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Ridgewater theater earns recognition at regional festival

Submitted photo Matt Hegdahl, far right, has directed theater at Ridgewater College for four years. He recently received a Commendation for Achievement for his recent work writing and directing “King Ed.”1 / 3
Submitted Ana Serrano of Willmar earned a Commendation of Achievement for her work on the “King Ed” poster for the 2017 production at Ridgewater College.2 / 3
Submitted photo Gabriel Ryland of Huron, S.D., and Jenn Conness of Montevideo perform in a recent Ridgewater College production of "King Ed." Both received nominations to compete at the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Des Moines, Iowa.3 / 3

WILLMAR — Ridgewater College theater students and their director received recognition at the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival held in January in Des Moines, Iowa.

The week-long festival provides students and faculty from seven states the chance to attend workshops, see plays performed by other colleges in the region, and compete in everything from acting and directing to costume and poster design.

Last spring, a cast and crew of 18 students and community members performed "King Ed," written and directed by Ridgewater Theatre faculty Matt Hegdahl.

The production earned Hegdahl this year's Commendation of Achievement for Directing and Playwriting and student Ana Serrano of Willmar, a Commendation of Achievement for Poster Design.

Two student actors, Gabriel Ryland of Huron, S.D., and Jennifer Conness of Montevideo, were nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions.

Ryland was nominated for his role of King Ed in the play, "King Ed."

Conness was nominated for her role of Shirley in the 2017 fall play, "Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood," by Adam Szymkowicz.

Both students had to find a scene partner and prepare two scenes and a monologue to perform at the festival. They competed against roughly 600 other Irene Ryan nominees from across the region.

"The students should be extremely proud for what they did and for getting the nominations," Hegdahl said. Five students attended the weeklong conference. Declan Walters of Montevideo and Kirsten Campbell of Green Isle, also attended.

In addition to the Irene Ryan competition, Ryland auditioned for a "Long Form Improv Intensive" performance. Out of more than 30 students auditioning, Ryland was one of 14 selected to participate. After rehearsal, they performed in a Long Form Improv show open to all festival attendees.

Nominations for festival competitors come when theater faculty from other colleges attend Ridgewater performances to offer critiques and feedback. They then also have the option to nominate students and faculty for their work and talents based on what they observe and with the director's input.

"It's really nice to have someone with the experience and education respond to our shows," Hegdahl said. "They come in without knowing much of the process, watch the show, and then give their honest feedback on the play. It's a way to better myself as a director and designer. Also, it's good for the students to get the feedback from an outside source."