Kennedy Center honors WSU theatre faculty for teaching excellence

Trotter_Gonzales Kennedy Center Awards
Trotter, Gonzales (l-r)

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University theatre faculty Benjamin Gonzales and Mary Trotter received separate awards for outstanding and innovative teaching at this years’ Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region VII, held Feb. 19-23 in Spokane.

Outstanding and Innovative Teaching and Service

Gonzales, a clinical associate professor and WSU faculty member since 2003, received the Horace Robinson/Jack Watson Award.  It is presented, each year, to a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region VII faculty member who has shown dedication and support for their students above and beyond the normal duties expected of university faculty.

Trotter, a clinical assistant professor at WSU since 2011, was awarded with the Region VII Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)/KCACTF Prize for Innovative Teaching. This prize is awarded for innovative teaching that supports student success in the area of theatre arts.

KCACTF Region VII includes Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, northern California and northern Nevada and is attended by more than one thousand faculty and students each year.

Kelly Quinnett, University of Idaho professor of theatre arts and immediate past chair for KCACTF Region VII, said, “Theatre and art, teaches us about our humanity, our ability to lean into discomfort, in order to learn about the complexity and depth of our capacity to endure, to love, to discover and grow. Mary and Ben have helped so many students recognize their capacity to create, to connect, to be compassionate, to be change makers.”

Patrick Dizney, the current chair for KCACTF Region VII and assistant professor of theatre at Central Washington University (Ellensburg), said, “Ben and Mary have continually surprised their peers in the region with the caliber of work WSU has produced, the quality of the students they engage and the opportunities they have created for artists to grow and learn, despite shrinking support and little resource allocation.”

“Despite having no official [theatre] program … their students have engaged in our annual festival for years, representing WSU with pride, professionalism, enthusiasm, and contributing significantly to the larger community of artists,” said Dizney.

In addition to regular participation at the festival, Trotter serves as Region VII coordinator for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions. Gonzales serves as the regional chair for the National Playwriting Program. He will represent WSU and Region VII at the KCACTF Nation Festival 2018, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., this April.

24 WSU students participate

WSU performing arts students in Jones Theatre.
WSU performing arts students in Jones Theatre.

Approximately 24 WSU students attended this year’s festival to compete in several events, including Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions, Technical Olympics and Improv Olympics.

WSU students, Aryn Allen, Avery Barnwell, Spencer Knudson and Sara Wagoner were each nominated by external adjudicators, to participate in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition.

Jake Sullivan and Ryan Bishop placed first in the Technical Olympics for Stage Management; Sullivan, Zach Weibel, Bishop, Jared Braswell and Aryn Allen earned second place in the Technical Olympics team competition; Aaron Nygaard placed second in the Technical Olympics individual competition; and the WSU Nuthouse improv comedy team second place in the Improv Olympics. They are all current WSU students and members of STAGE Student Theatre.

About the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

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 47 years, the organization has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theatre in the United States. KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country. Through state, regional, and national festivals, KCACTF student and faculty participants celebrate the creative process and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, dramatic criticism, directing, and design.



Gail Siegel, 509-335-8522,

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