USI Theatre presents “These Shining Lives” at American College Theatre Festival


Photo courtesy of Paul Weimer and Shan Jensen

USI Theatre students and faculty members smile with their “These Shining Lives” posters. USI Theatre was one of four schools in the area to present a play at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The festival took place from Jan. 11-15.

Bryce West, Assistant News Editor

The USI Theatre department was selected to present its most recent show, “These Shining Lives,” at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCATF) in Flint, Michigan. The festival took place from Jan. 11-15.

Judges from the festival came to USI’s initial performance of the show in November 2022 to decide if the show was worthy of being included in the festival. 

Students and faculty found out they had been accepted into the festival during finals week of the Fall 2022 semester. 

 “These Shining Lives” was directed by student director Amelia Schmitz, who was a senior theatre performance major at the time and has since graduated. 

“We got to perform Friday and Saturday because the theatre we performed at was a little bit smaller than the other theatre a few more shows got to perform at,” Schmitz said. “Altogether, there was four schools who got to bring a show out of our whole region.”

The stage is set to present USI Theatre’s “These Shining Lives” at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The festival took place from Jan. 11-15. (Photo courtesy of Paul Weimer and Shan Jensen) (Photo courtesy of Paul Weimer and Shan Jensen)

The students and faculty were responsible for transporting all the sets and props for the show from Evansville to Flint.

“We were able to get the whole set and the costumes and the props into a 126-foot-long box truck, which our technical director Andy Hammond drove,” said Paul Weimer, interim chair of performing arts. “Then the rest of us went on a charter bus. There were 27 students and four faculty members on the trip.”

The students were judged on how efficiently they were able to load and unload their show throughout the festival.

“The week before, we rehearsed loading and unloading the show because part of this festival there is a competition for a Golden Hand Truck, an award where they just have a hand truck, and they spray it gold, and whoever has the best and safest load-in and best communicating overall bet to win this hand truck,” Schmitz said.

The students also received feedback for their show at the festival. No awards were given for the performances.

“Before we left, we got a response on our load-in, and then we got a response on the show and the directing, acting and design in general,” Schmitz said. “It was all really positive, which I’m very thankful for. There was nothing they brought up that they didn’t understand or was concerned about.”

Gavin Carter, junior theatre major, said, “It was more of like observers more than judges.” 

The students only had two rehearsals before the festival to prepare.

“One was just a read-through and a walk-through, and the other one was a full dress rehearsal,” said Blair McKown, junior theatre major.

Students said they still learned a lot from the experience even though awards were not given out based on their performances.

“An audience makes a huge difference,” McKown said. “That was one of the best audiences I’ve ever performed in front of. They reacted to everything. Even things you didn’t think were funny were funny.”

We thrived off of that audience, and it was probably the best show I’ve ever performed.

— Blair McKown, junior theatre major

“It made me realize how much I actually want to be a part of this,” Carter said. “I want this as a career. It was a good simulation because if you’re working for a travel show, you’re doing that every other night.”

“I enjoyed the whole time, being around people, being around my friends, being around the cast, it made me realize how much I want to be as my career,” Carter said.

“You’re performing it for theatre people, so they’re all very enthusiastic,” Weimer said. “I find that the shows often get more reaction because they’re really listening. They’re really anxious to laugh and cry because we are all theatre people. So, I’m sure it’s fun for the actors who are in the show because they get a much greater response.”

USI Theatre will be doing a production of “Fun Home” by Lisa Kron Feb. 23-26. According to the USI website, “Fun Home” follows graphic novelist Alison as she explores her past following her father’s death.