Red velvet and gold medals will greet the Peck School of the Arts Department of Theatre when its faculty and students participate in the 50th Annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s Midwestern-region event on Saturday, Jan. 12.
Theatre Department chairman LeRoy Stoner will receive a dinner in his honor at the festival, where he will be presented with the organization’s Gold Medallion Award in recognition of lifetime achievements and excellence in theater and theater education. Stoner has been with the Peck School of the Arts since 1979.
Also on Saturday, the Peck School Theatre Department will stage a production of the Lolita Chakrabarti play “Red Velvet” under the direction of Bill Watson, associate professor of acting, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the University of Wisconsin University Theatre. The Peck School production is one of only six selected for the festival out of 26 college productions in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“It’s a perfect example of the entire department’s strong creative and curricular efforts in acting, diversity, design, lighting, costuming, history and dramaturgy, literacy and use of the black box format,” Robin Mello, associate professor of theater, said of the production.
In addition to being the longest tenured member and the de facto historian of the theater program at UW-Milwaukee, Stoner and Peck School facilities director Randy Trumbull-Holper oversaw the successful renovation of the university’s landmark Mainstage Theatre in 2017 and 2018. The renovation came on the heels of an accidental fire in spring 2017 that injured no one but that destroyed significant portions of the aging building.
“The success of our theater program is his testament,” Mello said of Stoner. “In 2018, a theater successfully rose out of the ashes better than ever. He values all forms of theater, from Greek tragedy to fringe festivals and from opera to devised work. LeRoy Stoner is an extraordinary mentor and role model for all of us at UWM and in the Milwaukee/Chicago theater community.”
The weeklong festival in Madison is the first of the Kennedy Center’s eight regional celebrations of excellence and achievement of theater in higher education. Individual participants and full-scale productions are eligible for awards recognizing excellence in the art and craft of theater. Individual awardees and representatives from selected productions will be brought to Washington, D.C., for an expense-paid trip to the national festival, April 15–20, 2019, at the Kennedy Center.
The regional festival is being hosted by Madison College, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College. Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival is a national theater program involving 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide annually. For 50 years, the organization has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The Kennedy Center festival has grown into a network of more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country.