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Theatre Design Students Place First and Second at National Competition

Thursday, May. 13, 2010

USU grad students Jennifer Stapely-Taylor and Brandee Jenks

Grad student Jennifer Stapely-Taylor (left) took 1st place nationally at the KC/ACTF for her set designs for 'Sweeney Todd.' Fellow grad student Brandee Jenks (right) took the 2nd place award for costume design for ‘Issun Boshi’

Set for USU's production of Sweeney Todd

A portion of the full-stage view of Stapely-Taylor's design of 'Sweeney Todd.’ USU associate professor Shawn Fischer said her designs embraced the emotional quality of the play, characters and the plotline.

Costume examples from USU's production of Issun Boshi

Brandee Jenks's costumes for 'Issun Boshi’ were described as colorful and elegant.

Two theatre students from Utah State University returned from a national theatre festival competition in Washington, D.C.  
After earlier success at the regional conference, Jennifer Stapely-Taylor and Brandee Jenks competed at the national level at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival where they captured first- and second-place honors in their respective design categories. Both are graduate students in design programs in USU’s Theatre Arts Department.
Stapely-Taylor won first place in the nation for set design of the popular play Sweeney Todd, which took the stage in October 2009 at USU in Logan. The dark musical was presented by Utah State Theatre, the production arm of the Theatre Arts Department at USU and a part of the Caine School of the Arts.
Jenks took second place nationally in costume design for Issun Boshi, the children’s play featured in the Morgan Theatre at USU in December 2009.
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. The festival provides its participants the opportunity to develop their theater skills and insight and achieve professionalism.
Stapely-Taylor and Jenks, along with two additional USU theatre arts students, were recognized earlier in spring 2010 at the regional conference and competition.
Through eight regional festivals, the KC/ACTF organization celebrates the creative process and allows participants to see one another’s work, sharing insights within the community of theater artists. The organization honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships.
The acknowledgment of their talents and skills at the regional event propelled them forward, allowing Stapely-Taylor and Jenks to be considered for the prestigious, national awards.
Jenks and Taylor said they truly enjoyed the opportunity to engage in hands-on, creative, theatre design work.
“It is a huge honor, really, to even be selected to go to Washington,” Jenks said. “I think I was a little shocked when I found out I won a national award.”
Dennis Hassan is an associate professor of scenic design at USU and has worked with design students in the department at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
“We have had national winners in the past, but never two in one year,” Hassan said. “This success will open doors for them and for Utah State’s Theatre Arts Department and its programs.”
Shawn Fisher, also an assistant professor of theatre design at USU, calls the students’ work exceptional.
“Jen has a great sense of composition, space and style, and in the design for Sweeny Todd, she really embraced the emotional quality of the play, characters and the plotline. Brandee’s work was beautiful and elegant even though it was difficult working on a piece so rooted in tradition.”
Now back in Logan following the national competition, the students have had time to process the experience.
Stapely-Taylor said her first-place award in set design was the result of hard work.
“I worked extremely hard and think I had a really good design, but I had great competition, and it didn’t really hit me until a few days later,” she said.
Stapely-Taylor is from Taylorsville, Utah, and completed her undergraduate degree in theater and design at the University of Utah. Jenks, a native of Idaho Falls, Ida., completed her undergraduate degree in theatre arts at USU.
For information about USU’s Theatre Arts Department, contact the department at 435-797-3046.
The Caine School of the Arts presents more than 200 events each academic year at Utah State Univesity. Information is available online for upcoming events. The Caine School of the Arts will be incorporated into the new Caine College of the Arts at USU in July 2010.
Related links:
Writer: Courtney Lewis, Caine School of the Arts, (435) 797-9203,
Contact: Sally Stocker Okelberry, Caine School of the Arts (435) 797-1500,

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