At the same time preparations for Spring 2022 stage productions are underway, Theatre and Dance students and faculty at the University of Central Missouri are being recognized for excellence in multiple areas by the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).

During the virtual festival, Jan. 16-22, Charlotte Sipple, a senior Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre major, was selected as a semi-finalist in the Musical Theatre Intensive. Luke Habjan, a junior BFA Design/Technology major; TiJhana Hines, a sophomore BFA Musical Theatre major; and Jace Nielsen, a junior BFA Theatre Performance major, all advanced to the semi-finalist round of the Irene Ryan Acting Competition. Nielsen and his partner, junior BFA Theatre Performance major Ryan Foster, also advanced to the Final Round of the Irene Ryan competition among the top 16 college performers from 185 competitors.

Student and faculty directors, designers, technical directors, and stage managers also received Meritorious Achievement Awards on Sunday night during the opening ceremony. For UCM’s Spring 2021 production of “Spotlight,” recent graduates Tony Smith and Caitlin Whitehead were recognized for Assistant Direction; senior BFA Theatre Design/Technology major Madison Skiljan was recognized for Stage Management; and senior BFA Theatre Design/Technology major Kelsi Richardson earned recognition for Lighting Design. For the Fall 2021 UCM production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Madison Skiljan was recognized in the area of Stage Mmanagement, and Assistant Professor of Costume Design Jennifer Van Buskirk was recognized for  Costume Design.

The production of “Elf The Musical” led to awards for senior Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education student Ryann Hill in Stage Management and senior BFA Theatre Design/Technology student Seth Holts for Technical Direction. Faculty member Dr. Aaron Scully was honored for his adaptation of “Oedipus” performed at State Fair Community College in Sedalia last spring. Additionally, TiJhana Hines was selected to the KCACTF Region V Student Advisory Board, and sophomore BFA Theatre Design/Technology major Allison Winsby received regional first-place recognition for Makeup Design in the play, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."

During the Region V virtual festival in January 2021, UCM Theatre and Dance had two productions, “Iconic” and “Tilikum,” selected for presentation.

While UCM Theatre and Dance received several national Kennedy Center recognitions for these productions in April 2021, it was recently announced that they received additional national awards in November 2021. For the UCM production of “Iconic,” presented outdoors in October 2020 at the Audrey J. Walton Stadium, recent graduate Valerie Ruggle was recognized for Distinguished Achievement in Performance and recent graduate Ally Fields was honored for Distinguished Achievement in Stage Management. The director of the production, Chair of Theatre and Dance Ashley Miller-Scully, was awarded Distinguished Achievement in Direction.

The entire company of the production was awarded Distinguished Achievement in Student-Centered Experience. The Creative Team for the UCM Theatre and Dance production of “Tilikum,” originally presented virtually in October 2020, received Distinguished Achievement in Production Design honors, and recent alumna Caitlin Whitehead received Distinguished Achievement recognition in Stage Management.

In announcing the awards, KCACTF Artistic Director Gregg Henry cited colleges and universities were at the vanguard of innovation in the field of theatre amid the pandemic. He noted, “In this time of national strife, great losses, and fracture, it’s both gratifying and heartening to see the principles of innovation, ensemble and collaboration deployed to such great effect."

Learn more about Theatre and Dance academic opportunities and upcoming productions at

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