Theatre students perform at Los Angeles festival

Theatre 260 students stage the play, A Walking Shadow, on campus last fall – Casey Sinclaire

This year, for the first time ever, a theatre show from Hawai‘i takes the stage at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), a national theatre program that involves 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide.

A Walking Shadow, directed and written by WCC theatre lecturer Taurie Kinoshita and performed by WCC theatre students, was chosen to perform at the KCACTF Region VIII Festival, taking place in Los Angeles, California, from Feb. 12 through Feb. 16. Of the roughly 200 schools in KCACTF Region VIII, only a handful are chosen to perform at the festival; productions that are chosen showcase the finest of each region.

The play, which was staged by THEA 260 students on campus last fall, depicts the true story of Myles Fukunaga, a young, severely mentally ill Japanese teen who is driven to commit an atrocious crime and disproportionately sentenced to death in one of the most unjust criminal cases in the history of Hawai‘i.

 The chance to perform A Walking Shadow for agents and top four-year drama school recruiters is a remarkable opportunity for me and the 12 other WCC theatre students in the production.

“ … it’s not every day that we get to meet so many other people who do the same thing as us in one place,” said WCC student and actor Spencer McCarrey. “The fact that the show is going is inspiring to me, because I have seen the type of theatre put on at the festival. It’s very good, and we’re very good, so the festival made the right choice. The fact that our teachers have campaigned so much to make it possible financially for all of us to go is crucial, and that’s probably what I find the most inspiring: the lengths they’ll go to provide opportunities for their students.”

Not every college theatre program is a member of the over 700-school KCACTF network. The roster of participating schools primarily consists of four-year universities and conservatoires. Since so much work is involved, schools must choose to be members because they want to provide the best opportunity for their students. Here at WCC, along with the best drama schools on the mainland, we have that opportunity to be part of KCACTF.

The festival’s goals include encouraging, recognizing and celebrating the finest work produced in college theatre programs, providing opportunities for participants to develop their theatre skills and insight and achieve professionalism, and encouraging colleges to give distinguished productions of plays. Students in attendance can participate in a wide range of activities, including workshops, symposia and regional-level scholarship and award programs for directing, devising, design, theatre advocacy, journalism and stage management, among many other programs.

In addition to performing A Walking Shadow, six of WCC’s theatre students will compete in the prestigious Irene Ryan Award Acting competition. Jae An, Alaka’i Cunningham, Mikie Davidson, Jessica Jusseaume, Noah Schuetz and myself will perform two scenes and a monologue during the first two days of the festival.

Last month, we began constantly rehearsing the scenes and remount of our show. When I think back to my first theatre class at WCC with Nicolas Logue, I had no idea it would lead me to becoming an Irene Ryan Scholarship participant and invited production performer at one of the biggest theatre festivals in the nation. My fellow performers are also excited.

“I’m enthralled to be able to attend the festival,” said Mikie Davidson. “Getting to meet and learn from other amazing theatre people attending is really going to be a once and a lifetime experience.”

Alaka’i Cunningham added, “If we never saw theatre off the island, it would impact our learning. Instead, through WCC, we can study abroad and attend this renowned festival—the education benefits from interacting outside your limited locale are indescribably profound.”          

by Daphnei Hussein, Special to Ka ‘Ohana