On January 26, three BMCC theatre majors; Sean-Davide Richardson, Jacquellyn Collier and Christian Cordova, took the MetroNorth train to Danbury, Connecticut with their professor, Lori Kee.
They were headed to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) at Western Connecticut State University, where they took part in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions along with 225 other college students from the region.
Student participants in the festival performed a 3-minute preliminary audition piece, and some went on to present a 5-minute semi-final and 6-minute final audition scene — all in front of an audience including their peers, professors and KCACTF “selectors,” professional theatre artists not affiliated with the performers’ particular college or university.
BMCC student actors Richardson and Collier took the stage with classmate Cordova as their scene partner, and while they weren’t among the two national winners of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, they gained valuable experience performing outside the comfort zone of BMCC’s theatre community.
They also met aspiring actors and peers from schools such as Boston College, University of New Hampshire, SUNY New Paltz, and other CUNY community colleges including Kingsborough, Hostos and LaGuardia.
This exciting opportunity began in Spring 2015, when Thomas Rothacker, Chair of both the Kennedy Center Responders and Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship audition, attended the BMCC theatre production, The Fairly Tale Project, directed by Lori Kee.
“After the show, the students who worked on the production, the faculty director, even the playwright was there, and we had a 45-minute session in which I responded to their work,” says Rothacker.
That was also when he nominated Richardson and Collier, actors from that production, to attend the Danbury festival auditions. “What the KCACTF experience really does is force students to prepare professionally polished audition material,” says Rothacker.
“The students get to meet theatre professors from four-year schools and BFA programs, and it opens up opportunities for them outside of their own school,” adds Professor Kee. “Sean [Richardson] ended up getting cast in the Kennedy Center production of No Second Chance by Patrick McCarthy. There were eight to 10 original plays with auditions at the conference and less than 30 parts available, so this was a big deal for him.”
Richardson says he was also able to take workshops “ranging from Tap Class to Stage Combat. We also had some method acting classes on the Meisner and Suzuki techniques, and classes on Study Aboard programs at conservatories overseas as well as the business side of being an actor.”
Fellow student actor Cordova adds, “The festival introduced me to a different side of myself. Being surrounded by people who are just as passionate about theatre as I am was the most inspiring feeling I have ever felt.”
During the auditions, she says, “I discovered I actually have a singing voice and I can dance, but I just have to practice more. I met great professionals who were extremely patient and encouraging. All in all, the experience was amazing. I want to thank each and everyone who made this happen.”