Making a Scene: T-Bird Wins Kennedy Center Competition

Published: May 25, 2011 | Category: Academics

At the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival regional competition last February, Southern Utah University student Britannia Bahr Howe awed spectators with a theatre piece she directed – earning the senior classical acting and education major the opportunity to compete in the Kennedy Center’s national competition in Washington, D.C.

Howe chose a scene from Jim Leonard’s “Anatomy of Gray” and asked SUU students Justin Carter, Tony Carter, MacKenzie Pedersen and Kaitlin Woolley to appear in it.

Working diligently over the next two months, Howe approached the national competition with the same wit and zeal she has time and again used to inspire her peers and cast members, and in the end, she came out victorious with the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Directing Award – the highest directing honor bestowed in the national competition.

Howe was up against seven other collegiate competitors from across the nation.

And though they were, technically, pitted against one another, she said “It didn’t really feel like a competition at all – just a budding friendship with some really great people.”

Looking ahead, Howe is excited for a future that seems all the more real thanks to the affirming accolades from the very best in the field.

“I learned so much about my future options as a stage director,” said Howe, “It was really exciting and refreshing to see that there were so many intelligent and creative future leaders of theatre in the same room – and to know that I belonged there too.”

In addition to receiving a scholarship to help fund an observership or internship at a theater of her choosing, Howe’s top nod also earned her associate membership into SDC, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

The national competition spanned a week of interviews, performances and directing role-play where competitors were able to showcase their distinct abilities and unique perspectives. The students were also kept busy with workshops, theatre tours and question and answer sessions with top stage directors.

The Cedar City local was very excited to have been able to work with an esteemed group of professional directors at the competition that included John Dillon, Laura Eason, Joe Calarco, Eleanor Holdridge, Amy Weinberg, David Muse, Joy Zinoman, Jocelyn Clarke, Matt Chapman and David Dower.

Howe and her peers also had the opportunity to do table work with actors, which is when the director and actors sit down to discuss and dissect a script.

Within SUU’s theatre arts department, Howe has certainly taken advantage of every opportunity that has come her way. An aspiring director and native of Cedar City, she has previously appeared in the Theatre Arts and Dance production of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labours’ Lost” and as Mrs. Webb in “Our Town.” She directed the Stage II production of “Proof,” and was associate director on the department’s most recent production, Stephen Schwartz’s musical, “Godspell.” She has stage managed the Faculty Dance Concert and did lighting design for the Student Dance Concert. Howe is currently the College of Performing and Visual Arts senator. Howe plans on attending graduate school and becoming a stage director.

Now that she is back from nationals and has finished her undergraduate coursework at SUU, Howe plans to work for the Utah Shakespeare Festival this summer as an assistant director for “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Glass Menagerie” while she awaits placement in a professional theatre observership or assistantship.

Whatever comes next, one thing is certain: this is one Thunderbird destined to make a scene.

Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center's founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (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.

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