Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What is the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival?

    A National Festival held each year in April in Washington, D.C. The National Festival is the culmination of 8 regional festivals held during January and February. Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide annually. From the beginning, the organization has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country. Read more at

    Far too much to describe in a brief answer; however, the primary intent of the festival is to bring outstanding students from each of the 8 Regional Festivals to Washington where they participate in various week-long programs and initiatives and are recognized for their achievements. These programs include acting; directing; playwriting; dramaturgy; theatre journalism and advocacy; design and technical theatre skills; and stage management. It also features sessions for faculty selected from each region for their outstanding contributions to their region. Additionally, a National Selection panel also celebrates select participating productions for outstanding achievements.

    Activities at the Regional Festivals mirror those at the National Festival. The Region I Festival serves as a venue:

    • for members of the National Committee to view and respond to the Region’s invited productions.
    • for student participants in various programs to be considered for advancement to the National Festival.

    Schools begin their students’ potential journey to the National Festival by registering productions online at the National Festival site. This registration not only qualifies the production and its participants for Festival consideration, it also permits their students to participate in a variety of Festival programs such as Devised Theatre, the Musical Theatre Initiative, Directing and Playwriting.

    Typically from Tuesday through Saturday the last week of January. Registration and orientations begin Tuesday afternoon with a keynote speaker Tuesday evening. Wednesday – Saturday there are workshops; design, management and dramaturg expositions and responses; student directed scenes and readings; readings of new student plays; devised theatre presentations by student ensembles; and performances of invited productions. The Festival concludes with a presentation of final awards on Saturday night. For more information, go to FESTIVAL SCHEDULE.

    Learn more about KCACTF and Region I:

    • Read the FAQs and answers on Region I’s website
    • Explore the national web site
    • Attend a festival and actively observe and participate in the various activities.

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    If you are a student, share what you have learned with your faculty and express your desire to participate.

    If you are a faculty member:

    Associate productions are not generally considered for invitation to travel to the Regional Festival. Although in some instances they may be invited to. Participating productions are considered for invitation to the Regional Festival. Associate and Participating entries receive verbal feedback from a local Respondent visiting their campus.  Participating entries receive feedback and award nominations from two respondents, at least one of whom serves on the regional selection committee. Students may be nominated for various award programs by both their director/department and the Respondent. For detailed information and registration guides go to ENTER A PRODUCTION.

    Yes, especially if the Region I Festival Site is more convenient to their campus. Out-of-region institutions should contact one of the Region I Co-Chairs prior to online registration and be sure to select the “Region I” button on their production registration.

    Via an online registration form on the National KCACTF Site. For complete details on eligibility and registration visit the National Registration Site.

    Please NOTE the following:

    • Be sure to check the “button” for Region I at the top of the online form.
    • Complete one form for every production being registered.
    • Complete all applicable fields.
    • MOST IMPORTANTLY – Register at least 30 days prior to opening night. This is imperative in order to provide time for the recruitment of respondents.

    For Fall 2021, Production Entry fees are as follows:

    Associate Virtual Productions – $50

    Participating Virtual Productions – $75

    Associate In Person Productions – $275

    Participating In Person Productions $350

    Fees can be paid by credit card at the time of registration or an invoice can be requested for payment by check. Respondents are not assigned until payment is made. (A portion of these funds come to the Region via the National organization, please initiate payment as soon as possible so that Region I costs can be offset.)

    • Students receive verbal feedback from respondents, an “informed audience member.”
    • Students have the opportunity to make presentations of their work at the regional festival. Many theatre departments promote their student’s participation as equivalent to a student being invited to present a paper at a regional conference.
    • Students attending the Region Festival network with peers and many experience, for the first time, a powerful community of citizen artists
    • Students attending the Region Festival have the opportunity to attend workshops and to have their work responded to by professional artists.
    • Individual faculty have opportunities to attend seminars at the Regional Festival.
    • Student work and school productions are eligible for national recognition.
    • Production entry fees help to underwrite professional artists who present, respond to and network with students and faculty during the regional festival.

