UTC’s Theatre department was well represented at this year’s regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Charleston, South Carolina; but Freshman Alex Durham stole the show when she was named for two distinguished honors: first place in sound design for her work in Our Town and the prestigious Don Childs Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas Award.
Representatives from the Kennedy Center travel all across America visiting shows and nominate aspects of the productions to the KCACTF. Even receiving a nomination is a huge honor. UTC student nominations for KCACTF included:
Irene Ryan Award
- Jake Zachary (Our Town)
- Maya Abram (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark)
National Costume Design
- Samantha Johnson (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark)
National Lighting Design
- Reid Austin (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Arms and the Man)
National Sound Design
- Terrance Harpley (Arms and the Man)
- Alex Durham (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark)
National Stage Management
- Josiah Motok (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark)
- Joseph Ellison (Arms and the Man)
“Sound design is not a field that a lot of people are in, even fewer women. I was the only female sound designer who was there.” Durham said, “So it was a little intimidating, especially because I was the youngest. Normally Freshmen don’t get to design, but UTC has tons of opportunities for Freshmen–if you’re motivated, you can do it.”
Durham explained that nominees present their work to a panel of judges at the festival. After the presentation there is a talk-back session where judges can learn more about the individual’s design process. Throughout the festival, judges also keep their eyes open for one stand-out individual glowing with potential. Only one individual is chosen per region, but they can be working in a number of stagecraft specialties.
“Honestly I was not paying attention at all during the award ceremony because nobody else had won anything and they were all older than me. I was the only Freshman there and so we were all kind of thinking, ‘nobody’s going to really win anything, but this is a fun experience.’ So I was not paying attention at all and they were talking about this new award that they were giving out called the Don Child’s award and basically it is for a promising, upcoming designer; it’s all of the fields–who do they think is the most promising? Who do they want to give a chance to have an internship at the Stagecraft Institute, which is in Las Vegas. So I was thinking to myself, ‘okay, this has nothing to do with me,’ because there were so many designers there; and then they called my name,” Durham said.
This particular award provides a full tuition grant, housing, and meals for the winner to attend the Stagecraft Institute over the summer.
Durham’s passion for theater began in high school. She pinpoints her theater teacher at Signal Mountain High School, John Lennon, as her inspiration to pursue the art.
Once she became involved in the theatre department at UTC, she knew this was where she belonged.
“As soon as I joined the theatre department it was, boom, this is the place for me. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Durham concluded, “There are so many opportunities here if you just make yourself do it.”