April 19, 2014  

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Southern Miss Theatre Students Earn Top Honors at Prestigious Kennedy Center

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University of Southern Mississippi theater students Stephanie Abby and Alex Piper recently brought home top honors from the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
University of Southern Mississippi theater students Stephanie Abby and Alex Piper recently brought home top honors from the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

University of Southern Mississippi students Stephanie Abby and Alex Piper have not stopped smiling since bringing home top honors from competition that boasted thousands of contestants from institutions across the nation. The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) is an educational initiative hosted by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

This year’s KCACTF competition hosted 18,000 contestants from every field of theatre.  Contestants are nominated from plays in their own colleges, and then progress to regional competitions, from which a few are selected to compete at the national level.  Nationally, only sixteen actors are chosen and only eight costume designers are chosen. Of these finalists, Southern Miss placed both an actor and a costume designer. 

Abby, a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) - Costume Design candidate of Millington, Tenn., won first place in costume design in the competition, beating out every other competitor in the nation. She won with her costume design for Grapes of Wrath, which was performed in the spring of 2012.  

In addition to lifetime bragging rights, Abby will travel to New York City, where she will tour the top costume houses, meet and network with many of the foremost designers, and participate in dedicated workshops.

Abby was thrilled to bring home the first place title and inspired to be surrounded by peers who are as artistically driven and passionate about their work as she is.

“I am honored to have received this award and to have had the opportunity to represent not only The University of Southern Mississippi, but also my region in the national KCACTF National Design Exhibition,” said Abby.

Alex Piper, a third year MFA Theatre Performance candidate from Cullman, Ala. was named as a finalist, earning him an audition at the prestigious The Shakespeare Company in D.C., for which he was given a fellowship from January-June of 2014.  He will perform in Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV and 2 Henry IV with some of the world’s finest classical actors.

"I am very grateful for the opportunity to gather with other artists from around the country and share the work of the medium we are all passionate about,” said Piper.  “I know that I will be working with these artists again at some point in the future. This was an invaluable experience given that this is a field based upon the interconnectedness of people and ideas."

Piper also said that The Shakespeare Company fellowship is an amazing opportunity to transition from a program that prides itself on striving for professionalism and artistic contributions to the field, to an organization that is a model of such behavior and artistic endeavors. 

“The MFA design and tech program at Southern Miss instilled in me invaluable techniques through which I was able to approach the collaborative design process,” Abby added. “As the recipient of the KCACTF National Award for Design Excellence I will be provided with extraordinary networking opportunities that will no doubt be important in shaping my career as a designer.”

Since 1971, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts has showcased thousands of performances and productions of theatre, dance, and music for millions of audiences.  The Kennedy Center is the home of the National Symphony Orchestra and America’s “national center for performing arts,” which leads the way in arts education. 

For more information about the Southern Miss Department of Theatre, call 601.266.4994 or visit www.usm.edu/theatre