Southern Miss Theatre students win accolades at American College Festival


Photo courtesy of Southern Miss Theatre Department.

Two theatre students from The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Performing and Visual Arts were recognized with top honors at the 2020 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in recognition for their work on the Fall 2019 production of August Wilson’s ‘Gem of the Ocean’.

The KCACTF boasts contestants from a diverse range of fields in theatre and puts students in a competition that celebrates the highest caliber of work produced in university and college theatre programs. Tiffany Nabors, from Stapleton, Ala., and Katy Baronich, from Denham Springs, La., were among the 49 members nominated at KCACTF Region IV to make it to the national level.

“The KCACTF has set the highest standard for college theatre, so we are thrilled with these recognitions,” Craig Dettman, lighting and sound design professor, said. “It is such an honor to have our students be celebrated for their excellence at the national level. For their careers, this was an opportunity and experience of a lifetime, as they got to engage and gain perspective from highly respected professionals.”

Nabors, a recent MFA graduate in Lighting and Sound Design, won first place for excellence in sound design at the national level. This is another accolade during her time at Southern Miss, as she received theKCACTF Region IV Award for Theatrical Design Excellence in 2018 for her sound design for Southern Miss’ production of ‘The Crucible’.

Nabors recalls her experience with KCACTF and said she was thrilled to learn production techniques and problem-solving strategies as she engaged reputable and well-known artists in the field.

“At the national level, I was given an hour with each of the two respondents who were both nationally recognized and prominent sound designers,” Nabors said. “This allowed me to discuss my work in a more detailed way and provided more opportunity for feedback on how to further develop my skills on a professional level.”

One of the respondents that worked with Nabors had also previously worked closely with Wilson, who wrote ‘Gem of the Ocean’. She said being able to discuss the play with someone who knew Wilson personally was invaluable, especially for a designer working with cultures outside her own experience.

Baronich, a third-year MFA student in scenic and costume design, won first place at the 2020 Region IV conference for Excellence in Lighting Design and advanced to nationals as a nominee. Other recent accolades for her work at Southern Miss include the Don Childs award for cross-discipline collaboration and a Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas award for her design of ‘Gem of the Ocean’.

Baronich said that being able to showcase her work to KCACTF respondents at both levels was an outstanding opportunity. She also praised her Southern Miss peers for the collaborative efforts that allowed her to get this far.

“My time working on [Southern Miss] Theatre’s production of ‘Gem of the Ocean’ was truly incredible,” Baronich said. “Together with the production team, we created one of the best pieces of theatre that I’ve had the pleasure to work on.”