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Theatre alumni to compete for national Kennedy Center honors

Jenna Rossman ’13 and Caitlin Weaver ’14 are regional finalists for the 2014 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships. The award provides recognition and $3,000 to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue education and professional development.

From each of eight national regions, two performers and their scene partners were invited to audition for the scholarships at the 46th annual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival to be held later this month. Each of the 16 regional finalists receive a $500 scholarship and an expenses-paid trip to the national festival, where a selection panel made up of artistic directors, actors, producers and casting agents view the audition presentations of monologues, scenes and songs.

Jenna Rossman

Jenna Rossman

Rossman, with partner Casey Garner, and Weaver, with partner Zach Bopst, will audition on Friday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre. The scholarship winners will be announced at the conclusion of the evening.

“This year marks my third time participating in the regional Irene Ryan competition,” says Rossman. “You go into this event thinking, ‘If I can make it past the preliminary round, where they knock approximately 200 actors down to 32, then I know I’ve already won.’ Never did I think I was going to win the regional competition alongside one of my best friends from Towson University,” she continues.

“I am so humbled by this honor and cannot thank my beautiful partner, Casey Garner, enough because I would not be in this position without her support. One of the most important adages I learned at Towson University is that ‘your partner is your performance.’”

Thousands of student artists from eight regions presented their work earlier this year, and more than 130 were selected to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in National Festival events taking place at the Kennedy Center.

Caitlin Weaver

Caitlin Weaver

“I am filled to the brim with gratitude and thank my lucky stars that I have the privilege to attend (the) national festival,” said Rossman, upon hearing her name called.

“Achieving this honor proves to me that plain and simple hard work pays off. When they called my name at closing ceremonies, I just wept like a little baby because I thought, my God, the blood, sweat and tears … the grime, the grit and the joy you move through as an actor … it’s all worth it and it’s all part of the experience.”

“These remarkable women embody all that we seek to nurture in our students,” says Robyn Quick, chair of the TU theatre department.

“Our program has a long history of developing strong artistic skills within the context of a liberal arts education, while fostering the passion, patience and perseverance needed to fulfill students’ potential as practitioners of the craft. We are incredibly proud of Jenna and Caitlin.”

Reflecting on her academic experience at Towson, Rossman says “Teachers in Towson’s Department of Theatre Arts come from all different backgrounds and training programs, which gives students the opportunity to craft their work from a variety of different approaches and perspectives.

“The faculty are not just teachers, but continue to work outside the university and are extremely successful. As a student, you are surrounded by a huge support network — from students and faculty alike you feel safe and supported here. I am so lucky that I chose to go to Towson for acting because unlike some theatre programs, students are not forced into a ‘mold’ of what it means to be an actor; rather, our journeys are individualized and the idea of the actor becomes more personalized and unique.”

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