    Respondents may need time to reflect on a production following the verbal response prior to indicating whether a show will be recommended or “held” for consideration for invitation to the Regional Festival. Directors and school administrative contacts will be notified whether their production was held for consideration when the respondent submits the Production Response form – typically within 48 hours after the Production Response. At this time, schools will receive additional information so they can begin preparations to submit materials to the Festival selection meeting, held in early December.  The Region Co-chairs will notify all participating  productions of their invitation status within 48 hours of the conclusion of the December Selection meeting.

    Yes. After students have completed Festival registration, they should ensure additional registrations, applications, and submissions are completed. Go to the area in which the student has been nominated for details. Irene Ryans, New Plays, Directors, Stage Management, Arts Leadership and ITJA have specific application or submission requirements. Failure to submit all required materials will disqualify the student from award consideration.

    Generally, respondents for all scholarship awards are theatre professionals from various parts of the country. Occasionally, accomplished academics from outside the region are utilized.
    There are in-region, volunteer Feedback Respondents who observe “rounds” (a group of 12 auditions) during the preliminary round of Irene Ryan auditions. Their role is to provide immediate feedback for nominees and their partners and serves to “decompress” any post-audition anxieties. They also receive notes from the preliminary round respondents. NOTE: The Feedback Respondents do not provide any input or recommendations in deciding advancement of candidates to the semi-final round.

    All recommended shows are discussed and considered for Festival invitation at a meeting of the Region Selection Team and the Region Executive Committee in early December. Schools will be contacted by the Chair with specific requests for supporting materials to be submitted for that meeting. Digital submissions are highly recommended. These materials might include:

    • A brief written pitch of how the show meets one or more of the National KCACTF goals:
      • 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;
      • 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.
    • Program notes pertinent to the possible selection. i.e. Director or Dramaturg notes that address significant aspects of the production.
    • Production photos highlighting exceptional production values. Wide shots for lighting and scenery; portrait shots to highlight costumes or makeup.
    • Digital video – take advantage of YouTube or Vimeo type platforms for submission. Keep in mind that there will not be time to review an entire production. Best practice is to edit for short, best representative moments in the show. Exposition is dull, conflict is not. Consider the framing of your clips. Long shots of two people or panning close-ups of a large ensemble are counter-productive.
      If video is not an option or the sound quality of your video is poor, consider dubbing good quality audio over a series of still images from the show.

    Most of the decision makers will not have seen your show… put it in its best light and “sell it”.
    NOTE: It is the Region Executive Committee that makes the final decision about Festival invitations after considering many practical as well as artistic factors.

    Ideally, with limited complicating factors, all invited productions should be notified by December 20. A list of invited shows should appear on the Region I website by January 10.

    Online via the Region I website. Online registration comes online in the fall and is discontinued a short time prior to the Festival start date. Thereafter, registration is handled at the Festival location with a slightly higher registration fee. Registration fees can be paid by check or major credit card. Schools can register their students as a group.

    Yes. Institutions must enter at least one show in the Festival in order for their students to reap the benefits of Festival participation. The Festival exists as a network of participating college and university theatre programs and the faculty who volunteer to manage Festival events. Festival programming and logistics are funded entirely by the production entry fees and Festival registration fees.

    NOTE: Faculty may register and participate in the Festival regardless of their institution’s participation status. Their involvement often leads the institution to become active participants in KCACTF.

    The filing of online response forms by the Respondent(s) and the show’s Director. It is recommended that the director or another department faculty confer with the respondent(s) following the verbal response in order to confirm which students meet eligibility requirements for various award nominations and to avoid duplication of the Irene Ryan nominations.

    The only production-related award category that allows more than one student nominee is the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. The show’s director and the respondent(s) each nominate a Ryan candidate. Associate entries have two nominees and Participating have three nominees.

    This is true for every production the institution enters. It should be noted that there are additional award programs for student directors and playwrights that are not tied to specific production entries.

    Indirectly. Nominations are “auto-magically” shared with Faculty after a response via email. The nominees are then notified by their faculty, either in person, via email, or other vehicle as determined by department process.

    Potentially. Director Response nominations are made at the discretion of the participating institution. If extenuating circumstances prevent their nominee from attending the Festival or if a posting error occurred, the director/department should immediately email the Region Chair in order to formalize the change and have the nomination corrected. If the nomination was made by a Respondent, the Respondent must agree to the change. The director/department should immediately email the Respondent, cc’ing the Region Chair. The Respondent must then notify the Region Chair to formalize the change and have the database corrected.