Hillsdale College theater majors and minors swept the American College Theater Festival in three categories Jan. 8 – 13.
Seniors Emma Trist, Jessica McFarlane, Shiloh Carozza, and Judy Moreno, and junior Madeline Campbell traveled to Wisconsin for the regional ACTF competition.
Trist competed and was selected as a finalist for her set design of “Harun and the Sea of Stories,” an Indian folktale by Salman Rushdie.
“The show stood out to me because the entire purpose of the play is to emphasize the importance of imagination and childhood and creativity,” Trist said. “It is a fantastical story: It goes from earth to this other planet. I had to make the set work for the two places.”
Trist said her design was theoretical, not realized, however she did create several scaled models, paintings, and ground plans to convey her vision to the judges.
“To start out, I came up with a bunch of words that described the show, and then choose one of those to focus the design on,” Trist said. “I chose a kaleidoscope. It was a very colorful design, and had giant oversized pillows over the set, it has three turntables and hydraulic lift incorporated into the design.”
McFarlane competed as a stage manager and director, and she advanced to finals for her direction of a scene from Caryl Churchill’s “Vinegar Tom,” a play about the 16th century witch trials in England. For her presentation, McFarlane wrote a 25-page book about the time, place, and politics that would have affected the play, and also directed a scene which she then presented before a panel of judges at ACTF.
“I learned so much about myself as a director: I realized different places in my process where I could improve. But the most valuable thing was the interviews, because I’d like to go into directing, and I had no idea how to talk about directing and articulate my process for professional directors,” McFarlane said. “This was the first time I had ever had an experience doing that, and now that I am applying for jobs and apprenticeships, it has been invaluable.”
McFarlane was also nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition for her performance in Hillsdale’s production of “Life is a Dream.” At the competition she played Satan from Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” and received positive feedback from the judges.
Campbell competed in dramaturgy. According to Campbell, a dramaturge’s role in a production is to first compile an actor’s packet with information and research which actors should be aware of before beginning the rehearsal process. The dramaturge then creates lobby displays and a program note which provide the audience with the background they need to fully appreciate the show.
Campbell served as dramaturge for Hillsdale’s production of Calderón’s “Life is a Dream,” and submitted her work from that show to the ASTF competition. She won an award for her program note, which was inspired by Diderot’s “Paradox of the Actor,” which first recognized the contradiction of theater.
“Theater is real in the sense that it’s right there and it’s right in front of you, but its not real in the sense that it’s a whole bunch of people telling a story,” Campbell said. “You are just sitting here in this brick building and all of a sudden you are in 1600’s Poland, and there is something magical about that. If you take the time to sit back and think about it and let that wonder and dreamlike notion wash over you, then I think you are in a pretty good place to recognize what Sigismundo is up against in “Life is a Dream.’”