LaGuardia Theater Program’s Production Of ‘Everybody’ to be Featured at KCACTF Region 1 Festival 56
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (December 19, 2023) — Local audiences recently experienced LaGuardia Community College/CUNY’s Theater Program fall production of Everybody, a dark comedy by acclaimed playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for Drama nomination for Everybody.
The production, which ran November 15 – 20, has been selected to be featured in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region 1. The festival will take place January 30 through February 3, at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT, giving different audiences an opportunity to watch LaGuardia’s theatrical artistry first-hand.
James Ryan (J.R.) Caldwell, director of Everybody, worked with Christopher Weston, professor and director of LaGuardia’s Theater Program and Stefanie Sertich, professor of Theater on the fall theater production, and says being invited to perform at the KCACTF Region 1 is a huge honor for LaGuardia students and “a testament to the hard work of both our students and our faculty.”
“The shows are picked by criteria that includes direction, diversity and representation, acting, and production level (among other things),” Professor Caldwell said. “This is a major achievement for our students and faculty because this means their work has the potential to win national awards. This really speaks to the strength of our theatre program, and to the dedication of both teachers and students. It’s not common for any college (to be selected), and it’s extremely competitive! We are one of 6 shows chosen from around 40 productions from colleges and universities in our region (New England) this year.”
Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, the 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.
Through state, regional, and national festivals, KCACTF participants celebrate the creative process, see one another’s work, and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing, and design. KCACTF is a year-round program in eight geographic regions in the United States.
Professor Caldwell says Everybody was a standout production, because of the level dedication and hard work by everyone involved.
“I think our students give exceptionally strong performances in Everybody,” Professor Caldwell said. “I also think our unique rehearsal process has made the show very moving and special. Throughout our process the students shared various stories from their lives about concepts in the play such as friendship, family, love, death, dreams, and memories – all their stories were incorporated into the show through the movement, props, and costumes. It’s my hope that this makes our show a truly unique experience.”
Professor Sertich says when a production is invited to the KCACTF, it means more for the college, the faculty, staff, and students because it’s about the entire show – not just one aspect of the show.
Professor Sertich says it’s a legacy that spans for almost 38 years, when invited productions at the regional level were in consideration to attend the National Festival, which is usually only 150 of the top students. LaGuardia has had past success at the regional and national level. In fact, in 2022 LaGuardia student Analia Heredia represented the college at the ASPIRE Arts Leadership Program at Nationals continuing a tradition of other LaGuardia student actors who performed at the national level.
“It’s a big deal,” said Professor Sertich. “The only two times I’ve taken a show (to the festival) was in 2015 and 2017 (both were my productions.) With J.R. on board, I feel I have a trusted colleague who demands the same level of professionalism and abilities from our students as I do!”
“I truly think it was J.R.’s direction, his approach with the students, and this group of students, makes this production particularly successful,” added Professor Sertich. “J.R. approached this production from a de-colonizing lens, and I think this approach has been extremely inclusive. This group of students, yes, they are talented, but they are particularly kind and generous. Rafael De La Cruz, who plays “Everybody” led the show masterfully.”
In preparation for the festival Professor Caldwell says he looks forward to sharing this experience with the students.
“My hope with any performance is that it strengthens our students’ sense of community,” he said. “Theater is about the connections we make as artists. It’s a huge responsibility to be on stage. It requires sacrifice and vulnerability and the only possible way to do this type of work is to come together as a community that supports each other.
“I hope performing at KCACTF introduces our students to 4-year schools in our region that they can transfer into for the rest of their education,” Professor Caldwell added. “KCACTF is a lot of fun – the students will be meeting all kinds of theatre students from other schools, attending workshops to expand their knowledge, and spending quality time with one another. I hope many wonderful memories are made.”
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LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), a Hispanic-Serving Institution, located in Long Island City, Queens offers more than 50 degrees and certificates, and more than 65 continuing education programs to educate New Yorkers seeking new skills and careers. As an institution of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his advocacy of underserved populations. Since 1971, LaGuardia’s academic programs and support services have advanced the socioeconomic mobility of students while providing them with access to a high quality, affordable college education.