UMass Boston

UMass Boston Shines as the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Returns to In-Person

02/15/2023| Bill Doncaster

After three long years of meeting virtually, the “festive” returned to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region 1 for week-long in-person gathering hosted by Cape Cod Community College. Eleven UMass students joined colleagues from colleges throughout the Northeast, each earning a spot through outstanding performances or work in the University Hall Theatre over the past year.

At Center, Jesus Rodriquez and Melisa Cepeda hold their Best Scene Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, Region 1, surrounded by 9 other nominated students and Prof. Carrie Ann Quinn

“ Every time we go, I’m impressed and proud of the professionalism of our theatre students - Carrie Ann Quinn ”

“It was so wonderful to be back together in person,” said Carrie Ann Quinn, coordinator of the Theatre Arts program at UMass Boston. “Make no mistake, this is no talent show – it’s a theatre research conference presenting the highest quality student work in performance, design technology, playwriting, management and dramaturgy in the northeast. This is a week of intense workshops, performances, critiques, and opportunities. The actors rehearse for weeks prior to attending, playwrights revise, and the dramaturgs polish presentations. We’re so proud of the work they do, and grateful the KCACTF creates such a forum.”  

“At each turn, all student nominees get meaningful critique and feedback from theatre professionals who are trailblazers in the national and international theatre, tv and film industries. They also have talkbacks with audiences, and they meet and work with students and faculty from across the region,” Quinn said. “Every time we go, I’m impressed and proud of the professionalism of our theatre students – excited to do good work, to learn and grow.” 

Faculty members assist the nominated students in preparation, including Quinn, who works with the actors, Ginger Lazarus, playwright mentor, Robert Lublin, dramaturgy mentor, and Bethany Aiken, singing mentor.


Highlights from this year’s festival include:  

  • Lexi Jones’ ten-minute play Alice in AA, first staged as part of New Voices, New Stories in Fall 2022, was one of six regional nominees for the National Playwriting Program. Her play was performed to a capacity crowd in the 120-seat Tilden Black Box cast from among festival attendees, including UMass Boston’s Bobby Lovett, performing a role.  
  • Anya Lamarre-Anderson, nominated for her dramaturgy work for the Spring 2022 production of Pride and Prejudice, presented her work digitally and in-person interviews to professional dramaturgs. She received high praise for her Regency-era historical research with contemporary gender-bending.  
  • Among the actors, five UMass Boston students were among the 32 scene and monologue 5-minute presentations in the Semi-Final Round for the Irene Ryan Acting Audition, selected from nearly 200 nominees. Amaya Levens, nominated for her portrayal of Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, with scene partner Jasmine El-Shurafa; Skylar Chin nominated for her portrayal of Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, with scene partner Jack Rousell; Melisa Cepeda and Jesus Jesus Rodriguez, both nominated for Working: The Musical last fall, who partnered each other to perform twice in the semi round, as they both were nominees.
  • Chin and Rousell went one round further, performing as one of just 16 pairs in the Final Round Acting Scholarship Auditions in the 680-seat Tilden Mainstage Theatre.  
  • Chin, with an additional nomination for Musical Theatre Scholarship for Working, was one of 16 finalists who performed two prepared songs in the sold-out mainstage. Chin received high praise from the audience and professional respondents for both of her final presentations.  
  • At the Awards Ceremony at the festival’s close, Rodriquez and Cepeda received the “Best Scene” award for their comedy performance of Scapino, adapted by Jeff Binder, selected from semi-finalists.  
  • Jamie Roballo’s play Second Chances, and Amaya Leven’s play Illusions of Grandeur, both part of New Voices, New Stories, were selected to receive a professional critique.  
  • Roballo and Rodriquez both wrote and performed new monologues for the popular Monologue Slam.  
  • Anna Pumphrey, scene partner to Ryan Nominee, Bobby Lovett, were both cast and performed in two of the National Playwriting Program selections.  

At the festival, other awards received included the technical crew of New Voices, New Stories and the crew of Working: A Musical, received 2023 Merit Awards for Outstanding Production Crew; Melisa Cepeda and Maddy Gooltz received 2023 Merit Awards for Outstanding Stage Management for New Voices and Working, respectively; the cast of Pride & Prejudice received a Merit Award for Outstanding Ensemble; Carrie Ann Quinn received a Merit Award for Outstanding Directing for Pride & Prejudice.