Madeline Campbell wins award for her program note at ASTF com­pe­tition. Madeline Campbell | Courtesy

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.’”