BVU's "Woman Wonder" to Compete for Kennedy Center American College Theatre Honor & National Playwriting Award

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STORM LAKE, IA (01/16/2018) (readMedia)-- Buena Vista University (BVU) Theatre's production of "Woman Wonder" has been selected to be performed at the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) 50 in Des Moines. BVU is the only university in Iowa to be invited to compete at the coveted competition.

The BVU cast will perform the play on Jan. 25 at the Hoyt Sherman Place Theater in front of spectators and KCACTF representatives, who will evaluate every aspect of the production, including set-up, take down, and overall production and performance. The play was initially performed on BVU's campus in Storm Lake in November, where KCACTF representatives were also present.

"It is a tremendous honor to be invited to the KCACTF," said Dr. Bethany Larson, professor of theatre at BVU. "Theatre takes a lot of work, so it's not worth the effort if you're not doing it well. That is why we strive for excellence all the time. This opportunity is affirmation that our theatre department is getting it right, and that our students, many of whom are not even theatre majors, can achieve great things through the program."

The production was just one of seven nominated from the KCACTF Region 5, which includes all levels of college theatres in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. The play is in competition with the other regional shows and the other seven national regions for the KCACTF top honors, which will be handed out this spring. This is the first time a BVU Theatre production has ever been selected for the honor. The last time the department came close to earning a spot at the regional KCACTF was back in 2006.

"It's a privilege to be put up against much larger schools who have access to more resources than we do," said David Walker, assistant professor of theatre and director of theatre productions at BVU. "We are very efficient with what we have, and it's a pleasure to see our department and our students reap the benefits of hard work and dedication."

"Woman Wonder" explores what it is to be a woman in today's world. Through stories ranging from the beautiful to the tragic, the play affirms the resiliency of women. Larson directs the production, while Walker designs lights and scenery.

"We purposefully choose to do shows that matter and that we think will advance the appreciation of theatre," said Larson.

Since the Hoyt Sherman Place Theater is much larger than what the cast is used to performing in, they are rehearsing in Schaller Memorial Chapel on BVU's campus to prepare specifically for voice projection and reach. The crew is also adapting the set, lighting, and projections for the venue.

"This experience has been a steep learning curve for our team," said Walker. "I've traveled across the nation and worked on shows in a variety of different settings, but this opportunity in particular is a fun challenge that is stretching us in ways we haven't been tasked before."

In addition to being invited to perform at the KCACTF, the "Woman Wonder" script – written by seven BVU professors – has been nominated for the prestigious David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award.

The award – which is presented in an effort to promote new plays while honoring the memory of David Mark Cohen, professor of playwriting at the University of Texas-Austin – is intended to provide incentive to college theatre departments to foster the development of playwrights through the public presentations of unpublished full-length plays or a collection of shorter works that have not received a professional production.

"We are grateful for the depth of response we've received," said Larson, who is one of the authors of "Woman Wonder." "Productions need to make a difference in the lives of others, and this play in particular is very timely in today's society."

The remaining authors of "Woman Wonder" include: Jamii Claiborne, associate professor of digital media; Dr. Annamaria Formichella-Elsden, professor of English and dean of the School of Communication & Arts; Dr. Andrea Frantz, professor of digital media; Dr. Callé Friesen, assistant professor of education; Dr. Wind Goodfriend, professor of experimental psychology and assistant dean of graduate studies; and Miranda Pollock, assistant professor of graphic design.

The BVU cast, crew, and designers of "Woman Wonder" include:

• Hannah Barnes, a first year theatre and media performance major from Omaha, Neb.

• Kristen Charette, a sophomore political science major from Tipton

• Skylar Finch, a junior arts management and Spanish double major from Polk City

• Dernisha Hoover, a sophomore communication studies and theatre double major from Bellwood, Ill.

• Stacey Rosener, a first year communication studies major from Vail

• Christina Spillman, a first year theatre and media performance and digital media double major from Sarasota, Fla.

• London Van Horbeck, a sophomore physics major from Cedar Rapids

• Chance Johnson, a senior theatre major from Nashua

• Katelyn Bohaty, a senior theatre and digital media double major from Wahoo, Neb.

• Dalton Walker, a first year history and political science double major from Storm Lake

• Melissa Graf, a sophomore Spanish and graphic design major from Center Point

• Cole Hackbarth, a junior English and theatre double major from Spirit Lake

• Regina Appleby, a sophomore elementary education major from Iowa City

• Abigail Daly, a senior computer science major from Waukee

• Ciera Fergen, a junior theatre major from Spirit Lake

• Justin Forkpa, a first year theatre and biomedical sciences double major from Urbandale

• Deidree Friesen, a senior digital media major from Storm Lake

• Zachary Hess, a sophomore digital media major from Ankeny

• Romelo Salas, a junior arts management – theatre major from Evergreen, Colo.

• Tara Smith, a sophomore theatre major from Kansas City, Mo.

• Austin Dean, a senior art major from Dubuque

• Noah Bardwell, a junior music production and technology major from De Soto

• Connor Essary, a senior business and Spanish double major from Davenport

• Diane Nusbaum, a sophomore music production and technology and business double major from Maquoketa

• Madeleine McCormick, a senior digital media major from Huxley

Those interested in attending the performance can register for single day access to the KCACTF at Registrants can then obtain tickets for the Jan. 25 performance via the Eventbrite app. For questions, please contact Larson at 712.749.2129 or

About Buena Vista University

Since 1891, Buena Vista University has prepared students for lifelong success and blends liberal arts with real-world applications. Our traditional campus on the shores of Storm Lake hosts students in a variety of majors and pre-professional programs, including elementary, secondary, and special education; business and accounting; and biological and chemical sciences. Our 16 degree-completion locations, online, and graduate programs expand student potential with a pace and academic rigor designed for working adults and a variety of class formats that make scheduling even more convenient. With an average scholarship of more than 50 percent off of tuition, BVU is an affordable option for all students. Visit