Ali and Alejandro’s tales from KCACTF!

Here at the ASTEP office, we get to hear the stories and inspiration that come out of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) as soon as our team members come home. This year, we thought we’d give you the opportunity to hear some of these thoughts, as well!

ASTEP’s Alejandro Rodriguez and Ali Dachis are thrilled to share a few of their experiences on the road with you!

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Alejandro Rodriguez’s thoughts from KCACTF Region 6:

Region 6 of this year’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival returned us to “the Other Side” of Louisiana, and to our fabulous hosts at Centenary College in Shreveport. It was great to see some familiar faces among the Centenary crew — the industrious Joe Signorelli, the riotous Victoria Chavis, the cool-headed Clint White and Centenary faculty member/resident wonder-woman Emily Huegatter. Last year, fired up by ASTEP’s mission and spurred on by our exchanges at the 2013 festival, Emily and her students chose to make their production of Moliere’s The Miser a fundraiser for ASTEP, and sent all their proceeds to us in New York. This year, I got to thank them in person. They were once again impeccable hosts.

ASTEP had another major assist in Region 6 from a young woman I met in Shreveport last year and who a few months later was volunteering with us at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy in Brooklyn, New York, as a KCACTF / ASTEP Scholarship Recipient: Ms. Molly Page. Molly spoke about her experiences in both of our workshops this year, and galvanized her peers with her stories. We can’t thank you enough, Molly. (Region 6 has been a blessing to ASTEP on many fronts — it’s also where we met Ms. Kelcie Miles, who volunteered with us in Homestead last summer and travelled to India shortly thereafter!)

Conversations were initiated with faculty members about exposing their students more directly to ASTEP’s work— with David Blakely from Rogers State University, Pablo Guerra-Monje from University of Arkansas Fort Smith, and David Lee Painter of the University of Idaho, among others— and we met several students excited about the prospect of volunteering in the very near future. Our Time to Make a Change workshop was on Friday afternoon and it got so charged that it actually ended in hugs for some and tears of inspiration for others. The Living Outside the Box workshop was on Saturday and it filled the room with 20+ students eager to talk about what it might mean to live fruitfully as an artist in America today. On top of this, I got to see my dear friends at the University of Oklahoma (Kelcie’s alma mater) in a riveting production of Miss Evers’ Boys by David Feldshuh, a play I hadn’t been familiar with before but that now I won’t forget easily. Throughout the week, we were treated to festivities and comforts of every sort, all with a distinctly Louisiana flavor to them. Ask anyone who knows her, they’ll you Region 6’s chair Joy Pace knows how to throw a party.

I’ve already received several follow-up emails from students I met in Louisiana. I can’t wait to carry forward these important conversations. In a region that, for us, has such beautiful roots, I can’t wait to see which new flowers will bloom.

 

Ali Dachis’s thoughts from KCACTF Regions 4 and 5:

My time at KCACTF could not have been more wonderful and inspiring! I did not know exactly what to expect being with college students, and I was fearful because I thought that those making their transition from teens to twenties would be full of judgment and doubt. Instead, I was met with open arms by everyone at Region 4 (Roanoke, Virginia) and Region 5 (Lincoln, Nebraska). Faculty treated me like one of their own, but it was the students who really blew me away with their eagerness to learn and think about the world as artists in new ways. I was thrilled to share my first workshop Living Outside the Box in Lincoln Nebraska with 22 students and teachers as we talked about how our skills can serve more than just a career. Some really interesting questions arrived: How can we make social change with the talents we have? How can we exist as artists as well as healthy human beings? How can we give back to the world with our art? I left inspired by the exchange of so much positive energy. In Region 4 this particular workshop was smaller, but just as powerful. The students brought their honesty and hearts to the workshop and we explored what it means to be more than just one thing, or what it is to live outside ‘the box.’

The Time to make a Change workshop really delved into what it is to experience change and how we feel before and after a major change in our lives.  In both Regions 4 and 5 I was happily surprised by how openly everyone shared. Both vulnerability and respect were present in a room full of strangers. How lovely, how rare! From there we were able to make plans for how we wanted to change our personal communities for the better. Not only did everyone come up with amazing ideas; I was inspired by the compassion and drive within each and every person in the room. We all left with an eagerness to build a stronger community where we live.

In the midst of all of this, I was able to see some awesome work as a judge for the Irene Ryan competitions, and a respondent for several shows and invited scenes. I also was lucky enough to find some time to take a Pilates workshop, a Yoga workshop, a D’ell Arte workshop, and a Broadway Cares workshop (also full of amazing ideas for change). All in all this exhausting, packed, lovely week left me excited and inspired for the future.