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Shreveport's Strand Theatre hosts Kennedy Center festival finalists


The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for Region VI gets underway Wednesday at the Strand Theatre in Shreveport. Six college productions were selected out of 46 eligible works. 

Northwestern State University’s Theatre and Dance department was selected to perform the comedy-thriller “The 39 Steps.” Program coordinator, Scott Burrell, said it’s a privilege to be a Kennedy Center finalist. But, the stakes are higher since the audience is comprised of about 900 students and faculty from colleges in the six-state area.

“Firstly, we’re going to the Strand, which is a gorgeous, big house. Secondly, the majority of the audience is going to be made up of college students and professors. They’re there to enjoy the show, certainly, but I’m sure they’re going to bring a critical eye as well,” Burrell said.

The Kennedy Center’s festival artistic director Gregg Henry boarded a flight Tuesday bound for Shreveport. It’s the final stop on the regional festival circuit that is divided into eight regions of the country. Henry is among a panel of judges who will hand out a slate of regional and national awards. The Kennedy Center is recognizing excellence in collegiate theater, according to Henry, which can get overlooked or taken for granted.

“I think theater programs do great work at home and they serve an important role on their campuses. But, sometimes theater programs can feel very isolated at home. I think what’s important is that our program identifies the strong work that is happening across the country,” Henry said.

NSU will perform “The 39 Steps” on Feb. 26 at 11 a.m. The six plays staged at the Strand run through Friday and are open to the public. It’s the second year for Centenary College to host the Region 6 festival. Henry finds the Strand an ideal venue to carry out the Kennedy Center’s mission.

“What a treasure you have in town. It’s just remarkable how beautiful that building is, and it’s such a great place to see theater," Henry said. "It lifts the students who have a chance to perform in it because they can’t help but feel like they’re a part of history when they’re stepping out onto that stage."

Centenary is offering more than 60 workshops on its campus. Festival participants also can audition for scholarships, graduate programs, and theater residencies around the country.  The Kennedy Center’s national festival is set for April 14-19 in Washington, D.C.

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