When it was first mentioned we had to do a second networking event, I panicked for a good minute or two until I realized that I had a perfect event to do my assignment on. The Kennedy Center of American College Theatre Festival, or most commonly referred to as KCACTF. This past February I, along with the cast and crew of String, attended KCACTF as 1 of the 5 invited mainstage productions. We were given the honor and opportunity to perform a new, student written play in front of hundreds of students and faculty members and it was absolutely wonderful. KCACTF is a festival where one can take workshops ranging from tech to acting to dance, compete for several different awards, audition for grad schools, and watch the mainstages. To have had the chance to perform good theatre with people I love, for people who love theatre, and want nothing more than to go on this play’s journey with you is a feeling that is so unique and special. I am so thankful for it. Here at KCACTF, I was able to network in workshops, after our performance, and after the other mainstages. No preparation for this assignment was needed for this was involved in an area where I am my most comfortable self; Theatre.
My first networking opportunity just so happen to be in the elevator of my hotel. As anyone would know, any elevator convo is not a lengthy one. Specifically, this conversation, as the hotel only had five stories and I was on the second floor… We were both waiting patiently for the elevator to reach the lobby floor and I noticed we both had KCACTF badges on. I asked her if she was here for anything special or for simply to have fun. She told me it was a bit of both, that she was here for the workshops and to direct one of the 10 minute plays the festival puts on, which I found to be very cool. She asked me in return why I was here as we were getting on the elevator and I began to tell her about String. I gave her a quick summary about the play and I let her know when and what time we would be performing. She seemed very interested and as I was walking out the elevator, she let me know that she would go see it. I quickly told her my name and she told me hers was Lilly. Spoiler alert… Lilly does go to see String and she brought a couple of friends as well!
On my first day at KCACTF, a bunch of us decided to go to a Stanislavski “Art of Transformation” acting workshop led by Ronald Rand. In this workshop, I got to be a cat at one point. It may seem weird to you. It was. But it was also fun. We went over each point of the Stanislavski acting method and got on our feet to try and embody them. Rand also shared with us his two books available on amazon if we wished to purchase them. After the workshop, many people wanted to talk to him of course, so when I had the chance to speak with him, I knew I needed to be brief. I introduced myself and thanked him for the workshop. I asked him a quick question on the depth of his book “Create!” and was told that it is quite extensive which is nice to know. I explained to him the reason I ask being that I enjoy reading different acting books to see the different opinions created in each one and to see what sticks for me when I read them for my own personal acting use. I also, got to write down my email address on a sheet of paper for a list of plays he believes every actor should know, along with acting books to read too. I received an email from him about a week later with the list of plays and books and now I have his email address and he has mine. So, if I ever have a question or want to try and get in contact, I now have a direct way to do so.
During our time at the festival, we had been instructed by Erik to pass out flyers pertaining information on our show to spread the word. This allowed me to strike up a conversation with someone easily. A few of us were at the Marriott convention center, where most of the festivals events and competitions took place, passing out flyers. As we were walking around, I noticed a small group of people sitting around talking. I told them the reason why I came up to them and that was to hand them flyers to come see String. They asked what the play was about, and I proceeded to tell them that it takes place in New York City and follows the family of Ma, Chris, and Shakespeare, and how they try to make the best of life during difficult financial times while also battling racism and illness. They were very interested, and all took flyers to remember and pass along to their other classmates. I then found out they were from Georgia Southern University and were here to compete for the Irene Ryans scholarship and to participate in workshops. Some of them had interviews for grad school, and I told them how excited I was for them and wished them the best of luck. I told them my name, and they had told me all of theirs, but alas that information is no longer in my head and I did not write them down. Nonetheless, they were very sweet people and assured me they would try their best to come see the show.
As I mentioned in the beginning, there were five invited mainstage productions at KCACTF. So, every night, our JU group would go to see the mainstage presented together. One of the mainstages was a musical written by a collective of female student playwrights titled Bloodroot; The Ballad of Clinch Mountain. During the intermission of the show, I had the opportunity to talk with two people sitting in the row directly in front of me. The conversation started by the two of them turning around because they heard my friend, Esther, still cackling about one of the jokes told in the show, and they were laughing with her. Not because the joke was hilarious, but because of the circumstances of the joke and its delivery. Do I remember the joke you ask? Nope. Sorry. All I remember was many of the jokes in the show were a bit forced, like they wanted it to be funny at this specific moment and to not let the flow of dialogue bring the possibility of humor out naturally. Anyway, I, again, introduced myself and asked where they are from. Their names were Lauren and Keenan and they were from Clayton State University. With the time we had left of intermission, we talked about how much we loved the set and the music but, we were struggling to hear them when they were not singing. It was a combination of a lack of diction and projection for everyone in the show. However, before the lights went down, I got to share with them about String and they said they would definitely be there.
For my final networking opportunity, I used it after we had just performed String. Once we finished, many people came up to the stage to talk to us about the show. They all gave us such sweet and comforting feedback. It was so lovely. I got to see Lilly again! And she introduced me to a friend of hers named, Ashley. They told me that I was their favorite because I made them laugh the most which was awesome to hear. They also mentioned how they loved the outfits I got to wear which brought us to talking about everyone’s costumes in the show. The costumes in String range from the 70s to the 90s and 2000s which we all agreed on as our favorite fashion genres. They quickly asked me before I had to go about the process of working on a new play and I simply replied saying that it is amazing. It has been one of the biggest acting challenges I have faced because I never had to bring a character to life before. It was a lot of trial and error before I found out who I wanted Aunty to be and what felt right when I portrayed her. At the end of our conversation, they asked for my Instagram and now we follow each other!
For this second network assignment, my goal was to not think too hard about creating a conversation and just doing it, especially since this assignment was done on my own turf. Thankfully, that goal was achieved because it was not until after I had these conversations that I realized I could use them for this assignment. Being kind and friendly continues to work the best when you want to have a conversation with someone you do not know because then they are more willing to open up and share about themselves with you. What sparked the most interest in people was the fact that I was in one of the mainstage productions because it is such a huge honor. Only five out of hundreds of productions are chosen and that immediately becomes impressive to people.