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USM Theatre Students Win National Kennedy Center Awards

Tue, 05/31/2022 - 03:37pm | By: Ivonne Kawas

Three students in the School of Performing and Visual Arts at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) were among the awardees at the 2022 National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Awards, honored virtually at a ceremony held this month.

Petron BrownPetron Brown, MFA in Theatre Performance candidate from The Bahamas, received the John Cauble Award; Mason Baria, BFA in Theatre Design and Technology candidate from Gautier, Miss., received the Distinguished Achievement for the National Costume Design Award; and Allison Bucher, BFA in Theatre Design and Technology candidate from Metairie, La., received the National Sound Design Award.

The KCACTF boasts contestants from a diverse range of fields in theatre and puts students in a competition celebrating the highest caliber of work produced in university and college theatre programs from across the U.S.

“We are thrilled for students of our program to receive national recognition at the KCACTF

National Festival,” said Dr. David Coley, producer and assistant professor of theatre. “It speaks volumes of their talents and efforts as well as the education and training they received here at Southern Miss Theatre. We are proud to be at the national forefront in performance, design, and advocacy,” he added.

Brown, who was honored with the John Cauble Award, was recognized for his outstanding participation in the KCACTF/LORT ASPIRE Fellows Program, as he demonstrated leadership and community-building skills.

“Being the recipient of this award is a magnificent honor,” said Brown. “I am humbled by this recognition as it represents not only myself, but everyone who has propelled me along the way. I owe it to the amazing theatre faculty here at Southern Miss,” he added. 

The purpose of the ASPIRE program is to equip the next generation of leaders in the American theatre system by exposing them to industry professionals and providing the space to engage in insightful conversations.

As an ASPIRE fellow, Brown highlights that being able to connect with peers and artists in the industry to create meaningful change is an experience unlike any other.  

“This fellowship has been one of the most enlightening experiences I've had to date,” said Brown. “In the initial phase, I presented a theatre company to judges which then led to my advancement as the region representative in the national cohort.”

“At the national level, ten students across the nation virtually communed with notable theatre makers including President of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Deborah Rutter,” he continued. “Perhaps most rewarding was being able to connect with my peers and artists who are also passionate about creating meaningful change in the theatre world. I am eager to see us all do amazing things and uplift each other along the way.”

As an actor and playwright, Brown has taken the stage at Southern Miss in numerous productions at the collegiate and professional level including Detroit ‘67 as Sly and A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Lysander/Snout. Brown’s writing dabbles into documentary, social change, and experimental theatre. His debut body of work, Color, is a play that navigates Black identity by examining lived experiences for real world insight into racial trauma.

Mason BariaBaria, a costume designer and technician, was recognized for his costume designs for Bill Russell's Side Show. He is dedicated to the expression of identity and storytelling through his work and stands alongside marginalized voices within and beyond the theater community.

Over the summer, he will be joining The Hippodrome Theatre staff as a first hand design assistant in the costume shop.

Allison BucherBucher was recognized for her sound design work for Hedda Gabler. She skillfully portrayed a sense of hyperrealism and created a realistic basis from which certain turning points throughout the play were heightened by using practical sound elements and manipulation of silence.

“I am extremely proud of the work that I have accomplished with this show, especially as it was the topic of my thesis for the Honors College,” said Bucher. “I have learned a lot about collaboration and research throughout the process of working on this production while creating my own style as a sound designer. I plan to use these skills in my future career and education, as I embark on a journey to pursue an MFA in Theatre Sound and Digital Media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.”

Learn more about the Southern Miss Theatre program.