La Sierra drama director, team lands Kennedy Center awards

March 25, 2013
By Darla Martin Tucker

La Sierra University student and drama program member Jay Wilson considers himself lucky. Not only does he have an understanding fiancée, but the two of them spent Valentine’s Day weekend collecting their first-ever drama awards in Los Angeles.

Wilson and his fiancée, Katherine Reyes, also a La Sierra student, met while participating in the university’s Society of Dramatic Arts productions. They were also among five dramatic arts members who received Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival meritorious achievement awards for their work on the December production of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The play adaptation was based on the C.S. Lewis book classic. Wilson, a computer information systems major, was honored as technical director and Reyes, a psychology major, for lighting design.

Four students also received Kennedy Center awards for a production last May of Moliére’s “The Imaginary Invalid.” To top it off, Drama Director Marilynn Loveless won an award as a Recipient of Excellence in Theatre Education for her extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre. The national theater education program, based at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., describes the recognition as the most prestigious regional award given by KCACTF.

The drama students and Loveless spent Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles where they enjoyed a celebration dinner and received their awards over the weekend at the Los Angeles Theater Center.

It was a particularly exciting event for Wilson and Reyes who wanted to add a romantic twist to their happiness and break from the group for a dinner at Reyes’ favorite eatery.

“To be able to share the awards together, to be at a festival in the financial/theater district of downtown Los Angeles was simply sublime,” Wilson said. “However, every night I attempted to make plans to steal Kathy away to her favorite restaurant in Pasadena and surprise her with flowers and everything, my plans were thwarted by our commitment to the drama group,” he lamented.

His fiancée held up under the disappointment and considered the overall weekend an “amazing experience” as they were able to share their success in theater. “I was a little sad that we didn't get to have our romantic dinner, but for me it was enough to have spent the weekend learning more about what we like to do, and appreciating our classmates’ talents, along with other talented actors,” said Reyes. “Even though we where surrounded by other people, we were still able to enjoy each other’s company. I knew Jay tried to take me out, but it just didn't happen and that’s life. There is no use in sulking in disappointment, but rather in making the best of what you get.”

“Whether it is with others or not, I will always enjoy my time with Jay,” she said.

Loveless’ Recipient of Excellence in Theatre Education award was the first such honor for the experienced artistic director and film and television writer. She has single-handedly led La Sierra’s Society of Dramatic Arts program the past seven years. Under her leadership the university won its first round of Kennedy Center theater awards in 2011.

It was two days after Christmas when she got the email informing her of the recognition. The message brought tears to her eyes.

“Congratulations! You have been selected as the Circuit 2 Recipient of Excellence in Theatre Education Award,” wrote John H. Binkley, chair of Region VIII of the Kennedy Center American College Theater and associate chair of the theater department at California State University, Northridge.

Loveless was among six recipients of the excellence in theater teaching and production awards for Region VIII, an area encompassing college and university theater programs in Arizona, Central and Southern California, Hawaii, Southern Nevada and Utah.

“I am so proud of La Sierra’s students, and I’m grateful that they make me look good!” Loveless said. “Our drama program is enriched through the participation of students from diverse disciplines. If you look at their interests and backgrounds, it might be fair to say that drama is one of the most interdisciplinary programs on this campus.”

During the February ceremony, Binkley, who presented the award, told the audience that as an adjudicator, or respondent critiquing other schools’ theatrical productions for Kennedy Center competitions, Loveless attends shows twice, once as an incognito observer and again to deliver a one-hour critique to cast and crew immediately following the show. Most respondents attend and critique theatrical productions once. “I find that I can do a much better job if I’ve had a chance to think about it,” Loveless said. “I want to feel that I’ve done my best.”

Meritorious achievement awards for “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” also went to Shane Wood, the play’s director and an English graduate student, and to pre-med student Ron Nance, also for lighting design.

Additionally students William Appiah, who played the role of Peter, Joan Wanjau who played Ulf, and Katie Huffman who played Dwarf received nominations to compete for Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships through the Kennedy Center.

The Society of Dramatic Arts earned first Kennedy Center awards in 2011 for an avant garde production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Loveless conjured the script concept from a treatment she wrote for a screenplay that was based on a futuristic version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” called “Love-in-Idleness.”

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