ASC theatre students win major regional awards


Three Adams State College theatre majors won top awards in the five-state regional Rock Mountain Theatre Association Festival in January. The festival was held in Lakewood, Colo.

Three juniors, Elizabeth Tantanella, Heather Wilder, and Emily Stiles, competed against students from Metro State, Western State, Fort Lewis, and other colleges in the region. Tantanella received top honor for best actor and Wilder was chosen as the best acting partner. Stiles won the design competition with her display of her makeup work for the fall production of the "Grand Guignol."

Tantanella, who most recently played Cinderella, won the best acting partner last year. "I was not expecting to win," Tantanella said. "As long as Adams State won, I would have been happy. To receive the award myself was amazing."

Wilder transferred to Adams State at the beginning of her junior year. "I was honored to be chosen," she said. "It was not in my mind to receive an award. I wanted to make Adams State proud and support my partners as best I could."

Stiles spent hours researching Gothic art and architecture, and Victorian vampires, when she designed the makeup for the "Grand Guignol" production last fall. For the competition she presented photos, original drawings and gave a Power Point presentation. "As I was designing the makeup for the production last fall, our department's photographer took photos of the process and prosthetics," she said.

All three award winners credited the Adams State Theater Department for their success. Stiles said Jim Willis, instructor of theater, worked closely with her when she was creating the make-up for "Grand Guignol."

"In my college career I have never known such complete understanding as the professors here demonstrate," Wilder said. "I have found a home here."

Tantanella is double majoring in theater and English. "The professors are always willing to give me a lot of individual support," she said. "They stop what they are doing and focus on you."

Besides memorizing lines for the competition, the students also attended rehearsals, rebuilt the set, and relearned their parts for "Good," the Adams State's Theater spring 2007 production, directed by Dr. Paul Newman, program director of theatre.

"Last year Metro State College Theater Department performed a play for the conference, and the day after they were swamped with prospective student inquiries," Newman said. He said he recognized the recruitment potential in producing a play at the conference.

"I approached Provost Michael Mumper to see about recruitment money to produce "Good” during the conference," Newman said. "He was able to find the funding."

Theater students show dedication to their craft in many ways, including accepting acting positions in major productions requiring hours of rehearsal time, and performances scheduled a week prior to finals. Bringing "Good" back was a demonstration of their commitment.

"All the musicians and actors from "Good" were coming back in the fall, except for the lead, Danny Durkin (May 2007 graduate)," Newman said. "When I approached the cast with the idea, they were all enthused. Danny said he would come back from wherever he was."

As soon as the last curtain fell on the fall 2007 production, "Cinderella," also directed by Newman, the cast and crew "struck" the set and began rebuilding "Good." "We had to cut apart the scenery to fit in a U-Haul truck, rent the costumes and begin rehearsals," Newman said. "The students came back from break early."

After a whirlwind of rehearsals and set building, theater students and professors left for Lakewood. The show was performed at the Lakewood Cultural Center. "The theater is a beautiful place," Newman said. "We performed before three hundred colleagues, community college and high school students and teachers. The play was wonderful. All the performers and grown in depth and maturity. Danny was incredible. We bowled people over."

Their hard-work was justified the next day when the Adams State booth was surrounded by prospective students wanting more information about the program. "It was great exposure," Newman said. "The teachers in the audience were so excited by what they saw. Now they can pass our name along to their students."

The three award winners took home cash prizes. "It is good to establish a presence at the festival. I am just thrilled." Newman said.

Bothe Kretsinger and Jared Williams, senior theatre majors, also made it to the finals in the acting competition. Adams State has won the best actor award six out of the last nine years. And this year was the second year students took home both the best actor and best partner.

On the Web...

By Linda Relyea