This past J-term, Taylor Theatre was invited to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival from January 11th to 15th at the University of Michigan-Flint at Flint, MI to perform their production of “The Birds.”
The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival showcases the finest in university theatre across the nation. Through eight regional festivals plus the national festival in Washington, D.C., the festival celebrates artistic excellence and offers students individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, dramatic criticism, theatre management, directing and design.
Taylor Theatre performed “The Birds” by Conor McPherson at the festival. The play is an adaptation for the stage by McPherson of the book by Daphne du Maurier - a gripping, unsettling, and moving look at human relationships in the face of societal collapse. In an isolated house, strangers Nat and Diane take shelter from relentless masses of attacking birds. They find relative sanctuary but not comfort or peace; there’s no electricity, little food, and a nearby neighbor may still be alive and watching them. Another refugee, the young and attractive Julia, arrives with some news of the outside world, but her presence also brings discord. Their survival becomes even more doubtful when paranoia takes hold of the makeshift fortress — an internal threat to match that of the birds outside.
Taylor’s performance was greeted with a highly responsive crowd of theatre students. “The audience there was so vibrant, so loud, and it was really interesting,” junior Ronnie Jackson said. “It felt like I was watching a movie and everybody was rooting for a certain character.”
The viewers were in stark contrast to Taylor University's usually demure audience. Taylor Theatre’s sets were the talk of the festival, with their design and execution setting a high bar for other schools to compete with.
“The Birds” was one of various plays at the festival that grappled with questions about humanity. The plays portrayed grief, processing death, women’s rights, the treatment of women in the workforce and what true beauty means.
Over 30 Taylor Theatre students, faculty, and staff attended the festival with at least 15 students participating in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition, the Musical Theatre Intensive, and the Dramaturgy, Design and Playwriting competitions.
Senior Megan Arnone participated in set design alongside designers and carpenters from various colleges. Senior Caroline Gilmer created a devised theatre piece with students from various universities too, and won an award for it.
Senior Eleana Manning made it to the final rounds of the Irene Ryan competition and Jackson was asked to be on the student council for the festival.
“All of the different aspects and elements of theatre really came to life at Kennedy and was really applauded,” Jackson said. “And to see how intricately and beautifully they work together to make something beautiful is a testament to how Taylor builds students.”
Coming up next for Taylor Theatre is ‘Macbeth.’ Shakespeare wrestles with core questions that all of us deal with. Questions such as, “How far are you willing to go to get what you want?” and “Who should I lean on?” and “Is power really that important?” are all discussed and explored in this upcoming play.