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Kennedy Center theater festival recognizes student work in ?Misanthrope?

New Mexico State University?s recent production of ?The Misanthrope? earned four nominations from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Two representatives from the regional committee attended a performance at NMSU?s Center for the Arts in April, bestowing nominations for acting awards and costuming awards. The group also is awaiting word on whether the production will be selected as part of the regional festival in Texas in January.

Student actors perform a scene from Josh Chenard's production of "The Misanthrope." (Courtesy Photo)

?We are now in consideration to have our show as one of the five performed during the regional festival,? Chenard, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, who submitted ?The Misanthrope? for consideration. ?This is huge, as only 12 to 15 productions get held every year. This is a real tribute to the quality of work that continues to take place in the Theatre Arts Department at NMSU.?

Honors went not only to the production overall, but also to individual students involved in the production. The Kennedy Center regional committee awarded student actors recognition and opportunities for scholarships. Three earned Irene Ryan Acting nominations and one earned a Meritorious Achievement award in costume design, which allows them to compete for scholarships in the upcoming regional festival.

The Irene Ryan scholarships ?provide recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education, according to the Kennedy Center website. Nineteen regional scholarships are awarded annually. Additional recognition is awarded at the national level.

?I am not surprised to hear that those who helped to create this performance of ?The Misanthrope? are getting nominations from the Kennedy Center College Theatre organization,? said Christa Slaton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. ?It was a memorable event. I was impressed, not only by the talent of our student actors but also by the quality of the costumes and set design. Josh and the entire cast and crew deserve this recognition.?

In addition to awards, the Kennedy Center Festival regional representatives also offered feedback to the cast and crew.

?Their feedback was mostly positive,? Chenard said. ?They loved the costumes, felt the actors mastered the challenging language and delivered their performances with energy and consistency. They also loved Jim Billings? exquisite set. What is great about the feedback session is they also asked great questions ? about the actor?s character choices and challenged me on some of my directing choices. They wanted to know why I did not infuse more ?80s music into the production and what my thoughts were on certain character choices.?

A production of the NMSU American Southwest Theatre Company, ?The Misanthrope,? by French playwright Molière, is a comedy of manners about consequences of hypocrisy, ego and little white lies.

NMSU?s all-student cast was led by nominee Josh Horton as Alceste, Ellen Striepeke as Celimene, Anthony Forrester as Philinte and Elizabeth Staski as Eliante. Rounding out the cast were Austin Parrish, nominated for his role as Oronte, Lindsey Porter, Kenneth Williams, Robert Sciortino and Stephanie Vasquez, who earned a nomination for her role as Basque.

The production team included set designer Jim Billings, lighting designer Josie Parsons, costume designer Kaitlin Sikes, sound designer Matt Reynolds, prop designer Dave Hereford and stage manager Mike Wise. Sikes was awarded Meritorious Achievement for her work.

As a result of the submission, NMSU is now eligible to enter any student designs from the entire academic year, which will make students eligible for potential awards and scholarships as well as feedback from professionals.

?I wanted to enter ?The Misanthrope? because of the high level of student commitment, from acting to lighting design to costume design,? Chenard explained. ?I know this group?s value, in terms of community-building, professional opportunities, potential scholarships, fresh feedback ? it is the only festival of its kind.?

The regional festival will include nominees from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Chenard said that as the New Mexico State Chair and the Irene Ryan Award vice coordinator, he regularly attends, and this time, he plans on including the students.

?They?ll get to attend professional workshops, view the best productions in the region, compete for scholarships and awards, and spend time with peers from other regions who will be the next generation of theater artists.?

?This production was a dream,? Chenard said. ?From my design team to the backstage crew and technicians, everyone worked with excellence and ease to pull this show off, and it was a challenge! Staging a 17th century comedy of manners complete with rhyming couplets, huge costumes, wigs and an unusual set design is no easy feat. I really give kudos to everyone involved for making it as good as it was. As a director, you have a vision and a plan ? the hope is that everyone you work with takes your ideas and makes them better. That was certainly the case with ?The Misanthrope.??