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What is the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival?

A National Festival held in Washington, D.C., annually in April.  It is the culmination of 8 regional festivals held during January and February. Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide annually. From the beginning, the organization has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country. Read more at KCACTF.org

What happens at the National Festival?

Far too much to describe in a brief answer; however, the primary intent of the festival is to bring outstanding students from each of the 8 Regional Festivals to Washington where they participate in various week-long programs and initiatives and are recognized for their achievements.  These programs include acting; directing; playwriting; dramaturgy; theatre journalism and advocacy; design and technical theatre skills; and stage management. It also features weeklong seminars for faculty selected from each region for their outstanding contributions to their region. Additionally, a National Selection panel also celebrates select participating productions for outstanding achievements with The Hilton Worldwide National Awards Program.

What role does the Region IV Festival play in the National Festival?

Activities at the Region IV Festival mirror those at the National Festival. The Region IV Festival serves as a venue:

  • for members of the National Committee to assess the Region’s invited productions.
  • for student participants in various programs to be considered for advancement to the National Festival.

Schools begin their students’ potential journey to the National Festival by registering  productions online at the National Festival site. This registration not only qualifies the production and its participants for Festival consideration, it also permits their students to participate in a variety of Festival programs such as Devised Theatre, the Musical Theatre Initiative, Directing and Playwriting.

When is the Region IV Festival scheduled?

Typically, from Tuesday through Saturday the first week of February.  Registration and orientations begin Tuesday evening. Wednesday – Saturday there are workshops; design, management and dramaturg expositions and responses; student directed scenes and readings; readings of new student plays; devised theatre presentations by student ensembles; and performances of invited productions. The Festival concludes with presentation of final awards following Saturday night’s performance.

What is the difference between Associate and Participating Productions?

  • Associate productions do not intend to tour to the Regional Festival.
  • Participating productions are prepared to tour and are considered for invitation to the Regional Festival.
  • Associate and Participating entries receive verbal feedback from a local Respondent visiting their campus. Students may be nominated for various award programs by both their director/department and the Respondent.
  • Participating entries also receive feedback and award nominations from a second respondent, typically a representative from the Region Selection Team.

How do I become involved in Region IV?

Educate yourself

  • Read the FAQs and answers on Region IV’s website
  • Explore the national web site
  • Attend a festival and actively observe and participate in the various activities.

If you are a student, share what you have learned with your faculty and express your desire to participate.
If you are a faculty member:

  • Request the Chair add you to the Region’s email list
  • Explore volunteer opportunities at the Festival
  • Attend a production respondent training session
  • Express your desire to participate to the Region Leadership
  • Consider becoming a Deputy Coordinator
  • Don’t be shy, meet and greet at the Festival’s hospitality suite
  • Apply for Leadership Positions when they are advertised
    Note that these applications expect previous festival involvement.



Can a School outside the Region IV boundaries register in Region IV?

Yes, if it meets National eligibility and especially if the Region IV Festival Site is more convenient to their campus.  Out-of-region institutions should contact the Region IV Chair prior to online registration and be sure to select the  “Region IV” button on their registration form.

How does a production get registered?

Via an online registration form. For complete details on eligibility and registration visit the National Registration Site.

Please NOTE the following:

  • Be sure to check the “button” for Region IV at the top of the online form.
  • Complete one form for every production being registered.
  • Complete all applicable fields.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY – Register at least 4 weeks prior to opening night. This is imperative in order to provide time for the recruitment of respondents.

What does production registration cost?

Associate – Early Bird Special, before October 1: $225.00, otherwise $275.

Participating – Early Bird Special, before October 1: $300.00, otherwise $350

Fees can be paid by credit card at the time of registration or an invoice can be requested for payment by check. Respondents are not assigned until payment is made. (Monies come to the Region via the National organization, please initiate payment as soon as possible so that Region IV costs can be offset.)

How many shows can a school register?

There is no limit; however, each show must be registered separately.. Be aware that spring semester productions will be eligible for the following year’s Festival.

Given the cost of registration, what are the benefits of entering the Festival?

  • Students receive verbal feedback from the respondent, an “informed audience member.”
  • Students have the opportunity to make presentations of their work at the regional level of a prestigious national organization. Many theatre departments promote their student’s participation as equivalent to a student being invited to present a paper at a regional conference.
  • Students attending the Region Festival, network with peers and many experience, for the first time, the enormity of the challenges they confront in their chosen field and an opportunity to “measure” themselves against regional standards.
  • Students attending the Region Festival, have the opportunity to attend workshops and to have their work critiqued by professional respondents.
  • Students selected for advancement to the National Festival intensify the recognition and reputation of their department and institution.
  • Individual faculty have opportunities to attend seminars at the National Festival.
  • Participating productions are eligible for national recognition.
  • Mileage costs incurred by respondents are reimbursed by Region IV.
  • A small percentage of registration fees support Region IV Festival activities.
  • The fee does NOT include a written response.



How do I register to attend the Region IV Festival?

Online via the Region IV website. Online registration comes online in the fall and is discontinued a short time prior to the Festival start date.  Thereafter, registration is handled at the Festival location with a slightly higher registration fee.  Registration fees can be paid by check or major credit card. Schools can register their students as a group.

