Seven UMass Boston Students Recognized at Theater Festival; Two Moving to National Competition

Colleen Locke | March 09, 2015
Lauren Annese received a national fellowship for excellence in stage management.

Lauren Annese received a national fellowship for excellence in stage management.
Image by: Christian Arthur

Vanessa Charles Also Going to Las Vegas for Training with Cirque Du Soleil Artists

Seven UMass Boston students were recognized at the regional level at this year’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Hyannis, competing alongside students from all over New England and New York. Two of the students, Lauren Annese and Vanessa Charles, are regional finalists who have received all-expense paid trips to receive training and compete in the national competition in Washington, D.C. next month.

Annese, a junior theatre arts major from Attleboro, received a national fellowship for excellence in stage management. This fall’s You Can’t Take It with You was the first time she ever served as a stage manager.

“I learned everything I know from my professors,” Annese said. “I came in with auditions, I just wanted to help in some way and I was too nervous to go out for an acting role, so I just asked how I could get involved. [Professors] Anthony Phelps and Mike Katz were really good about making sure I had all the tools I needed as I moved on and took it step by step with me.”

For the first round, Annese was evaluated on her prompt book, where blocking and production notes are kept, and had to go through a 6-minute interview. She and the other nine finalists then had to go through a 12-minute interview round the next day. The 38 stage manager candidates also had to help manage the event itself. Annese, who once thought she wanted to be a veterinarian, now has other dreams.

“I would love to stage manage on Broadway,” she said.

Vanessa Charles with her award-winning display

Vanessa Charles will be graduating in December with her second UMass Boston degree. The Caracas, Venezuela native graduated with degrees in international management and political science in 2012 and is now studying music. She also worked on the Performing Arts Department’s fall production of You Can’t Take It with You.

In Hyannis, Charles received both a national fellowship for excellence in sound design and the StageCraft Institute Las Vegas Award, meaning she’ll be going to the national level of the KCACTF in Washington, D.C., and she’ll be going to Las Vegas in June to take advanced sound design and technology trainings. Artists from Cirque Du Soleil will be taking part.

“Cirque Du Soleil has one of the biggest venues in Las Vegas for sound in terms of live performance so I’m really excited about that. There’s a lot of professional people who are going to be there in the sound design industry so I can’t wait to meet them and work with them,” Charles said.

Charles was judged on her poster board display and a 3-minute presentation on the story she aimed to tell with sound. In the next round, Charles had 10 minutes to go through cues and take part in a conversation with the same three judges. Charles says Rafael Jaen, who, along with Phelps, Katz, and Carrie Ann Quinn volunteered as mentors, guided her through the process.

The following UMass Boston students were also recognized in Region 1:

  • Cassidy Bane: Merit Award for Outstanding Costume Construction & Crew (for Twelfth Night)
  • Colleen Fitzgibbons: Merit Award for Outstanding Costume Construction & Crew (for Twelfth Night)
  • Tori Moline: Merit Award for Outstanding Costume Construction & Crew (for Twelfth Night) and National Award for Excellence in Allied Design, Honorable Mention (for You Can’t Take It with You)
  • Erin Reilly: Finalist in the Maltby Musical Theatre Excellence Competition
  • Rick Chason: Semifinalist for Irene Ryan Acting Competition. Only 36 students advanced to this level from a field of 216.

About UMass Boston
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit

Tags: awards , music , performing arts , theatre arts

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