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Students told what theater industry is like in 'real terms'

The voice could clearly be heard in the Ballroom of the Campus Life Center.

“You should make your photos bigger and maybe not use as many,” said Samantha C. Jones, one of the four panelists critiquing students’ costumes, promotional themes, technical displays and other theater props.

The occasion was the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) with USC Upstate, Converse College and Wofford College serving as co-hosts. Students from nine southeastern colleges attended.

“I don’t have a problem getting students’ attention,” Jones said while the other panel members laughed during a break Friday.

Jones said students “have the temptation of picking everything (photos) instead of just a few, and big to tell the story.”

Students stood at their nearly floor-to-ceiling display waiting for the four panelists to arrive and sit down in the chairs provided. It appeared most students absorbed the critiques. Some clearly were unsuspecting of the panelists pointed remarks. Jones said this wasn’t the time to be cajoling.

“This is a process and an intensive career culture,” said Neil David Seibel, a theater professor at University of Auburn Montgomery (Ala.). "The students want and need to hear these critiques now."

This was the first KCACTF Jones participated. She is well credentialed as a costume designer and educator.

Campbell Baird is also critiquing his first KCACTF. Baird offers a broad resume of design credits and is an associate arts professor at the renowned New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

Jane Childs, a third member of the critique team, and her husband Don, with a group of friends, founded the Stagecraft Institute in Las Vegas in 2006, to offer a better, more efficient way to train practitioners in all areas of live entertainment.

“What we do is always challenging and changing,” Baird said of the theater industry.

The panelists have a method to their critiques. “We respect each other and we listen to each other,” Childs said. “We are different theater people and we let everyone talk.” Childs said that the chemistry exhibited by the panelists gives students clarity in receiving the message.

“We don’t talk over one another,” Baird said.

• The theater festival ends Saturday with another full day of workshops, auditions and competitions. The play, “Community Garden” will be performed today from 3-5:30 p.m., at the 450-seat theater. The Chancellor’s dinner is at The George for festival guests, professors and judges. Upstate will host a gala for all students.

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