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Drake students receive accolades at Kennedy Center Theater Festival

Adelide Kuehn and Joe Barnard were recognized for their work at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival that was held in January. They were able to attend with many other Midwest students. Photo Courtesy of DrakeUTheatre Instagram

Drake students Adelaide Kuehn and Joe Barnard have been recognized for their work at Region 5 of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. 

The 55th annual meeting of the KCACTF took place in Des Moines from Jan. 22-28. Theater students from around the Midwest came to Des Moines to attend workshops, see productions and compete for various regional awards. Drake’s Department of Theatre Arts had a successful week, with the Fall 2022 production of “Carrie: The Musical” performing and many students competing and auditioning for various events across all areas of theater.

Adelaide Kuehn was selected as the Region 5 representative for the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy. Kuehn is a sophomore studying musical theatre and journalism at Drake. Kuehn said the festival was exciting and inspirational.

 “I was doing what I wanted to be doing, and I was having a lot of experiences that made me really feel certain of the path I was on and the careers that I wanted to continue with,” Kuehn said.

Kuehn’s biggest takeaway from her festival experience is that theater and journalism intersect more than anyone initially expects and that a career in both is very much possible. Kuehn believes that the intersection of these career fields is a valuable thing and knowing about both sides will help her pursue a path involving both. 

“It always feels like I’m picking one or the other. And this is the first time I really felt like both were just like the same thing, you know?” Kuehn said. “And that was really, really nice because it’s like what I had felt all along, that they were a lot more similar than people originally think.”

 Kuehn left the festival feeling inspired, both as a theater artist and a writer. 

“It got me more in this freelance mindset of not necessarily waiting for an internship or to work for a paper, but just to start creating on my own,” Kuehn said.

Kuehn will be attending the virtual National Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy conference in April, led by Ashley Lee of The Los Angeles Times. 

Joe Barnard received the National Recognition for Scenic Design for his scenic design of Drake’s “Carrie: The Musical.” Barnard is a junior studying theatre design and technology and computer science. Barnard was a participant in The Expo, a showcase where student theater designers, technicians, stage managers and dramaturgs compete for national awards and receive feedback from professionals in their field. This was Barnard’s first ever solo scenic design, so for him this recognition was surreal. 

“I wasn’t going into Carrie trying to win anything,” Barnard said. “I was just trying to make the show happen and make it through the show. And so the fact that that work has been recognized is very, very cool.” 

Barnard’s primary technical theater area is lighting design, having designed two mainstage Drake shows with a third coming up. But Barnard found that despite having never done a scenic design before, it tied right into something he had been doing all his life – building Legos. 

“That’s been something I’ve done for most of my life and so the artistic side of that, the design skills, transfer,” Barnard said.

Designing “Carrie” and receiving this recognition has made Barnard realize that scenic design is something he enjoys doing, is good at and wants to learn more about. 

“I am interested in learning more about scenic design and pursuing those design spots in the future – more than I probably would have been prior to working on Carrie – and then also just working on the festival in general,” Barnard said.

Barnard will be attending the KCACTF National Festival in Washington, D.C. in April.

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