Musical Theatre Major Ben Sims Steals the Show at Scholarship Competition
Eight Young Harris College students recently traveled to Roanoke, Va., to compete in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region IV Irene Ryan scholarship competition. Junior musical theatre major Benjamin Sims, of Hiram, and senior music major Brian Walker, of Powder Springs, advanced to the final 16 teams out of approximately 300 student actors, both graduate and undergraduate, from nine states and Puerto Rico.
Selection as an Irene Ryan nominee is based on an actor’s performance in an adjudicated production. “Getting nominated was refreshing,” said Sims. “It gave me a confidence boost, reassuring me that I possess what it takes to be in this industry and I can achieve anything as long as I work hard and focus.”
Sims was recognized for his role as Drake in “Honk! Jr.” Additionally, junior theatre major Ptah Garvin, of College Park, was recognized for his role as Walter Flood in “Becky’s New Car,” while senior theatre major Lateefah Dooling of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and sophomore theatre major LaDareon Copeland of Centerville, were recognized for their roles as Rose Maxson and Jim Bono, respectively, in “Fences.”
Walker was thrilled when Sims, his good friend and freshman year roommate, tapped him as his acting partner. “Performing with Ben was an extremely great opportunity,” he said. “He is a very passionate actor, so having his energy to feed off was good for our scenes.”
The duo performed scenes from “Jeffrey” by Paul Rudnick and “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The selections were based upon advice from Adjunct Instructor of Theatre Kendall Kiker, who suggested scenes that displayed diversity and contrast.
“Our scenes allowed us to explore theatre we’ve never experienced. It was very new to both of us. It challenged us in many ways, and as actors we both grew from it,” said Sims. Walker added, “I tried to add as much creativity as I could to our performances. I wanted to think as much outside of the box as I could.”
At the end of each day of competition, performers gathered in a hotel ballroom to hear which students made it the next level. When Sims and Walker heard their names called for the final round, Sims said they “could do nothing but rejoice and smile.”
“We felt so blessed to had made it that far, especially competing against graduate students who were phenomenal actors,” he continued. “As actors, we have to remember there could easily be someone out there better than you, so we have to motivate and push ourselves to be better every day and do our personal best.”
For the last six-minute round of competition, Sims performed a solo selection from “Ole Man River” from “Showboat.” He and Walker had the opportunity to speak with the three judges that adjudicated their performance, receiving helpful notes and constructive criticism.
“As a nominee, this scholarship competition is supposed to be about you. Ben, however, took the time to find a partner that complimented him and material that made them both shine,” said Kiker. “They worked hard on their audition package to make sure it showed acting range, quality partnering and the ability to adapt to any given situation on each audition day.”
YHC began entering shows for KCACTF adjudication in 2013. All aspects of the show such as design, acting and choreography are addressed by a respondent. Many theatre faculty members serve in this role for performances in Region IV, including Assistant Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Department of Theatre Chris Crawford.
“The outside feedback gives us a great ‘litmus test’ for how our department is stacking up against others,” he said. “The festival participation also opens up a world of competitions, scholarships and conferences that are crucial to the networking required to succeed in the competitive world of professional theatre.”
Junior musical theatre major Ben Sims performs in the semi-annual Musical Theatre Revue.
Sims was recognized for his role as Drake in “Honk! Jr.”
Sims played the role of Jeff with during the recent Studio Series perfomance "[title of show]."
YHC Students Rack Up Accolades at Regional Theatre Competition
Eighteen Young Harris College music and musical theatre recently traveled to Columbus to compete in student auditions of the Southeast Region of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (SERNATS). Eight students were passed on to the final round, and five won their respective categories.
The competition included Florida State University, University of Alabama, Columbus State University, Reinhart University, Georgia State University and Stetson University, just to name a few. All students who placed in the SERNATS final round are eligible to compete in the national finals that will be held in Boston, Mass., this summer.
Four YHC faculty members attended the competition, including Professor of Music, Director of Choral and Vocal Activities and Musical Theatre Program Co-Coordinator Jeff Bauman, Assistant Professor of Music Karen Calloway, Adjunct Instructor of Music Laura Stooksbury and Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education Coordinator John Wayman, Ph.D.
Devyn White, of Woodstock, finalist, sophomore women, musical theatre (Calloway)
Five YHC students won first in their category and eight were passed on to the final round at SERNATS.