Independent Minds, Working Together

Wooster Students Excel at American College Theatre Festival Regional Competition

David Grunfeld, Chelsea Gillespie, and Ben Pfister led a group of 12 students from The College of Wooster’s Department of Theatre and Dance to an impressive showing at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (Region II) last month (Jan. 10-16) at Towson University in Maryland

February 6, 2013 by John Finn
Students posing at the theatre festival

Representing The College of Wooster at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival last month at Towson University in Maryland were (first row, from left) Patrick McWilliams, David Grunfeld, Colin Martin, Chelsea Gillespie, and Alex Dereix; (second row) Janna Haywood, Erika Daun, Noah Hibbard, and Summit Starr; and (third row) Kent Sprague, Ben Pfister, and Paul Swanson.

WOOSTER, Ohio — David Grunfeld, Chelsea Gillespie, and Ben Pfister led a group of 12 students from The College of Wooster’s Department of Theatre and Dance to an impressive showing at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (Region II) last month (Jan. 10-16) at Towson University in Maryland.

Grunfeld, a senior from Los Angeles, was nominated for an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship for his performance in the play “Las Meninas” (The Maids of Honour) last spring. He and junior partner Janna Haywood advanced to the final round of the competition, “which means he was in a group of only 16,” said Shirley Huston-Findley, associate professor of theatre and dance, who accompanied the group along with Jimmy Noriega, assistant professor of theatre and dance. “That’s a really big deal to be competing with students of all levels, including BFA and MFA performers.”

Joining Grunfeld in receiving nominations for an Irene Ryan Scholarship were Alex Dereix, a junior from Centerville, Ohio, Erika Daun, a sophomore from Brownsburg, Ind., and Noah Hibbard, a first-year from Aurora, Ohio, each of whom performed excerpts from the play “Equus.”

“It was nice to have four students nominated,” said Huston-Findley. “There were more than 270 students representing colleges and universities from Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Northwest New York, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, Washington D.C, West Virginia, and Ohio, so it was a very competitive field.”

Gillespie, a junior from Lewisburg, Pa., excelled in stage management, finishing first in the region for her work on “Equus.” She will advance to the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival’s national event in Washington, D.C., in April.

“While all of our students represented the department and the College very well, Chelsea’s work demonstrated the exceptionally high quality that we strive for here at Wooster,” said Huston-Findley. “Her work really stood out.”

Pfister, a junior from White River Junction, Vt., who was a contestant in the regional stage management competition, finished first for his work on “Las Meninas.” In addition, Paul Swanson, a senior from Franklin, Ky., exhibited his skills in the construction of horse heads for “Equus,” while Kent Sprague, a junior from Dexter, Mich., showcased his work with a lighting design display.

Rounding out the Wooster participants were Patrick McWilliams, a sophomore from Cincinnati, Summit Starr, a first-year from Bowling Green, and Colin Martin, a sophomore from Falls Church, Va., each of whom served as partners for the contestants in the adjudicated sessions.

In addition to the competition, students were able to observe other productions and attend workshops in performance, playwriting, directing, design, and technology, among others. “The experience helped them to further develop their skills and knowledge beyond the walls of the college,” said Huston-Findley. “It was a very productive learning experience, and we couldn’t be more proud of the fine work they demonstrated at the festival.”