February 1, 2018

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Theatre and Dance Headed to Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University Theatre and Dance’s production of “I and You” will travel to the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Feb. 6-10.

A total of six productions were invited to participate in the 50th annual festival. They were chosen from submissions received from colleges and universities in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Virginia, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“This is a recognition of which the VSU community and our loyal supporters from Valdosta, Lowndes County, and beyond can be proud,” said H. Duke Guthrie, “I and You” director and a professor in the Theatre and Dance Area, a division of the Department of Communication Arts in the College of Arts.

VSU’s production of “She Stoops to Conquer” was part of the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in 2015.

The process of being selected for the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival began with VSU Theatre and Dance registering “I and You” with the festival and requesting an outside assessment. Guthrie said two festival respondents viewed the production during its seven-performance run Sept. 14-20, 2017, on the Lab Theatre stage, one during the Sunday matinee performance and the other during the Wednesday night performance. The festival respondents then provided an oral response to the show’s entire production company; this was followed by a written response to the director and a recommendation for the show to be part of the festival. The respondents also nominated students for Irene Ryan Acting and other scholarships. The Regional Selection Team made the final decision to invite VSU to the festival after reviewing photos, video clips from the show, programs, reviews, etc.

Guthrie said that the first few days of the New Year have been busy ones for VSU Theatre and Dance. Brush-up rehearsals had to be scheduled around other rehearsals already underway for the spring semester lineup, which includes a youth production and a full musical. The show’s cast and crew had to set aside some time to conduct a load-in rehearsal, as the production has not been road tested yet.

During the five-day regional event, VSU’s production of “I and You” will be evaluated by the Kennedy Center American Theater Festival National Selection Team for participation in the national festival, which will be held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in mid-April. Students who have demonstrated excellence in acting, scenic, costume, lighting, sound design, dramaturgy, playwriting, directing, and stage management will compete for scholarships. The festival will also feature a variety of workshops, faculty and student parties, and more.

VSU Theatre and Dance will perform at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, and Friday, Feb. 9. This year’s regional festival is hosted by Georgia Southwestern University in Americus. The performances will not be open to the public.  


Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center's founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of higher education theatre in the United States for 47 years. It does this through a year-round program of state, regional, and national festivals that celebrate the creative process, honor excellence, and give the community of artists involved an opportunity to share experiences and insights

The goals of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival are to encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs; to provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight and achieve professionalism; to improve the quality of college and university theater in America; and to encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, especially those written by students, the classics, revitalized or newly conceived, and experimental works.

Since its inception, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills, and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theatergoers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide.


Written by Lauren Gunderson, “I and You” is a sharp, funny, intimate, and surprising drama about two high school seniors who meet and try to make a connection. The two characters, a male and a female, are the entire cast. Critics say the contemporary play is “unforgettable” and will “leave you gasping.”

“One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline's door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman's ‘Leaves of Grass,’ an urgent assignment from their English teacher,” according to a synopsis at Playscripts.com. “Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn't been to school in months, but she is as sardonic as Anthony is popular. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, this seemingly mundane poetry project unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brought them together. ‘I and You’ is an ode to youth, life, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.

Anthony and Caroline are played by first-year freshmen Daniel Lennox Jr. and Mahogany Wesley.

“The special thing about this play is the connection and bond between Anthony and Caroline,” said Wesley, an 18-year-old theatre performance major from Atlanta. “They are polar opposites, yet they still find something that connects them in a strong, deep, and meaningful way. That's why people should come see it, to witness a very beautiful connection.”

“I and You” was first produced several years ago in a rolling world premiere by Marin Theatre Company in California, Olney Theatre in Maryland, and Phoenix Theatre in Indiana. The play premiered as part of the National New Play Network’s Continued Life program.

Contact H. Duke Guthrie at (229) 333-5307 or dguthrie@valdosta.edu to learn more.

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