Saginaw Valley State University students turned their passion for theatre and strong work ethic into performances that earned praise and top honors — including an invitation to a national competition — during a festival featuring students from across the Midwest.
SVSU theatre students competed during the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region III Jan. 10-14 in Indianapolis. The event includes colleges and universities from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Jacob Kaufman (pictured), a theatre major from Bay City, won the first-ever Region III Arts Management Fellowship at the festival, which earned him an invitation to travel to the national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington D.C. April 16-22.
Ric Roberts, SVSU professor of theatre, served as chairman of the organization’s Region III festival. He called Kaufman “one of the hardest working students I have ever encountered.”
“I am not surprised that Jacob was nominated by a professor from Indiana University,” Roberts said. “His work at the festival was at the same level he has shown at SVSU: exemplary.”
Two of Kaufman’s fellow SVSU theatre students also advanced deep into their competitions.
Donté Green, a Detroit native, was named a finalist for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship at the festival, placing him among the top 16 actors in a field that began with 250 students.
“I couldn’t be more excited about where I ended up,” Green said. “I used to think only people from New York or Los Angeles could succeed at this. This is something I can do — and be good at.”
Jonah Conner, a Warren native, advanced to the semifinal round of the same competition.
Conner also won the Region III 10-Minute Play Directing Award at the festival, giving SVSU two top honors.
Zach Wood and Cassie Graham, meanwhile, auditioned and were cast in a 10-minute play performed at the festival. Wood is a Flushing native and Graham is from Warren.
Roberts said SVSU students spent about one month rehearsing the material they performed at the festival.
“The level of dedication and determination is high,” Roberts said. “This, of course, is all happening while they are working on SVSU productions, too.”
He said the festival exposed his theatre students to talented peers from across the Midwest.
“Going to the regional festival, they get a chance to see not only where the stack up against their peers, but also how SVSU can compete with the best of them,” Roberts said.