NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Students in the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre earned prestigious honors and made impressive presentations at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region VI held recently in Abilene.

Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas comprise KCACTF's Region VI, and students in junior colleges, colleges and universities competed against one another for awards.

The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships provide recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. Since 1972, the Irene Ryan Foundation of Encino, California, has awarded scholarships to the outstanding student performers at each regional festival. These scholarships are made possible by the generosity of the late American actress Irene Ryan who is best remembered for her portrayal of the lovable and feisty Granny Clampett in "The Beverly Hillbillies." All student actors in both participating and associate productions are eligible for consideration for these $500 regional scholarships.

This year's Irene Ryan acting competition consisted of 162 teams (student actors are nominated based on their work in a theatrical production) vying for the first place spot. Earning first place allows the winner to go to Washington, D.C., to compete and represent the region against the rest of the nation, according to Cleo House Jr., director of the SFA School of Theatre.

SFA submitted three teams of two, including sophomore theatre major Kaitlyn McDearmont of Sulpher Springs and her scene partner, junior theatre major Triston Haq of Baytown; sophomore theatre major Crayten Clendion of Cypress and her scene partner, junior theatre major Kiara Hawkins of Tyler; and senior theatre major Ga'Brielle Charlot of Houston and her scene partner, senior theatre major Alex Duty of Needville.

Charlot and Duty advanced to the semifinals where the teams were whittled down from 162 to 32. The SFA representatives then advanced to the final round for further elimination.

"Charlot and Duty won first runner up, just one team away from going to D.C.," House said. "This is an excellent opportunity for our students, as both Charlot and Duty will now be able to skip the prescreening process at the United Resident Theatre Association auditions in 2020 where they can audition for graduate schools and professional theatre companies."

Copperas Cove senior theatre major Sarah Wiseman's "The Game" was chosen from more than 60 one-act plays to be one of six given a concert-style staged reading at the festival. Each play received a half-hour response from two professional playwrights and will be considered for nomination to the national festival in Washington, D.C.

"This type of recognition by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival will assist Wiseman tremendously in application to graduate schools where she will be a candidate for an M.F.A. in playwriting," House said.

The School of Theatre's devised theatre group, Speak Up, performed at the festival, as well. Additional student presentations were made in the area of lighting design by senior theatre major Mia Lindemann of Prosper and in stage management by junior theatre major Katie Irwin of Tyler.

"This is SFA's second year participating in KCACTF and the second year we've had a student team make it to the finals in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition," House said.

House and fellow theatre faculty member Dr. Slade Billew coached the Irene Ryan teams. Faculty member Jackie Rosenfeld is the chair of the National Playwriting Program.