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Reflections on Winning an Irene Ryan

May 2013

This past January, St. Ambrose brought its yearly group of Irene Ryan Scholarship audition participants to Region V's KCACTF festival. One week later and the theatre department was proud to boast of region finalist and winner, Anthony Stratton '12.

Stratton and his partner, Morgan Griffin '12, began prepping for national competition, and on April 19, they competed for a chance at winning the national festival. Unfortunately, the pair did not win the national title, but that did not bring their spirits down! St. Ambrose Theater now has three Irene Ryan Regional Winners: current SAU theatre professor Daniel Rairdin-Hale '04, and Daniel Sheridan '05, Artistic Director of Davenport Junior Theater. All three have competed in Washington within the last ten years.

For this year's actors, the days leading up to the Friday night performance were filled with workshops, master classes, and new connections.

"I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by how comfortable and inviting the festival was on the national level ... The festival essentially lost all sense of a competition. No one walked around with their nose in their air. No one boasted about being the 'winner.' It was a family, a community," Stratton said.

"We met so many wonderful and talented people and the atmosphere wasn't that of a competition," Griffin added. "It was a community who supported each other and hoped that everyone would perform as best they could." 

When it came to Friday night, the duo did extremely well. Dr. Corinne Johnson was in attendance and said, "They outdid what we saw of them at regionals. Their performance was truly outstanding."

Following the competition, Griffin returned to Florida where she is currently interning for Disney, and Stratton returned to Chicago where he is currently pursuing professional acting. His thoughts on taking the next step–whatever that might be–are this: "The thought is scary, and exciting at the same time, but I think that mindset is necessary to grow as an actor: jumping into the scary unknown and those, I think, are the most rewarding outcomes."

The St. Ambrose Theatre Department is very proud of these students, and special congratulations are given to Stratton and Griffin as they continue on with their lives. As Stratton says, "It was a life-changing and inspiring week that I'll never forget."

Congrats again to our 2013 Irene Ryan finalist.

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