May 23, 2019  

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Two Theatre Students Advance to National Kennedy Center Festival

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Cody Stockstill of Gulfport, Miss. sits in the scene shop of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southern Miss. (Submitted photo)

Two University of Southern Mississippi theatre students are heading to Washington, D.C. in April as national finalists for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).

Cody Stockstill of Gulfport, Miss., and Thomas Sowers of Starkville, Miss., advanced to the national festival as finalists after attending the KCACTF Region IV event in Daytona Beach, Fla. KCACTF provides professional feedback for the work theatre students do in department plays. A total of 19 students and five faculty members were nominated for KCACTF Region IV in Daytona Beach.

“This is the top honor available to university students in theatre,” said Monica Hayes, professor of theatre at Southern Miss. “KCACTF is recognized by employers across the country, so it makes a huge difference in a student’s potential career to do well at both regional and national levels.”

At the regional conference, students have the opportunity to share their work with colleagues from the 10-state region and to compete for national recognition. Only eight designers from the entire country win the awards in each category and advance to the national festival.

“Through the KCACTF experience our students serve as dynamic representatives for our department, college and university,” said Lou Rackoff, Department of Theatre and Dance chair and professor.

Stockstill, a third-year master of fine arts in scenic and costume design student, was nominated in two design categories, but won the Barbizon Award in Scenic Design for his work on the Department of Theatre and Dance’s production of “The Learned Ladies” that was performed during the fall semester.

“I, along with other students from the program, went to Daytona Beach to compete in the regional festival. I took two of my designs completed here and displayed my work and my process to working professionals in the design area,” Stockstill said.

Sowers, a senior sound design major, was also nominated for two sound design categories, but took home the Sound Design Award for his work on the department’s production of “Marat/Sade” last semester.

“Marat/Sade takes place in the bathhouse of an asylum in 1808, so I had to make a lot of steam hisses, pipe groans and water dripping sounds to complete the space,” said Sowers. “It’s really an incredible honor to represent our university and state.”

This is the second consecutive year that Sowers advanced to the national festival in sound design. “It felt great to win at regional’s especially for the second year in a row,” said Sowers. “Now I get to go back and defend my title.”