The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship recognizes and honors outstanding performers hoping to further their theatre education. Nominees are college students who have participated in a college production that has been responded to by the American College Theatre Festival officials. Irene Ryan was an outstanding actress herself, recognized most as the feisty Granny in the television hit, The Beverly Hillbillies. The national awards are presented each year at the American College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This year, St. Ambrose University's own Dr. Corinne Johnson is playing a major role.
Dr. Johnson, chair of the St. Ambrose Theatre Department, is responsible for picking this year's 16 preliminary round judges for Region V, covering Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, and parts of Missouri. The judges mostly are professors from different colleges and universities within the region. An equal representation of professors from large and small schools alike is to be chosen in order to ensure fair decisions. All judges have a very intimate knowledge of different aspects of performing and theatre. The judges will be split into eight different rooms and there will be two judges per room. Dr. Johnson will prepare judges to make sure they know exactly what is expected out of Irene Ryan recipients. Finally, Dr. Johnson will sit in on the adjudication of the actors to make sure that all judges stay true to the intent of the award and the absolute finest nominees receive this great honor.
This year, the judges will be evaluating more than 340 outstanding actors at the preliminary level, and St. Ambrose is proud to have seven of these nominees: Andrew Benson '11, Abby VanGerpen '10, Val Zawada '13, Monique Vos '10, Nathan Scheetz ‘10, Dan Hernandez '10, and Stephanie Seward '13.
Dr. Johnson, along with two faculty assistants, will make sure that all nominees are registered, have the rights and have paid royalties for their three pieces, and are scheduled in appropriate rooms. After three-minute auditions with partners, 64 will advance to the semi-final level, and after that 16 performers will continue on to the final round. The two winners will have an opportunity to perform and attend several workshops at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC in April. Two winners will then be selected at the national level and awarded a $2,500 scholarship.
Dr. Johnson was honored with this position after assisting the position twice. Her outstanding accomplishments as an acting coach led the American College Theatre Festival to offer her this position. As a coach, Dr. Johnson has attended the National Competition three times with two regional performing winners and one directing winner. Dr. Johnson likely will continue in this position for the next three years.
The St. Ambrose Theatre Department would like to congratulate Dr. Johnson for accepting and taking on this position, and we wish her the best of luck! We are sure she will do a fabulous job, and her dedication and passion will provide all participants with the opportunity of a lifetime!