Theater program impresses judges

Castleton State College student Shawn Dayton was named one of the top 16 actors competing in all of New England in a recent annual acting festival.The festival, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), takes place in eight regions throughout the country, and college students nationwide compete in all areas of theater ranging from acting and directing to writing and make-up design.

In the New England chapter of the festival, nearly 800 students competed in all areas, and of those, 200 competed in the area of acting to win the Irene Ryan Scholarship and a chance to study theater abroad in London for one year.

Of the 200 acting students, the judges eliminate all but 16 for the final round. Dayton made that elite final round.

Dayton, a senior majoring in theater, has been very involved with the school’s dramatic arts programs for four years. You may have seen him as Larry in “Minnesota Moon,” Deputy Governor Danforth in “The Crucible” and Captain of Inquisition in “Man of la Mancha.”

Dayton was scouted for the festival during one of his productions, and this is his second time competing in it – although he has attended four times.

Though this is an honor and a big personal accomplishment, Dayton isn’t letting it get to his head.

“It’s not like winning this festival is about ‘Oh hey, I’m better than you’,” he said.

Dayton said it’s more for personal growth, and theater department head Harry McEnerny agrees.

“This is a great networking opportunity,” McEnerny said. “Shawn’s going to be out there sometime in his career and maybe he’ll run into someone [from the festival].”

Also noteworthy from this year’s competitors, another Castleton senior, James Lorentz, also impressed judges and will be going to Washington D.C. to compete as a play critic.

Unfortunately for him, the critics institution of the festival does not award a scholarship.

Look for Shawn in the upcoming performance of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” as Malvolio, which will take place toward the end of this month.

“I’d encourage everyone to come check out the shows,” he said. “And if you’re interested in doing theater, come on down and get involved. You don’t have to be a theater major to be a part of our department.”

For more information on the festival, go to

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