Islanders Score Big at Regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Two Islanders will go on to the national level of The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C., after winning at the virtual Region 6 competition in late February. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi junior Ashlyn Evans, a theatre arts major, is the Region 6 champion and a National Finalist for the Irene Ryan Acting Award; in addition, A&M-Corpus Christi sophomore Jaydn Johanson, a theatre arts major with a focus in design/tech, is the Region 6 champion and National Qualifier in Stage Management for “The Book of Will.”

Two other Islander theatre majors also scored wins at the Region 6 competition. Senior Kenedi Deal is the Region 6 Champion of the Molly Risso Classical Acting Award in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, and junior April Salazar is the Region 6 Champion of The Legacy Award in Lighting Design for “Dance Nation.”

“The Kennedy Center provides opportunities for collegiate theatre artists to come together to perform, collaborate, and celebrate all the hard work they accomplish on their regional campuses. TAMU-CC theatre students are renowned for bringing their ‘A-game’ to the stage, and we are thrilled that Ashlyn and Jaydn will be recognized at the national festival this April,” Department Chair Alison Frost said.

Evans said her win was the culmination of a goal she set for herself when she first competed for the Irene Ryan award in 2018. For her audition, Evans played the roles of Minnie from “An Octoroon” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Christine from “The Private Lives of Eskimos” by Ken Urban, and Lady Percy from “King Henry IV” by William Shakespeare.

“Becoming the Region 6 Irene Ryan National Competitor has been a surreal experience,” Evans said. “Since the 2018 competition, I have wanted nothing more than to be exactly where I am right now. It is extremely liberating as a young artist to accomplish a goal I set two years ago.”

Evans has maintained a busy performance schedule at the Island University, playing roles in six mainstage productions and various student-directed projects over the past three years. This semester, she is appearing in “Blood at the Root.”

“All of the roles I have played as an Islander have helped me become more confident in myself in completely different ways,” Evans said.

Of her recent experience, Evans said playing Rylynn in “Blood at the Root” inspired her to speak up more often for what she believes in.

“A cast of 10 people, all with different backgrounds, came together to create something powerful,” she said. “This show has really opened my eyes to life in America today, and I cannot wait to leave my mark like so many other artists of color have before me.”

For his part, Johanson said serving as stage manager on “The Book of Will” was a unique experience because of performance restrictions brought about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“‘The Book of Will’ was my first show to properly stage manage at the Island University,” Johanson said. “We created the show in a Zoom environment, so the very challenge was making virtual theatre a reality, which wasn’t easy, but definitely rewarding. The show was a way to test my skills in a new way.”

More than anything, working on “The Book of Will” gave players and participants a chance to see each other and talk in person again, Johanson said.

“Although we were using Zoom for our broadcast, after many months quarantined and secluded from pretty much all others, human interaction was wondrous,” he said.

Johanson maintains a high profile in Islander theatre productions. He served as sound designer for “Where Words Once Were” by Finegan Kruckemeyer and on “Silent Sky” by Lauren Gunderson. Johanson was the sound board operator in “Hamlet” and was the assistant stage manager for “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller and “Anton in Show Business” by Jane Martin.

This semester, Johanson is stage managing the music video project, “A Love Song for Corpus Christi,” which includes scenes from seven popular musicals shot at various landmarks in and around Corpus Christi. The project is directed by Frost and filming will continue through early April. The video will stream free of charge April 23-28.