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Appalachian State Theatre and Dance Production of “The Moors” Chosen for 2023 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

Alex Rowland, Alexa Nemitz, and Clay Cooper

BOONE, NC – The Department of Theatre and Dance at Appalachian State University is one of only four programs in the entire southeastern United States chosen to participate in the regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF).  This prestigious national theatre program involves more than 18,000 students from across the nation with the goal to recognize and celebrate the work done at the college theatre level. 

The department’s November 2022 production of “The Moors” is the show chosen by the KCACTF and will be performed during the 55th annual festival. This year’s festival is being hosted by Georgia Southern University from February 7 through 11 on their Statesboro, GA campus. A total of 16 actors, technical crew, and design team members are traveling to the regional festival, and their show takes to the stage of Georgia Southern’s Performing Arts Center at 12 noon on Wednesday, February 8, 2023. For tickets and other information, visit https://www.kcactf4.org/ 

Charlotte Nease and Clay Cooper

Professor Michael Helms, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance (T&D) says, “The cast and crew of “The Moors”worked very hard on this production and we are proud of the work they have put in. We will also be taking a group of students who will be participating in the Devised Theatre presentation. KCACTF is an amazing opportunity for our students to participate in a truly transformative experience to see what other students from the region are doing in their programs, and to participate in workshops on acting, stage management, design and technical theatre, playwriting etc.”

The Moors” is a mysterious dark comedy by Jen Silverman about love, desperation, and visibility, and produced by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. It tells the tale of two sisters and a dog who live out their lives on the bleak English moors, dreaming of love and power. The arrival of a governess and a moorhen set all three on a strange and dangerous path. 

Elonie Quick and Alexa Nemitz

Theatre Professor Dr. Paulette Marty is directing this production and finds “The Moors” a compelling story of the issues we face in our society today, stating, “As the playwright says in the script, the play is set in 1840s England, but it’s about today. It explores so many important issues we’re facing in our culture, like isolation, yearning for connection, fear, and savagery.” 

This is the fifth consecutive decade in which Appalachian has been represented at the KCACTF, continuing a tradition of excellence that dates from 1988 when Dr. Susan Cole directed a play based on the late Romulus Linney’s first published work, the novel “Heathen Valley.”  The story was loosely based on real events which took place in Valle Crucis near the Linney family home in Boone. It was followed in 1990-91 by Theatre Professor Teresa Lee’s production of the Mark Medoff Tony Award-winning Best Play, “Children of a Lesser God.

Alexa Nemitz and Mackenzie Boone

Another Romulus Linney play, “A Lesson Before Dying,” based on Ernest J. Gaines celebrated novel of the same name, was chosen for KCACFT in February 2002 under the direction of Professor Joel Williams.  During the 2010-11 academic year, then-senior Jonathan Fitts won the Kennedy Center’s David L. Shelton Award in playwriting for his original work “The Pursuit of Mr. Rockefeller,” which students and faculty read as part of Dr. Derek Davidson’s master class in playwrighting.

More recently, “Promises,” an original play written by Professor Joel Williams and directed by Dr. Derek Davidson, both theatre faculty members, was selected to perform at the regional festival in February 2014.  As frequently happens during these festivals, T&D faculty received Meritorious Achievement Awards for their contributions to each production. For example, with “Promises,” Davidson was recognized for direction; Helms for scenic design, Professor Martha Marking for costume design, and Professor John Marty for lighting and sound design.

Theatre faculty member Dr. Gina Grandi and Dance Studies Professor Kevin Warner are leading a separate group of four Appalachian students to this year’s KCACTF for the devised theatre initiative, where students have been working for months in preparation for the event. Grandi explained that “Participating groups create an up to 20-minute performance around a given prompt, and the groups perform for each other and a panel at the conference. Groups get feedback from each other and the panel after their performances.” 

Alexa Nemitz and Mackenzie Boone/ The photographer credit for all five images is Lynn Willis.

Grandi says that this is the third year T&D is bringing a devised piece to the festival, where she has led a series of workshops with the students, providing them with tools to create movement and promote collaboration, to helped organize the collaborative process. The students have created, rehearsed, and edited the show, making the decisions completely on their own about what to create and ultimately include. The pieces are collage performances, featuring music, movement, abstraction, and some scripted work.