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Sowers Captures Prestigious Kennedy Center Award PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Contact Tearanny Street, 601.266.6823   

Thomas Sowers, a senior design and technical major at The University of Southern Mississippi, has become the first Mississippi student to win a national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) award.

Sowers, a Starkville, Miss. native, won the KCACTF Sound Design Excellence award last month for his work in the Southern Miss Department of Theatre and Dance’s fall production of “Hitchcock Blonde.” He, along with two other theater students, advanced from regional competition at Middle Tennessee State University in February to the national level in Washington, D.C.

“I’m really hoping this is going to jumpstart my career,” Sowers said.

As part of the award, Sowers won a fellowship with a design assistant at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. In addition to being the first student in the state to win a national KCACTF award, Sowers is the first recipient of the newly created sound design award. “It’s a lot like a burst of adrenaline – the whole experience,” he said.

Through state, regional and national festivals, KCACTF participants celebrate the creative process, review others’ work and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. Individual students like Sowers are given recognition for their projects through awards and scholarships for design, acting, criticism and directing.

Crediting his Southern Miss training, Sowers said, “I think the way they teach us to think here at Southern Miss, design-wise, really gave me a leg-up. They’re always reminding us that we’re artists and that’s what we’re doing.”

Sowers’ professors in the theater department describe him as a “creative and engaged designer.” Monica Hayes, director of “Hitchcock Blonde,” worked closely with him on the set. “Thomas kept working on each sound effect until it was as perfect as he could make it,” said Hayes. “This show required realistic background sounds like taxi cabs pulling up in the distance and nonrealistic sounds to support the Hitchcock-inspired violence sequences.”

After graduation in December, Sowers hopes to continue designing in Washington, D.C. He looks forward to “paying his dues” and “fighting” for theater jobs, but hopes his KCACTF award will help get the ball rolling faster.

Southern Miss has won numerous state and regional awards for productions and individual student and faculty achievements in recent years. Assistant professor of lighting and sound design Craig Dettman said the theater program is what brought him to Mississippi.

“We have an incredible department with many talented students and faculty,” said Dettman, who serves as Sowers’ mentor. “We produce fantastic work. This award really puts Southern Miss on the map and lets the nation know that we are for real. We train students for the professional world, and I think that Thomas’ award will show this off.”

Thomas Sowers

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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