Goshen College student actors receive accolades at theater festival

Goshen College student actors receive accolades at theater festival

GOSHEN, Ind. — Nineteen Goshen College theater students and two faculty members participated in the American College Theater Festival (ACTF), held at Illinois State University during Jan. 13-17. Two students, Eric Meyer (Sr., Millersburg, Ind.) and Erin Bontrager (Sr., Goshen), advanced to the final rounds of regional competitions.

Two of Meyer’s plays advanced to the final round of the playwriting competition. Although neither of his plays was selected to move on to nationals, Meyer was the only student in all five states to have two plays selected in the festival.

Bontrager submitted her designs for both “Into the Woods” (Spring 2003) and “You Can’t Take It With You” (Fall 2003) in the set design competition. The latter was chosen during the festival to move on to the final round of competition. Sarah Miller (Jr., Goshen, Ind.) also entered the design competition with her make-up design for “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Competitions were held in various categories, with winners from the regional competition advancing to the April national competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

According to Doug Liechty Caskey, professor of communication and theater, the festival is “wall-to-wall theater, from seven in the morning until midnight, everyday. Students have the opportunity to see plays from other colleges or universities, attend workshops in their area of interest, compete against other undergrads and graduate students in our region of the country, have their work critiqued by working professionals, and just live and breathe theater for four days solid.” Caskey and Jerry Peters, GC performance venue technical director, accompanied the 19 students to Illinois.

Goshen College students also auditioned for roles in short plays written by students in the playwriting competition. Nicole Miazgowicz (Jr., Hudson, Mich.) was one of the six women selected for a role in the staged readings of the plays.

In the Irene Ryan Scholarship Acting Competition, about 400 actors competed for the semi-final 40 spots. The field was then narrowed to 16, with two winners from each regional final moving on to the national competition.

Ben Friesen (Sr., Goshen) together with Lindsay Nance (So., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) and Kyle Reinford (Jr., Goshen), represented Goshen College in the acting competition. Reinford performed a scene with Anika Roth (Fr., Des Moines, Iowa) while both Friesen and Nance performed with senior Derek Bontreger (Sr., Goshen).

A representative of the ACTF nominated students for the competition. Representatives view performances of main-stage plays and meet with the casts, crews, designers and directors to critique the show. The representatives then file a report and nominate a maximum of two actors and give permission for student designers to enter the design competition.

“The competition is very tough, partly because we’re competing against schools much bigger than Goshen, including some with well-established graduate programs,” said Caskey. “It’s an honor for our students to be nominated.”

Friesen said, “In order to stay active in one’s art you have to continually work on your skills, and ACTF is one of those rare opportunities to have people in the theater field impart you with much needed wisdom.”

Other student participants were Daniel Clouse (Fr., Goshen), Rebecca Fast (Fr., Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), Cassie Greer (So., South Bend, Ind.), Hillary Knox (So., Gibson City, Ill.), Alex Miller (Jr., Strasbourg, France), Abby Nafziger (So., Goshen), Adrienne Nesbitt (Fr., Goshen), Kimberlee Rohrer (So., Orrville, Ohio), Robin Wenger (Sr., Lancaster, Pa.) and Anna Yoder (Fr., Goshen).

“It’s like a booster shot of energy, because Goshen students gain an appreciation for the bigger picture of theater in higher education,” said Caskey. “They get a glimpse of the competitive nature of the real world of theater as a profession. It’s one of those valuable experiences that students will always remember.”

Students from colleges across Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio attended the regional festival, one of the largest in the country. It was the festival’s 37th year, and Goshen students have participated since the late 1980s.

— by Jennifer Rupp for The Record

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.