department of Theatre and Dance,” Farrell said. 

In addition, productions from this year’s Relevant Creativity Series are garnering acclaim. Assistant Professor Yoon Bae’s “(in)VISIBLE 3.12” earned six award nominations in the following categories:  

  • Allied Design and Technologies: William Arnold (music senior from Lexington)  

  • Faculty Director: Yoon Bae  

  • Student Stage Management: Madeline Bavely (theatre junior from Roswell, Georgia)  

  • Student Director: Sam-Claire Bieber (theatre and dance senior from Georgetown, Kentucky)  

  • Student Choreographer: Sam-Claire Bieber (theatre and dance senior)  

  • Student Scenic Design: Haydon Gaines (interiors senior and theatre minor from Nicholasville, Kentucky)  

The title “(in)VISIBLE 3.12” reflects and explores what happened to the “space” in theatre and our lives beginning March 12, 2020. Bae's work begins by asking about our perception of performance, of the physical and mental distances between humans and the connection we have with each other. “(in)VISIBLE 3.12” has been shown at San Diego Repertory Theatre in California and by Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth, Texas. 

This semester, Bae and her students are working on “(in)VISIBLE 365,” to mark one year of lock down by March 12, 2021. 

“I started with ‘Sieze the moment, theatremakers — we’ll regret not doing what we can today’ by Lyn Gardner which is an inspiration for ‘(in)VISIBLE 365,’” Bae explained. 

“Better Maybe,” by Obie Award-winning writer Caridad Svich and directed by UK lecturer Stephen Wrentmore, will be presented at the festival as a special guest production. The students in the work were directed remotely and recorded all the content themselves on their phones. The work was produced as a part of the A Play At Home initiative of the Fornes Institute to support and develop plays during the pandemic. It has been shared by Amphibian Stage in Forth Worth, Texas, as well. 

"I call the piece a love song to theatre," Wrentmore said. "I think it is optimistic and a powerful message of hope." 

“(in)VISIBLE 3.12” and “Better Maybe” are part of UK Theatre and Dance’s Relevant Creativity Series, the department’s response to being artists in this unprecedented time when theaters and performance venues are shuttered due to COVID-19. Other pieces in the series include a musical theatre review “Pasek & Paul” and the recording of October’s live dance concert “Once Vacant: Bodies in Motion...Still.” All of these recordings are available on the UK College of Fine Arts Vimeo account with more in the works. 

“These wildly creative projects offer a substitute to a traditional season,” UK Theatre and Dance Chair Tony Hardin said. “It gives our students an outlet for their voices to be heard and talents to be seen outside of the classroom. Working within the constraints of COVID mitigation protocols, the art, craft, and discipline of theatre and dance are still happening in our department.” 

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country. The Region 4 festival includes nine states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  

The Department of Theatre and Dance, part of UK College of Fine Arts, is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Theatre. Students in the department get hands-on training and one-on-one mentorship from professional theatre and dance faculty and renowned guest artists in acting, directing, playwriting, theatrical design and technology, and dance. From mainstage productions to student-produced shows, students have plenty of opportunities to participate on stage or backstage. Special programs include a musical theatre certificate, education abroad, as well as a thriving dance program that emphasizes technique, composition, performance and production.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.