Is any additional registration required for students nominated for awards?

Yes.  After students have completed Festival registration, they should ensure additional registrations, applications, and submissions are completed. Irene Ryan candidates and Design, Technology, Management candidates have additional online registration forms.  Most other award programs have specific application or submission requirements. Nominated students should carefully read the appropriate Region IV web pages for details.  Failure to submit all required materials will disqualify the student from award consideration.

Who are the respondents for the various scholarships/awards at the Regional Festival?

  • Generally, respondents for all scholarship awards are theatre professionals from various parts of the country. Occasionally, accomplished academics from outside the region are utilized.
  • There are in-region, volunteer Feedback Respondents who observe “flights” (a group of 12 auditions) during the preliminary round of Irene Ryan auditions.  Their role is to respond after each “flight” is completed.  This immediate feedback for nominees and their partners serves to “decompress” any post-audition anxieties.
    NOTE: The Feedback Respondents do not provide any input or recommendations in deciding advancement of candidates to the semi-final round.

How do we learn if our show was recommended for a Festival Invitation?

Resist the urge to ask production Respondents if they are planning to recommend an invitation.  They may need time to consider their recommendation following the verbal response.  If a Respondent knows they plan to recommend, they will typically tell the director so they can begin preparations to submit materials to the Festival selection meeting. The Region chair will ensure all recommended shows are notified between October 31 and November 7.

Our Participating Entry was recommended for a Festival Invitation, now what?

All recommended shows are discussed and considered for Festival invitation at a meeting of the Region Selection Team and the Region Executive Committee in early December.

Recommended shows should submit supporting materials for consideration at that meeting. Digital submissions are highly recommended. These materials might include:

  • A brief written pitch of how the show meets one or more of the National KCACTF goals:
    To encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs;
    To provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight; and achieve professionalism
    To improve the quality of college and university theater in America;
    To 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.
  • Program notes pertinent to the possible selection. i.e. Director or Dramaturg notes that address significant aspects of the production.
  • Production photos highlighting exceptional production values. Wide shots for lighting and scenery; portrait shots to highlight costumes or makeup.
  • Digital video – take advantage of YouTube or Vimeo type platforms for submission.  Keep in mind that there will not be time to review an entire production.  Best practice is to edit for short, best representative moments in the show.  Exposition is dull, conflict is not. Consider the framing of your clips.  Long shots of two people or panning close-ups of a large ensemble are counter-productive.
  • If video is not an option or the sound quality of your video is poor, consider dubbing good quality audio over a series of still images from the show.
  • Most of the decision makers will not have seen your show… put it in its best light and “sell it”.

NOTE: It is the Region Executive Committee that makes the final decision about Festival invitations after considering many practical as well as artistic factors.

When are invitations to the Festival announced?

Ideally, with limited complicating factors, all invited productions should be notified by December 25. A list of invited shows should appear on the Region IV website by January 7.



Are schools required to enter productions in order for students to participate in the Festival?

Yes.  Institutions must enter at least one show in the Festival in order for their students to reap the benefits of Festival participation. The Festival exists as a network of participating college and university theatre programs and the faculty who volunteer to manage Festival events.  Festival programing and logistics are funded entirely by the production entry fees and Festival registration fees.
NOTE: Faculty may register and participate in the Festival regardless of their institution’s participation status.  Their involvement often leads the institution to become active participants in KCACTF.

How are students nominated for awards?

The filing of online response forms by the Respondent(s) and the show’s Director. It is recommended that the director or another department faculty confer with the respondent(s) following the verbal response in order to confirm which students meet eligibility requirements for various award nominations and to avoid duplication of the Irene Ryan nominations.

How many students can be nominated for awards?

The only production-related award category that allows more than one student nominee is the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.  The show’s director and the respondent(s) each nominate a Ryan candidate.  Associate entries have two nominees and Participating have three nominees.

This is true for every production the institution enters.  It should be noted that there are additional award programs for student directors and playwrights that are not tied to specific production entries.

How are students notified of their nomination?

Indirectly. Nominations are “auto-magically” shared between the National database and the Region IV database via the filed online response forms. The nominees are then displayed on the Region IV website under the “Awards” navigation tab. Ideally, the list is organized by state, school and show title. (Inconsistencies or mistakes on response forms can result in listing anomalies.) Students should allow several days following the verbal response and check the site for their name.  If a week passes and the school and show title can not be found on the Awards list, the faculty director should email the Region Chair, cc’ing their Respondent Coordinator. Appropriate steps will then be taken to resolve the problem.

Can Irene Ryan nominees be changed/replaced after response forms are filed?

Potentially. Director Response nominations are made at the discretion of the participating institution. If extenuating circumstances prevent their nominee from attending the Festival or if a posting error occurred, the director/department should immediately email the Region Chair in order to formalize the change and have the database corrected.   If the nomination was made by a Respondent, the Respondent must agree to the change. The director/department should immediately email the Respondent, cc’ing the Region Chair. The Respondent must then notify the Region Chair to formalize the change and have the database corrected.