Christina Morris ’21 and Stefania Owusu ’21 Selected to Perform at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Finals in Cape Cod
SUNY Potsdam sophomores Christina Morris ’21 and Stefania Owusu ’21 were chosen, through a three-round audition process, to perform in the final round of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions at the 51st Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), held at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable, Mass., from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. Over 200 actors participated in the auditions throughout the festival, with only 16 pairs of actors advancing to the finals. This marked the first appearance by SUNY Potsdam students in the regional finals since 2013.
As part of the selection process to attend the festival, KCACTF respondents visited SUNY Potsdam last year, and based on the outstanding lead performance of Morris in the mainstage production of “Venus,” she was chosen to attend the festival and audition for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Morris in turn reached out to her classmate Owusu, and the two student actors spent three months preparing their scenes for the festival.
“I am incredibly proud of their work and I think it showcases what our students at SUNY Potsdam are capable of—the dedication, the talent and the skill that they have when they work together, and they apply themselves,” said Rivka Rocchio, an assistant professor in SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Theatre and Dance.
Morris and Owusu performed two scenes together—one from the play “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage and one from “The Colored Museum,” a play written by George C. Wolfe. Their scene from “Ruined” portrayed the troubled life of two women working in a brothel in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the recent civil war. Both students brought intense emotion and authentic accents to the scene, helping to propel them to a final’s appearance at the festival. “The Colored Museum,” presented a sarcastic, very theatrical and political commentary on Ebony Magazine. “When Ebony Magazine first came out it was really just this artificial way of presenting the African American culture and the African American body,” said Morris.
Morris also staged a solo vocal performance at the finals of “I Know Where I’ve Been,” from Hairspray—where she won the prestigious VASTA Vocal Excellence certificate. The award recognizes and celebrates outstanding vocal work from students across the United States and only one student receives the award in each of the eight regional festivals.
Morris and Owusu were joined by 18 other SUNY Potsdam students at the festival, as well as Associate Professor Todd Canedy, Assistant Professor Joshua Vink and Rocchio. “The whole time that I was at the festival and interacting with other faculty, folks kept coming up to me and saying, ‘I just saw one of your students in a workshop, or I just saw one of your students perform.’ It was always glowing feedback that I was getting about the way our students were conducting themselves and performing—and these two in particular (Morris and Owusu), where just lights in the crown of the whole group that we brought,” Rocchio said.
In addition to the acting auditions, students at the festival attended a variety of workshops on everything from vocal training, dance techniques and physical combat to a workshop with Kari Margolis on her renowned Margolis acting method, something that resonated with Morris. “Through that workshop I actually received an opportunity to get a scholarship to go to her summer program,” Morris said.
Networking opportunities are one of the biggest reasons that SUNY Potsdam faculty keep bringing students back to the festival year after year. Beyond meeting students and faculty from other universities, there were also representatives from Disney, cruise ship companies and theatre touring groups who attended the festival in search of potential actors to join their ranks. “It’s an incredible networking opportunity for them. Theatre and acting are a really small field, so the folks that they make connections with, will continue to serve them as they go on,” Rocchio said.
Now back at SUNY Potsdam, Morris and Owusu are preparing for the mainstage production of “Slanguage,” which will be performed during the annual LoKo Arts Festival. They are also enrolled in Scene Study and Realism with Rocchio, a class where they have been working on advanced acting techniques based on Stanislavski’s approach to actor training for scenes within the Realism genre.
Travel funds were made possible through the Performing Arts Center Programs Endowment at SUNY Potsdam, established in 2015 by Lynne Boles ’74 and her husband, John Priest, Hon. ’17. For more information about the Department of Theatre and Dance, visit: www.potsdam.edu/academics/AAS/depts/theatre
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of only three arts campuses in the entire SUNY system. SUNY Potsdam’s arts curriculum offers the full palette: music, theatre, dance, fine arts and creative writing. No matter the discipline, people from all backgrounds can find their creative compass at Potsdam, with myriad arts immersion experiences available for both campus and community.