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!



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.

Now announcing…The 2014 ASTEP Artist as Citizen Conference!

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June 2 – June 6, 2014


The Juilliard School, NYC

The ASTEP Artist as Citizen Conference is a four-day immersive retreat for young leaders in the performing and visual arts who have recognized the power art has to transform communities. The 2014 Conference will draw on ASTEP’s diverse community of supporters, partners and volunteers, as well as on New York City’s incomparable resources, to expose students to professionals in the fields of arts education, applied theater, and social practice art. Application deadline is May 15.*


$300 Participation Fee Includes:

Housing in the Juilliard dorms

NYC MetroCard

Meal Stipend

One Broadway Show

Six Workshops

Three Keynote Speakers

Two Roundtable Discussions

Apply Now!


 *Must be 18-25 years old to apply.
Applications received before May 1 are eligible for scholarship consideration.


Are you interested in our conference but couldn’t make the full four-day immersion work out? Below are three options that might give you an opportunity to participate after all!

1. Full Non-Resident Pass $200
Did you want to commit to the full range of conference activities, but couldn’t stay overnight with us at Juilliard for some reason? The non-resident pass gives you access to all four days of conference activities, from 9 AM to 6 PM, including three wake up sessions, three real talk speakers, six ASTEP workshops, and more. (Housing, meals, and evening entertainments not included.)

2. Single Day Pass $125
Are you leaving town mid-week, or is there one day of conference programming you especially want to take advantage of? A day pass grants you access to all conference activities from 10 AM to 6 PM, and includes all guest artist workshops, real talk sessions, ASTEP workshops, panel and roundtable discussions. (Housing, meals, wake up sessions, and evening entertainments not included.)

3. A La Carte Pass $35
Is there one speaker or event you’ve got your eye on in particular? Though some elements of the conference will remain exclusive to fellows and/or holders of day passes, several of our workshops will be available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. These include: Real Talk Sessions, the Artist Roundtable on June 3rd, the Citizenship Panel Discussion on June 4th, and several others.

Please contact Davinia Troughton, with your inquiries and interest. Just tell her who you are and which pass you’re interested in, and she’ll be happy to register you and arrange payment accordingly.

Second year partnering with The Kennedy Center!

ASTEP is thrilled to partner for a second year with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, to enhance the quality of college theater in the United States. ASTEP will be leading two workshops, “Artist as Citizen” and “Devising with ASTEP”, and joining a prestigious panel of judges for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. (Check out our 2012 experience!)

Artist as Citizen

Do you believe in the power of Art to transform communities? This interactive workshop will focus on how we can delve beyond our technical training to harness our collective power and begin to build a space where everyone’s stories can be heard. Together, we will explore how we can use our craft as a means of ensuring the strength of our communities, our culture, and the future of the American theater. Come and reclaim ownership of your own artistic fulfillment.

Devising with ASTEP

ASTEP artists live at the intersection of the Arts and Global Justice. In this workshop, we’ll be building original pieces of Devised Theater using ASTEP’s unique process-oriented approach. Drawing from your own personal experiences and ideas, a few inspiring prompts, and techniques for devising that an ASTEP facilitator will guide you through, participants will create pieces around a common theme.


We’re mid-way through the festival! Sharing updates from each of the eight regions visited so far are returning ASTEP team members:

Abby Gerdts, ASTEP’s Director of International Programs

* Saginaw Valley State University – Region 3 highlights

* American River College – Region 7 highlights


Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP’s Director of Domestic Programs

* University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Region 5 highlights

* Cape Cod Community College – Region 1 highlights

* Los Angeles Theater Center – Region 8 highlights


Nick Dalton, ASTEP Volunteer

* Towson University – Region 2 highlights

* Darton College – Region 4 highlights


Alejandro Rodriguez, an ASTEP Volunteer Artist

* Centenary College of Louisiana – Region 6 highlights


Congratulations, Annika Sheaff and Alejandro Rodriguez!

At ASTEP, we strive to cultivate a community of artists who use their gifts to inspire youth. In order to continue providing ongoing personal and professional development opportunities for our volunteers, we have launched the first A Step Towards Empowering Artists Scholarship for ASTEP volunteers.

