Skip to content

Two AUM theatre students earn invite to Kennedy Center’s national festival

Theatre AUM students earn top awards at 2024 the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Festival.
Theatre AUM students Tiara  earn top awards at 2024 the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Festival in February.

Two Auburn University at Montgomery communication theatre students have earned invitations to the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Washington, D.C., April 22-26.

Chason Marvin
Chason Marvin

While representing AUM at national KCACTF, communication theatre majors Chason Marvin and Tiara Staples will cultivate new skills and collaborate with theatre professionals in their chosen fields. The annual event brings emerging artists together to deepen their knowledge of the craft with distinguished practitioners. Students also form connections with their peers from across the country through workshops, presentations, conversations, and staged readings.

Val Winkelman, Distinguished Research Professor of Theatre in AUM’s Department of Communication and Theatre, said this year’s national festival will mark the first time AUM will have students advance to the national level in the directing and journalism/advocacy categories. In 2022, AUM had two theatre students, Yahzane Palmer and her acting partner, Brandon Baggin, to represent AUM at the national level in the acting category.

“KCACTF provides life changing opportunities for our theatre students,” Winkelman said. “Their work has been selected out of approximately 18,000 college students by KCACTF, which aims to encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs.”

Each April, the Kennedy Center welcomes outstanding theater students from its eight regions to the national festival, which recognizes student awardees in design, performance, directing, playwriting, stage management, dramaturgy, arts leadership, and theatre criticism. AUM is part of KCACTF Region IV, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Southern Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

In February, Staples and Marvin both received top honors at the 2024 KCACTF Region IV festival in Albany, Georgia, for their work in 2023 Theatre AUM productions, which earned them both invitations to this year’s national festival.

Staples’ secured her invite to nationals in the directing category with her first place Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Directing Initiative award at KCACTF’s Region IV festival. She received the honor for her directing work on a scene from the play “The Language Archive” by Julia Cho, which featured AUM student actors Tara Little Laurel and Michael James Pritchard.

“Julia Cho’s writing style is very evocative,” said Staples, who will complete her studies at AUM in Fall 2025. “From the dialogue to her stage directions, all of her writing paints a vivid picture of the world her characters live in. Her characters are grounded in reality while being quite whimsical, which gives them a surrealist edge that I found very intriguing. The play also handles ideas of gender roles, relationships, and communication in a way that speaks to my personal values.”

She will continue to build in on her directing skills at the national KCACTF event, said Staples, who will learn about and cultivate different skills and directing approaches through staging and analysis activities at the national festival.

“I hope to grow as a director through my experience working with directing mentors and learn more about theater as an art form,” she said.

Marvin received his invite to KCACTF’s national festival after writing a letter of interest and showcasing his podcast work “Flora Bare: What We Share” to the Institute for Theater Journalism and Advocacy (ITJA) at KCACTF’s Region IV event in February. His outstanding work earned ITJA’s first place award.

His podcast work has filled his need to make something special as an artist, Marvin said.

“I was struggling with that, and podcasting just seemed like the easiest way,” he said of finding his calling. “When I started doing interviews, working with other artists to make posters, intro music for my podcast and videos, I saw that “What We Share” gave me an outlet for my creativity to really shine and gave me a chance to talk to fellow artists directly. It made me realize how I could be a part of my community and help bring artists and their stories to light.”

Marvin, who will graduate in May, said he plans to continue to grow his social network through experiences such as KCACTF’s regional and national festivals. At nationals, Marvin will collaborate with artists and journalists through interviews, research and other reporting techniques, as well as advocate for the growth of the multifaceted industry.

“I want to have the opportunity to collaborate with more artists, so that could hopefully lead to me working on a project with them or a job opportunity,” he said. “Plus, I’m going to Washington, D.C., so hopefully meet some cool people and take pictures with my Hawaiian shirts.”

Winkelman said she is excited for Staples and Marvin to have an opportunity to develop their theater skills, insight and achieve professionalism.

“These awards continue to showcase and impact our theatre program by demonstrating and recognizing our collaborative student achievements in academics, creative work and research,” she said. “It’s a point of pride for everyone involved including our alumni. It also brings national prominence and prestige to our program and our students while building student confidence, inspiring peers, and helping with recruitment and retention.”


Back To Top