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A Look into the Minds of the Irene Ryans

October 2010


Students of the Theatre Department have been working hard to prepare for the Irene Ryan competition at the Kennedy Center/American College Regional Theatre Festival in January in Overland Park, Kan. The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition is comprised of thespians nominated from different colleges who compete by performing songs, scenes, and monologues. Scholarships are awarded at the regional level, and these winners then have the opportunity to advance to the national level, where they can win more scholarships.

Here is a look into the minds of the nominees for the Irene Ryans as they are choosing their selections and finding partners.

Val Zawada ‘13
Nominated For: Ensemble role in "Oedipus Rex"
She is partnering with Grace Allen and planning a scene from Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler." For Zawada's monologue she is thinking about singing a song. She is going about choosing her selections by reading scripts and spending lots of time at the library. Zawada says the most challenging part of this process is finding scenes that she loves from a small pool of scenes. Another hard part is having enough time to read all the plays. Something she will have to overcome in this process is being too hard on herself, which is all part of growing as a performer. When asked how it feels to be nominated for the Irene Ryans she answered, "It was a nice motivator to keep learning and growing, and just a really great feeling." She is also very grateful to have this opportunity to try new things, apply what she has learned in theatre, and make some new connections.

Stephanie Seward '13
Nominated For: Janet van de Graaff in "The Drowsy Chaperone"
She does not have any scenes or a partner picked out yet, but she is pondering performing a piece from "The Importance of Being Earnest." She is choosing selections by asking for suggestions and reading, reading, reading! Seward was nominated last year for Miss Mona in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." This year, since she went over time last year, she is going to work harder earlier on with the monologue part of the audition and try to fill the time limit more appropriately.

Seward says, "Having this great opportunity again is SO exciting and I can't wait to see what everyone has to offer. It seems to really bring out the best in people. The whole thing is just as frightening as it is exciting with so much work involved. It's always nerve-wracking to be judged! But I'm very excited." Though this process can be scary she knows she is in good hands having Dr. Corinne Johnson to consult. Lastly, if you have any good scripts in mind, she would love to read them!

Monique Vos '10
Nominated For: Laura in "The Glass Menagerie"
Her partner is Anthony Stratton, and they will be doing a scene from Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra." A second scene Vos is considering is from "Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune." Something she wishes she knew before choosing her scenes was a list of "no-no" scenes, or scenes that get entirely overdone at the Irene Ryans. The most exciting thing she is looking forward to is getting to KCACTF and seeing everyone's work in the final stages. The most frightening thing is being judged. She is also frightened because when she reads a show and doesn't find anything to do from it, she has to read more and more. But it forces her to expand her range, and it keeps her working and learning which is the key in this line of work.

Abby Van Gerpen '10
Nominated For: Ensemble role in "Oedipus Rex"
She has decided to be partners with Grant Legan, and together they are thinking of performing a song from "Believe: The Musical," and a scene from "Reasons to be Pretty." They are still waiting on the rights to perform these which is nerve-wracking and one of the most challenging aspects of the choosing selections process. For her monologue she is still in the search for the perfect classical piece.

"It's such an honor!" Van Gerpen says about being nominated. "Especially because of such a challenging show like 'Oedipus,' it's crazy to think that my performance stood out."

Van Gerpen likes trying new things, as evidenced in her song choice. "The song I have chosen is not well-known at all. In fact, I had to get in touch personally with the composer to get rights. But it's such a beautiful song that I couldn't resist. I think sometimes it's better to use something not very well known because the judges aren't sick of seeing it already, even if it is harder to get rights and such." As Van Gerpen continues her reading of plays she wants to leave us all with this final thought: "Bring on January!"

Andrew Benson '10
Nominated For: Ensemble role in "Oedipus Rex"
His partner again this year will be Jessica Denney, after being scene partners last year. They are set on doing a scene from "London Assurance" and Benson's monologue will be from Shakespeare. For their second scene they are considering one from "Angels in America." This year Benson will be working harder on finding scenes that are contrasting so the judges can see his range as an actor.

He will have to overcome troubles with time limits. "It is crazy difficult to get scenes to fit into the time allotments that also have an arc and show range. What do they think we are? Magicians?!"

This process helps him grow as a performer because it forces him to "find" a character quickly because there is only about a five second delay between one piece and the next.

He loves to try new things. "If it's something that is not well-known then I have the possibility of doing something really interesting with it, whereas, if it's something that everyone knows, like 'Hamlet,' then there's only so much I could do." He feels honored to be a nominee because he says it feels good to have someone appreciate your performance and think you did well.

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