NMU play earns 14 national awards
MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University Department of Theatre and Dance world-premiere production of “Above the Timberline” won 14 special achievement awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival national awards ceremony, a virtual event streamed May 21 from Washington, D.C.
Productions from institutions invited to the eight regional festivals held earlier this year were eligible for national recognition of the outstanding work by individuals and ensembles.
“The NMU School of Theatre and Dance faculty, staff and students are beyond excited with this production’s success and the achievements garnered by all,” said Bill Digneit, department head and assistant professor. “This is just the beginning of the forward trajectory and positive momentum of the arts at NMU.”
“Above the Timberline” scored a “special achievement” designation in each of the following general categories: production of a new work; production design; production and performance ensemble unity; and production of a play.
NMU students, faculty and staff honored for special achievement in their respective categories were: Amarae’ Robinson, a musical theatre BFA student, individual performance; adjunct instructor Keli Crawford-Truckey, direction by a faculty artist; Crawford-Truckey and theatre major Alec VanHorn, properties design; adjunct instructor Em Rossi, costume design and puppetry arts; Rossi and assistant professor Lex van Blommestein, puppet movement direction; Blommestein, scenic design; associate professor David Pierce, lighting design; sound and media supervisor Dan Zini, sound design; and visiting scholar Gregory Manchess and Zini, projection design.
“Above the Timberline” was written, illustrated and adapted for the stage by Manchess. Crawford-Truckey directed October’s NMU production, which was a collaborative effort between Manchess, the Department of Theatre and Dance, and the School of Art and Design.
The production was selected as a finalist for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. It was performed virtually in January as part of the Region 3 festival in Madison, Wisconsin, marking the second time in three years that an NMU production achieved KCACTF finalist status.
“This opportunity is like making the final four in division 1 theater,” Digneit said in a previous release. “I am extremely proud of our students, faculty and staff who have embodied our department’s vision of what this program can be. The hard work being put in by all is truly paying off. I am so proud that this collaborative effort was selected and this is huge for our program’s future.”
The play is set in an alternate future, where the weather of the world has been permanently altered. The son of a famed polar explorer sets out in search of his father, who has disappeared while looking for a lost city buried under the snow. But Wes Singleton believes his father is still alive — somewhere above the timberline.
The KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country. It aims to:
≤ encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs;
≤ provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight, and achieve professionalism; and
≤ improve the quality of college and university theater in the United States; and
≤ encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, especially those written by students; the classics, revitalized or newly conceived; and experimental works.
Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills and receive national recognition for excellence.