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Concord Student to Go to South East Theater Conference

By Lydia McGee
On November 13, 2017

Brianna Duckworth will participate in the South East Theater Conference in Mobile, Alabama in March.
Photo By Brianna Duckworth

On Nov. 3-4, Concord University hosted the West Virginia Theater Association conference in the Alexander Fine Arts Center. Over the course of the weekend, several high schools competed to make it to the South East Theater Conference and to qualify for theater scholarships from West Virginia universities. In addition, seven Concord University students competed on the college level. Of these, Concord’s Brianna Duckworth, junior majoring in communication arts with an emphasis in theater, passed the audition and will go to Mobile, Alabama, with the conference in March.

    Karen Vuranch, who coordinated the event with the help of her theater crew, says “[the] college students audition to be able to go to the regional conference and audition there for summer jobs or year-round acting jobs. It is highly competitive. You cannot go to regionals unless you participate in a state competition.”

    Only 59 of the 127 students auditioning were from West Virginia, and only seven of those were from Concord. “It was a really impressive competition—very competitive and very intimidating, from what I understand. I was not able to see any of the auditions as no teachers were invited to watch,” Vuranch states. Only about 40 percent of auditioning students typically make it to regionals, according to Vuranch.

    Despite these circumstances, Duckworth passed the audition and will advance. She has been acting for about 14 years. The Concord community may remember her as Snoopy from last semester’s production “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” Her experience has extended to commercials in the past.

    “There was quite a bit of pre-planning involved in this audition. You had to apply online, which was an entire process. On the application, you had to include all of your information, six past shows you’ve been in, past theatre training, and technical experience as well as a recommendation from a theatre professor that you were capable of professional acting,” she says.

    Vuranch aided the process but ultimately left the decision up to them. “I encouraged any of my students that wanted to try. I actually made it part of the Acting I class assignments. I have 18 in the class, but only 7 decided to go for it. However, once they applied, they had to have a reference from me to complete their application,” Vuranch states.

    Duckworth chose the song “Pulled” from The Addams Family musical and a monologue from “Gypsy” for her audition pieces. “We only had 90 seconds to impress three adjudicators with our audition piece so we had to find a monologue and song that could show off all of our skills, worked well together, and didn’t seem rushed...not exactly an easy feat,” she says. “Finding the materials took far more time than actually rehearsing them. Honestly, I thought I blew my audition while I was performing it. I thought I did well with the monologue but I had messed up with the audition pianist when

    I accidentally started the song in a different key. I was incredibly embarrassed and was sure my scores were terrible.”

    However, she points out, “Auditioning is always scary. I typically don’t get nervous for a performance but an audition is a completely different monster. You stand up in front of people whose literal job is to judge your acting skills, voice, physicality, and presentation. They then took us into a separate room to give us immediate feedback on our audition.”

    Even after her experience in the audition, she is relieved that she ultimately made it. “I can’t wait to start working towards the Southeastern Theatre Conference…it’s a huge event with over 5,000 different job opportunities that those who passed the state screening conferences will be able to audition for. We will also have the opportunity to audition for grad programs and attend workshops to further help us grow with our craft. I’ve begun looking for my next audition materials and truly can’t wait to head to Alabama in March!”

    It’s a competitive field but theatre is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.

    Hosting the conference at Concord University was a challenge for the entire theater department. The conference required the attending high schools to perform a 45-minute play and they had to work in the space that the current fall show has to use. “There are lots of rules and regulations set forth by SETC,” says Vuranch. “For example, each school must load in all of their props and set pieces into a 10-foot by 10-foot square. We taped those out ahead of time. They have a 15-minute opportunity to rehearse the lights and sound. Then, when their time is announced, they have 10 minutes to get everything on stage, up to 45 minutes to perform and 10 minutes to get everything back into that 10 by 10 square.” This required the crew to completely remove their set.

    “It was a tremendous amount of work. I am very fortunate in that my theatre students really stepped up and worked hard. I needed backstage managers, greeters, light board operators, house managers, and concession workers. This conference is always the first weekend in November and my mainstage play at Concord is always the second weekend in November…I had to build a set that I could completely move off the stage. I will come back with my students and we will set it all up again.”

    Despite the challenges, the conference went smoothly. “It is an excellent way to recruit students and show off our campus,” says Vuranch. “Many of the high school students were very impressed with our campus and our friendly students and our program. What I am most proud of are my students.”

    Nationals take place every other year, and this is an off year. However, the SETC will the held during the second week of March and a Concord University will be representing this school and the area.

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