SFA theatre students Mariano Aguirre, senior theatre major from Little Elm, and Kiya Green, senior theatre major from Waxahachie

SFA theatre students Mariano Aguirre, senior theatre major from Little Elm, and Kiya Green, senior theatre major from Waxahachie, earned top honors at the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival recently in Washington, D.C., in winning the Irene Ryan Acting Competition.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Two theatre students from Stephen F. Austin State University brought the highest honors in collegiate acting to the university when they won the Irene Ryan Acting Competition at the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival recently in Washington, D.C.

The acting duo of Kiya Green, senior theatre major from Waxahachie, and Mariano Aguirre, senior theatre major from Little Elm, were rated No. 1 in the nation for their competition performances in which the students had five minutes to present two monologues and one duo scene to be judged by a variety of professionals and theatre makers, according to Cleo House-Keller, director of the SFA School of Theatre and Dance. The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship is a prestigious award in the field of theater arts, named after the acclaimed actress Irene Ryan.

“For those who aren’t familiar with KCACTF and the Irene Ryan competition, it might be hard to convey or understand the significance of Kiya and Mariano’s win,” House-Keller explained. “It is easily equal to winning an NCAA championship. These students came out on top of all of the actors in this competition from across the entire U.S. For SFA to be recognized like this – not that long ago for our production of “Bootycandy” in 2021 and again more recently with SFA theatre student Danielle Wooden winning the national title last year for stage management – only serves to highlight that theatre training at SFA is among the best in the country.”

Each April, the Kennedy Center welcomes outstanding theater students to the KCACTF National Festival. Student awardees in design, performance, directing, playwriting, stage management, dramaturgy, arts leadership and theatre criticism are invited from all eight regions. Through master classes, presentations, conversations and staged readings, students learn from and connect with established theatre artists, as well as their peers from across the country. At this national event, students are eligible for professional training opportunities, fellowships and awards based on their projects and work presented during the festival.

In earning Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships, Green will receive a $5,000 award, and Mariano will receive a $1,000 award. She also earned a Jane Alexander Award for Acting and a $2,500 award from the College of Fellows of the American Theatre, and she won a Mark Twain Scholarship for Comic Performance and a $1,000 award.

Aguirre won a five-day actor intensive session with Encompass Collective in which he will join other ensemble awardees in participating in graduate school-level actor training, including movement, voice, scene study and self-tape. Encompass Collective is a community of Global Majority actors trained at the top graduate school programs in the U.S. and who are committed to training the next generation of artists to sustain a professional career in acting.

Both Green and Aguirre graduated in May after earning Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. Green is exploring two “exciting options” in her career path, including working with The Ensemble Theatre in Houston or moving to Atlanta, Ga., to “kickstart my acting career.”

“Both paths offer their own challenges and rewards, and I'm eager to see how each choice shapes my artistic trajectory,” she said. “I am incredibly excited about my future in acting. While I tend to be self-critical, I know that I've been blessed with a gift from God, and I'm determined not to let it go to waste. Winning this award is a testament to countless hours of hard work and dedication. It's a reminder that my efforts have paid off, and that I'm on the right path. I can't wait to see how I can continue to grow as an actor.”

"The Kennedy Center offers such an incredible opportunity,” Aguirre said, “and I was so honored to serve as Kiya’s scene partner for the festival. Meeting so many theatre students from around the nation, and working with one another throughout the week alongside some of the nation's top theatre professionals was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Receiving such honors for your work is an incredible experience,” Aguirre added, “and as we graduate, the recognition also reassures us that our theatre faculty at SFA have well-prepared us to forge our own artistic pathways in the professional world."

For more information about the School of Theatre and Dance, call (936) 468-4003 or visit sfasu.edu/theatre-dance.