We know how important it is for an artist to have the time and space to explore their practice and experience meaningful exchanges or immersions. Partnering with SPACE on Ryder Farm, the A Step Towards Empowering Artist Scholarship will award two 5-day 4-night residencies with a goal of supporting socially conscious artistic endeavors. These endeavors include creation processes, residencies, exploration or research, exhibits, and performances. The residency will provide each artist with room, board, working space, and artistic support from Ryder Farm faculty for the 5-day 4-night stay.

ASTEP received an impressive set of applications, which had to focus on the scholarship’s 2012 theme: Overcoming Discrimination Through Art. After careful evaluation, ASTEP is thrilled to announce the 2012 A Step Towards Empowering Artists Scholarship recipients: Annika Sheaff and Alejandro Rodriguez.


Annika Sheaff

Annika: I am thrilled to receive such a great residency! As an emerging choreographer some of the biggest challenges are finding space and time to work on a new creation. ASTEP is awarding me with 30 hours of time to work in the studio with the dancers of my choice! I could not be more excited! This is the most precious gift; I can’t wait to get my feet wet and dive into a new piece about “Overcoming Discrimination”. ASTEP’s belief in me is encouraging and this space grant will help me further my choreographic career. Thank You ASTEP!!


Alejandro Rodriguez

Alex: The common misconception about the work I do with ASTEP is that it’s entirely selfless. Sure, I think there’s a certain spirit of generosity that fuels our efforts, but I have always received much more than I’ve given. The young people I’ve met, and the artists I’ve gotten to work with, have given me new perspectives and provided me with the inspiration for many characters I’ve played and pieces I’ve written. Now, with the A Step Towards Empowering Artists Scholarship, I get to to take that exchange to a whole new level.

When I learned I’d been awarded a residency at SPACE on Ryder Farm, I was ecstatic. It’s hard to put into words what this opportunity means to me. Like many of us who volunteer for ASTEP, I’m a freelancing artist. As such, I spend a lot of my time in waiting rooms, knocking politely at the doors of the commercial theater, hoping the gatekeepers might let me into play for a while. And, I imagine like most of us, I end up feeling like my Vision cannot be accommodated by the studios at Ripley Grier, or even by some of the beautiful theaters I’ve been lucky enough to play in. My art is for the World; and yet, as a young artist I end up fumbling with it, awkwardly, growing increasingly insecure as I put it on display for strangers to praise or criticize. What ASTEP and SPACE have blessed me with is an opportunity to find stability, and to spend some time in relationship to my own Voice and to my own stories, many of which have been culled from the rich experiences I’ve had on ASTEP sites.

Will I create something that lasts? Who knows. Will I never have to audition for casting directors ever again? Certainly I will. But for a moment, however fleeting, I will feel like an Artist. And, in the final wash, that is the greatest and most transformative gift that ASTEP gives its volunteers: the feeling of actually being what you told your mom you were moving to New York to become.

Thank you ASTEP. I hope our friendship lasts a lifetime.

ASTEP and The Kennedy Center. Promoting college theater nationwide.

ASTEP has been working with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 2012 (KCACTF), a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, to enhance the quality of college theater in the United States.

From January-February 2012, ASTEP’s four representatives–Nick Dalton, Abby Gerdts, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Mauricio Salgado–have been presenting and running master classes at each of the eight KCACTF regional schools and at the National Festival in April 2012:

To get updates and video of their experiences, check out the links below.

Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.


The goals of the KCACTF are to:

  • Encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs.
  • Provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight; achieve professionalism.
  • Improve the quality of college and university theater in America.
  • Encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, especially those written by students; the classics, revitalized or newly conceived; and experimental works.


Abby Gerdts, ASTEP’s Director of International Programs, sharing updates from the KCACTF Region 3 at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaignand KCACTF Region 7 at Colorado State University


Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP’s Director of Domestic Programs, sharing updates from the KCACTF Region 2 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and KCACTF Region 1 at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts



Alejandro Rodriguez, an ASTEP Volunteer Artist, sharing updates from the KCACTF Region 8 at Weber State University in Utah and KCACTF Region 6 at University of Oklahoma School of Drama.