‘Self-Injurious Behavior’ wins national award

Tareakubore Ejovwo-Ottoh, Staff Writer

The Richland Drama Department received multiple national awards this semester for their production of “Self-Injurious Behavior,” which they performed at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Abilene on Feb. 27. Preparing since October, the student cast and the director, Professor Andy Long put on a much-rehearsed production of the play for various universities and colleges.

Azucena Perez, left, and Jeffrey Tilson play their roles as Summer and Benjamin at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Abilene on Feb. 27. (Photo Courtesy/Andy Long)

They were competing against other universities and community colleges in Region 6, which included  New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.  “It was very intense. Most of the schools we go up against are universities and schools with graduate programs. And we are a community college with freshmen and sophomores. Some productions are filled with second or third-year MFA students working on their advanced degrees, while our production was filled with less experienced students. It’s pretty impressive that we advanced as far as we did because that is not a normal occurrence,” Long said.

The festival took place from Feb.  27 to March 3 and was held at the Abilene Convention Center.   The students participated and competed in individual events and were able to interact with companies that could employ them in the future.

Long considered the performance the best that the drama department gave, due to the audience. He said when they perform at Richland it is different because students, parents and other members of the community are a friendly audience.

“There were 600 students watching our work and they were all theater students that were very supportive and very into what they were seeing. It’s kind of like if you have a computer science thing that you create, and you take it to a competition where it’s nothing but computer science people. There’s a greater appreciation for it,” he said.

Richland’s Drama Department  is the recipient of three national awards following their production of “Self-Injurious Behavior.”  . , The Citizen Artist Award is a recognition of programs in higher education using theatrical production to promote long-term societal impact through an artistic lens, and given to 20 productions in the United States.  The Distinguished Achievement in the Facilitation of a Brave Rehearsal Space award was given to nine productions in the United States to celebrate teaching artists who empower safety and general well-being in the rehearsal room community.

Finally, Distinguished Achievement in Stage Management was awarded to freshman Ava Stipe, who is not only one of 17 students in the United States to receive this award for her role as the production stage manager but also secured full-time summer employment with Santa Fe Opera in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was one of two students offered this highly coveted position.

While the awards are a wonderful result, the success they feel does not come from the plagues they earned.  Long considers the result of their hard work and dedication a thing to feel proud of, having been working for the past 12 years to make sure Richland was able to experience and perform at the Kennedy Center Festival. He considers this a company effort and credits the students for all the focus and effort they put into the production.

“We don’t set out to win any awards. The goal, always, when we work on a production, is to just be excellent. And to learn as much as possible, and try as much as possible, improve every single time, to help students grow in whatever they are interested in doing. And if you focus on those things, being disciplined, working toward being excellent, sometimes awards happen. You have no control over what other people think of your work. You know, people read your articles, for example, and you have no idea if they like the article, or if they don’t like the article, that’s out of your control. All you can control is what you put into it. And so, we always set out to be as excellent as possible. We were very fortunate this time, and then other people thought we were as well. That’s why we won some accolades and some awards.

“Always we strive to do better every time on the next project than we did on the previous project. I think that’s always the goal, you always want to get better and grow. I think it’s pretty cool that this institution of 18 to 20-year-olds proved that they belong, competing against large universities. And that one of the things that people sometimes forget, because we are a community college, is that we’re higher education also. And just because you go to a community college doesn’t mean your education is any less. You always put forth your absolute best effort. And sometimes it works out and it pays off,” said Long.

Currently, the drama department has two productions planned for this semester. From April 26 through 29,  they were scheduled at press time to  perform a comedy titled  “All in the Timing,” directed by Professor Gregory Lush, and a 12-minute film written by the students to be screened for the public during one of the nights of the play.

The students and director have been invited to present the play to the Board of Trustees at their monthly meeting on May 2. Next fall, the drama department will enter the Kennedy Center Festival again, with Lush as the director.