Student Life

Showstoppers from the QC

Every winter when snow layers our campus, the St. Ambrose University Theatre Department travels throughout the region to compete in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Although this year was done remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, SAU came out of the festival with major success.

The cast and crew of the theatre department’s most recent production, “Proof.” Photo courtesy of Elena Vallejo

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, better known as KCACTF, is a national theatre festival that includes workshops, performances, and competitions for college students all over the country. St. Ambrose University is part of Region 5 of the festival, meaning the theatre department here competes with all of the theatre departments in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This includes major universities like Big 10 Schools and colleges with extremely high-rated theatre programs. 

This year, SAU’s production of Romeo and Juliet was an invited production. There were also a number of students who competed in the festival. Students competed in the Music Theatre Intensive Competition and the Irene Ryan’s Acting Scholarship, as well as competing in specialty areas including directing, marketing, scenic design, and stage managing. 

The cast and crew working on puppetry for the invited production “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo courtesy of Elena Vallejo

St. Ambrose came home with great honors from this year’s festival:

-Romeo and Juliet – a web series was honored with certificates of merit given to Cast for Puppetry, Joseph Lappie for Character Design, and Dillion Rairdin for Music Composition.

-She Kills Monsters was honored with certificates of merit given to Ellis Allbaugh for Stage Management and Cast for Ensemble Performance.

-Two Rooms was honored with certificates of merit given to Cast for Ensemble Performance, Rebecca Meissen for Scenic Design, Duke Schneider for Cinematography, Morgan Reilly for Sound Design, and Tyler Hughes for Direction.

-Admissions was honored with certificates of merit given to Erika Seabloom for 


In the festival competitions, SAU had a terrific showing:

-Kyle DeFauw, K. Hampton, Quinnie Rodman, Peyton Reese, and their acting partners made it into the semi-final round for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.

-Peyton Reese and her partner Quinnie Rodman made it into the final round of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition.

-Kyle DeFauw, Joseph Lasher, Quinnie Rodman, Peyton Reese, and Katie Link made it into the semi-final round of the Music Theatre Intensive.

-Peyton Reese, Quinnie Rodman, Joseph Lasher, and Katie Link made it into the final round of the Musical Theatre Intensive.

-Katie Link earned special recognition for notable performance in the Music Theatre Intensive.

-Peyton Reese won the Music Theatre Intensive competition and will represent Region 5 at the National Festival in D.C. this spring.

-Recent alumni Luke Peterson won the SDC Directing competition and will represent Region 5 at the National Festival in D.C. this spring.

Preparing for a festival takes a lot of work from the professors and students in St. Ambrose’s Theatre Department. Peyton Reese shared a little about how this preparation culminated. 

“We picked our selections in November/December and then we had first showings where we had to perform our selections for our peers who were also performing,” Reese explained. “Then, I practiced more and applied notes from all directors in the department before recording my selections for the preliminary round. After each round, we had to apply notes from the respondents and re-record our selections for the next round.” 

Students worked directly with Professor Corinne Johnson to prepare, local pianist Ron May accompanied our students performing songs, and campus cameraman extraordinaire Duke Schneider recorded the students for every round. Without the help of them and everyone in the theatre department, these successes couldn’t have happened. 

Katie Link shared what this year’s festival meant to her.

“Personally, I am really proud of my success in the festival this year because I made the MTI finals for the second time in a row,” Link stated. “Between the two years, I have definitely grown as a performer, and I have the professionals I worked with and Cory to thank for that! Overall, I think everyone in the department did an amazing job and I cannot see what is in store for us in the future!” 

Reese also shared this about her time at this year’s festival.

“It makes me so incredibly happy to see our department represented so well at the festival. Of course, with the theatre major being cut, one would assume the talent in the department would decline, but that is far from true,” Reese said. “If anything, I feel that we are more determined to show our worth. I am so proud of my peers and it is an honor to be recognized and associated with such talented people.”

Peyton Reese performing in last year’s musical theatre cabaret here on campus. Photo courtesy of Elena Vallejo

Sharing her thoughts on the department’s success at the festival, Reese continued by sharing that despite a lack of support, the SAU theatre department continues to work hard and their success comes from that determination. Reese continues to hope that people notice the talent throughout the department because it deserves to be seen.

St. Ambrose University has always had an incredible Theatre Department, one that was and continues to be award-winning.