CSU Theatre Students Advance to Kennedy Center Finals

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Three Columbus State University theatre majors won top honors at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 4 recently, qualifying to compete at the national level.

CSU student actors Hill and Habtemariam.

Jessica N. Hill of Fairburn and T.K. Habtemariam of Columbus, both junior theatre performance majors, won top acting honors and $500 scholarships in the region festival competition and will represent Columbus State at the national finals April 19-23 on the Kennedy Center stage in Washington, D.C. Hill and Habtemariam were nominated for their acting in Compañeras, a play that saw its world premiere at CSU last September as the winning work of the Department of Theatre's annual playwriting competition. Compañeras depicts a story of survival and compassion involving seven female political prisoners during Uruguay's "dirty war" of the 1970s.

Dylan G. Bollinger, a senior theatre education major from Murrayville, won the regional festival's Stage Management Award and National Festival Fellowship. He also will represent CSU at the national festival. Additionally, Bollinger placed second in the Barbizon Awards for Theatrical Design Excellence in Lighting Design for his work as lighting designer for the CSU Theatre production of Compañeras.

“I think that we received so many, reflects an unprecedented success for us,” said Larry Dooley, chair of CSU’s Department of Theatre. “We would have considered it quite an accomplishment to have a couple go through (to National Finals), but it is remarkable that we had so many that did. And it’s not just the talent of the students. I think the faculty was very careful in setting up coaching and preparation for them. We are very proud of our students.”

Meg M. Dickens, a senior CSU theatre major from Augusta, was selected as Best Acting Partner in the competition, winning a $250 scholarship.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is a national theatre program involving 18,000 students from more than 600 colleges and universities nationwide whose objective is improving the quality of college theatre in the United States.

The acting awards that went to Hill and Habtemariam include a $500 scholarship from the Irene Ryan Foundation, which awards 19 such scholarships to the top actors in regional competitions. They then compete for two $2,500 scholarships that go to the top actors at the national festival in Washington, D.C. The foundation was established in 1973 by the estate of Ryan, who was one of the few actors to achieve success in film, television, Broadway and vaudeville. She's best remembered as "Granny" on The Beverly Hillbillies and won an Emmy for her portrayal.

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Photo caption: Jessica N. Hill and T.K. Habtemariam, both junior theatre performance majors at Columbus State University, perform a scene from last fall's production of Compañeras.
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