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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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 Minnesota State Mankato scores big at Region V

Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival



Competing at the Kennedy Center mid-April, Claire Clauson was proclaimed the top Musical Theatre Actor in the nation!

As is detailed below, Claire advanced with eight regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival winners in the New York “Open Jar” Musical Theatre Intensive. While all received a scholarship, Claire received the top prize (valued at over $3,000). Congratulations, Claire!

Here is how Claire's journey to the top began ...

MANKATO – Various Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Theatre and Dance students took home honors from the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, held Jan. 22-28, 2017, in Des Moines. 

The festival, hosted by Iowa State University, had 1,508 registrants representing 95 colleges and universities. Region V represents Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, and it is the largest regional festival in the country.  

Minnesota State Mankato had 12 nominees and placed six students in the Semifinal round of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition, including: 

- Alyssa Johnson (senior BFA Acting candidate from Eagan), partnered by Claire Clauson (senior BFA Musical Theatre from South St. Paul). Johnson then captured the Best Classical Actor award in the Semifinal round. 

- Mathew Sather (sophomore BFA Musical Theatre candidate from Spencer, Iowa) and Alex Blesi (senior BFA Actor from Blaine). Both had the same partner, Maureen O’Malley (senior BFA Musical Theatre candidate from Minneapolis), who took Best Partner in the Semifinal round.   

- Erin Horst (3rd year MFA Musical Theatre candidate from Vinton, Iowa), who won Best Partner in the Final round two years ago and reached the Semifinals for the second year in a row. She this time was partnered by Amanda Mai (senior Musical Theatre from Beaver Dam, Wis.).   

Two Minnesota State Mankato students who made it to the Semifinal round then advanced to the Finals (top 16 out of over 400 eligible competitors). They were:   

- Jessica Staples (junior BFA Musical Theatre candidate from Minneapolis), who was partnered by Mitchell Evans (sophomore BFA Musical Theatre candidate from Litchfield). 

- Andrew Anderson (senior BFA Actor from Roseville), who was partnered by Mai. Two students advanced to the Dance Intensive Showcase and performed at the festival: Evans and Scinto.   

Three students advanced to the Musical Theatre Intensive, including Mai, Cam Pederson (sophomore BFA Musical Theatre from East Grand Forks) and Clauson. Clauson went on to win 1st Place in the Musical Theatre Intensive competition, and that earned her a spot to go to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with the top 8 collegiate musical theatre performers in the country. Minnesota State Mankato was invited by the Region V National Playwriting Program to present a staged reading for the NAPAT Award winning full-length musical, “Inn-Dependent,” and 11 students participated in this ticketed performance, directed by Paul J. Hustoles (faculty), with musical direction by Nick Wayne (faculty). 

Minnesota State Mankato’s Isaac Sawle (3rd year MFA Technical Direction candidate from Minneapolis) took the 1st Place Regional Technical Project award for “Antigone” (he has previously won this award and placed second in the previous two years). In addition, his work on “Frankenstein” took the Vector Works Award.  Matt Gilbertson (2nd year MFA in Technical Direction candidate) took the Region V ATHE Student Dramaturgy 1st place award.   Adam Guss won the “Don Childs Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas” Award, including a one-week residency for his technical work. Emily Kimball’s (3rd year MFA Costume Design candidate from Mankato) play “Aboveboard” was honored as the Region V Full-length Play Selection.  

Costumes from “The Two Henrys,” designed by David McCarl (faculty), were invited to the juried Annual Costume Parade. 

KCACTF Certificates of Commendation for past productions at Minnesota State Mankato were awarded to: Jayme Caye Beerling (senior BFA Design/Technology candidate from Prior Lake) for Stage Management for “Frankenstein”; George Grubb (faculty) and Gilbertson for Rigging and Flying of “Mary Poppins”; McCarl for Costume Design for “Mary Poppins”; child actors Marco Jakovich and Rebekah Mihalik, for their portrayals of Michael and Jane Banks in “Mary Poppins”; and McCarl for Costume Parade participation for “The Two Henrys.”   During the past year, faculty members have served as Region V Respondents. Staff Costumer Angela Sahli presented workshops at this year's festival. Hustoles continues his service to Region V by being on the Advisory Board and served as the Festival Registrar for the 17th time.



A Very Special Event

Dedication of Earley Center for Performing Arts

On Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, Minnesota State University, Mankato dedicated and renamed the Performing Arts Center the Earley Center for Performing Arts. Below are pictures of Dean Emerita Jane F. Earley with the plaque that will be installed in the building; in the second picture is Chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance, Paul J. Hustoles. Below that is Dean Earley's speech from the event.

Jane Earley with the plaque

Jane and Paul H.


Thanks first of all to those who had a part in creating this event:  the Events Office, the President’s Office, Minnesota State, the College of Arts and Humanities Dean and Department Chairs, the students, faculty, and staff who performed and spoke today, and the committee headed by Dr. Paul Hustoles.

President Davenport, I am deeply honored by your decision to name this building for me.  This building was still new when I came here in 1969, and that very fall—encouraged by my English Department colleague and friend, Donabel Linney, I became a theatre season ticket holder and a concert patron.  In addition to the countless plays, recitals, and concerts I have attended here since, I’ve also been in this building for many other occasions.  I have addressed the faculty every fall and spring here, and presided at and attended funerals or memorial services for faculty, students, and staff in these halls.  I have heard administrators resign here (under duress), entertained governors-elect here, celebrated graduates and local heroes.  E. J. Halling, for whom the recital hall is named; Ted Paul, for whom this theatre is named; and Lowell and Nadine Andreas, for whom the studio theatre is named—I’ve known and worked with them all, and am humbled to have my name connected to the places that honor them.

I requested that today there not be a series of speeches about me, but rather that we celebrate the building, that we hear a few selections from the current folks who live and work here; our concert pianist, our concert choir performing music composed by our choir conductor (a piece I dearly love), some elections from the current theatrical production, and especially the impromptu theatre faculty quartet singing “No One is Alone” from my favorite musical, “Into the Woods”—a play demonstrating that though we wander alone through a life of magic forests and often feel forsaken, none of us ever is really alone—there is always some “other” and for the most part it is a community or collaborative enterprise.

In the arts so much is done by collaboration.  In this building dedicated to the performing arts, there is a rich heritage of students and faculty and staff working together to produce moments that touch our hearts and give us context for our emotions.  I’m honored to have my name attached to a building in which that kind of working together will go on and on, to produce evidence that “no one is alone” here because this is a place of community.

It’s the most beautiful building on campus—I’ve thought so from the day I arrived—and although my office as both professor and dean was in another building, this building holds so many of my memories and illustrates my thoughts about higher education and about life.  I’m thrilled to have this 44 year old building carry my name, because I know what extraordinary things have happened here, and what extraordinary things are yet to come.

Thank you, and thank you all for coming today and for supporting our students.

Jane F. Earley
Dean Emerita, Minnesota State University, Mankato