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WCSU captures multiple KCACTF awards at regional event

image of KCACTF award winners
(l-r): Tony Harkin, Dominick Walch, Tyler Gallaher, Abigail Bueti, Alex Colavecchio and Alaina Mueller brought home awards from KCACTF Region 1.

DANBURY, CONN. – The Western Connecticut State University Department of Theatre Arts returned in February 2019 from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region 1 competition in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with a multitude of awards, continuing a trend of successful outcomes in the annual, regional competition.

KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from more than 700 colleges and universities nationwide. Eight regional festivals take place in January and February, with finalists and some award winners advancing to the national festival in April in Washington, D.C. WCSU is part of Region 1, which comprises Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, northeastern New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Students who participated in the KCACTF Region 1 event competed for a wide variety of awards, including those in areas that involve staging and design, as well as performance. The following WCSU students received recognition for their work:

Abigail Bueti, of Brewster, New York, Region 1 Finalist for the Barbizon Award for Excellence in Design;

Tony Harkin, of New Milford, Region 1 Finalist for the LMDA/KCACTF Student Dramaturgy Award and recipient of the Dramaturgy Program Note Regional Award;

Alex Colavecchio, of Cromwell, Honorable Mention for the Richard Maltby Jr. Award for Musical Theatre Excellence

Alaina Mueller, of Windsor, Second Honorable Mention for the Richard Maltby Jr. Award for Musical Theatre Excellence;

Owen Smith, of Pawcatuck, Honorable Mention for Stage Management;

Dominick Walch, of Brewster, New York, Fifth Finalist for Tech Olympics;

Tyler Gallaher, of Wappingers Falls, New York, recipient of the S.P.A.M. Award for Excellence in Props from the Society of Properties Artisans Managers.

Bueti will go to the KCACTF National event in Washington, D.C., next month as a result of her award.

Professor of Theatre Arts Elizabeth Popiel, an Emmy Award-winning set designer for ABC’s “Good Morning, America,” said, “I was Abby’s mentor during her three years at WCSU and got to witness and feed her growth in design. Her hard work and efforts paid off, culminating in her fine design for our production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in fall 2018, which put her in contention for this trip to D.C. She will have the great honor of being considered for a national design award in addition to the regional one she received in Hyannis.

“This is the first time in a long while that we have had so many Design Tech students represented and headed to the national festival,” Popiel continued. “We had two students go to Washington for sound and hair/makeup about 10 years ago, but this is an impressive and significant number of our Design Tech students being recognized at the same time.”

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Tim Howard, coordinator of the university’s Musical Theatre program, was one of several theatre arts department faculty members who accompanied WCSU students to Cape Cod Community College, where the competition took place in late January/early February. Howard, who teaches acting, directing and related on-stage performance courses, is a multiple recipient in recent years of KCACTF best director awards. He was pleased with the level of WCSU’s representation in the competition for the most prestigious acting award presented at the festival — the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.

“The initial field of regional competitors for the Irene Ryan Award started with 182 and was narrowed down to 18,” Howard said. “WCSU represented almost a third of the region in this area.”

Eight WCSU students made it to the semi-finals for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, with five advancing to become finalists.

Professor of Theatre Arts Pam McDaniel also was invited to present her fall 2018 production, “Uncle Vanya,” at the regional event, where it was received positively.

The theatre arts department’s success at the KCACTF regional and national festivals is indisputable. In 2018, WCSU captured 10 awards for “Evita,” including Distinguished Production of a Musical, Distinguished Director of a Musical, Distinguished Choreography, Distinguished Performance by an Actress in a Musical (times five), and Distinguished Performance by an Actor in a Musical (times two).

In 2017, “The Drowsy Chaperone” won the department 11 awards and an invitation for director Tim Howard and student Jillian Caillouette, of Meriden, to attend the national KCACTF event to accept awards.

WCSU’s 2015 production, “Parade,” was nominated for 14 awards and won five at the 2016 KCACTF event.



Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.