Seven Ouachita Baptist University students competed in the recent Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship auditions at the Region VI Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival in Amarillo, Texas. Two of those students, Heather Baker and Michael Krikorian, advanced to the competition’s semi-final round.
A total of 184 students were nominated from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. “Throughout the calendar year, universities and colleges across the nation enter hundreds of productions to participate in or associate with the Kennedy Center’s theatre festival,” said Mary Handiboe, OBU associate professor of theatre arts. “From each production, two or three outstanding actors are nominated to participate in the respective region’s Irene Ryan acting competition.”
Baker, a senior musical theatre major from Cleburne, Texas, was nominated for her work in Goldilocks on Trial along with Heather White, a freshman musical theatre major from Houston, Texas. Krikorian, a senior musical theatre major from Rockwall, Texas, was chosen as the acting partner for Baker and White. Baker and Krikorian’s advancement to the semi-final round placed them among the top 32 pairs in the region.
“This is a difficult cut to make, especially since they were competing against several graduate students,” Handiboe said.
“It was such an honor to be selected for the second round,” Krikorian said. “To make the cut from 180 groups down to 32, it’s a big deal. I just was honored to be able to compete at that level.”
The student actors dedicate a significant amount of time to prepare for the competition. “The Irene Ryan nominees must prepare two contrasting scenes and a monologue,” Baker explained. “Selecting this material takes a lot of research and reading to find what selections will best showcase your talent and ability. It is so important for actors to build the habit of reading plays in order to be well versed in their field.”
“The Irene Ryan competition betters students in the sense that it gives them a chance to explore themselves through the characters that they play,” noted White, the only freshman representing Ouachita. “The two scenes required for the competition had to be contrasting, so it gave us all a chance to find bits of ourselves in completely opposite characters and situations.”
Other Ouachita students who competed were Jody Lee, a senior theatre arts major from Arlington, Texas, and Katie Willhite, a junior theatre arts and Christian studies double major from Rowlett, Texas, who were nominated for their work in Six Characters in Search of an Author. Greg Schwartz, a senior theatre arts and mass communications double major from Texarkana, Texas, served as their acting partner. Cortnee Stewart, a junior theatre arts major and recent transfer student from Ward, Ark., also participated as an acting partner for a student from Arkansas State University at Beebe.
Two Ouachita alumni, Jonathan White and Bob Stevenson, were also honored at the festival. One of White’s 10-minute plays was given a concert reading during the festival and was then nominated to be considered for presentation during the national festival at the Kennedy Center in April. White is currently a graduate student in playwriting at the University of New Orleans. Stevenson’s production of Awake and Sing was one of six productions selected to perform at the regional level. Stevenson currently serves as director of theatre at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
For more information, contact Mary Handiboe at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-4157.
By Meg Gosser