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Dressing the Stage

Clarke Drama Production Receives ‘Golden Handtruck Award’ and More

The Clarke University Drama Department returned from the Region 5 festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival with a number of awards in tow – including the coveted Golden Hand Truck award. Clarke’s production of “The Caretaker” by Harold Pinter was performed at the festival in Ames from January 15-21. The production was one of only five productions, and one alternate, from the region selected to be featured at the festival.

Dressing the Stage

The Golden Hand Truck, typically captured by large universities, was given to Clarke for having the most outstanding load-in and strike crew at the festival. At the festival, the crew had a time limit to construct the set, which was trucked to Ames, and focus lighting. Following the performance, the group had a time limit for striking the set. The award is an actual hand truck that has been painted gold and decorated (complete with lights). It will reside with the Clarke company for the year during which time it will have a decoration or item of interest added to it before being passed along to next year’s award winner.

Click here to view a timelapse of the set coming down and going up.

Clarke also received a number of other accolades at the festival. Gage Steenhagen, of Roland, Iowa, advanced to the semi-final round of the festival’s Irene Ryan Acting Competition and Ellen Gabrielleschi, chair and associate professor of drama, received a Certificate of Merit and Achievement for outstanding set design. During the audition and interview opportunities at the festival, students Kayla Damisch, of Victor, Iowa, and Traci Johnson, of Dubuque, Iowa, received several callbacks from professional theater companies.

This is the seventh production Clarke has had selected to perform at the festival, among various other festival recognitions. This show was the final ACTF entry for the show’s director Clarke Professor of Drama Carol Blitgen, BVM, Ph.D., who will retire at the end of the current academic year. The first show she ever had selected to be performed at the festival was also by Harold Pinter.

Following Clarke’s performance of the show, the cast and crew received tremendous feedback with attendees calling it “beautiful,” “captivating,” “emotionally superb” and “visually exciting.” One of Clarke’s national respondents called it a “complete artistic package.”

The drama department originally performed the show on campus in November, at which time a panel of critics viewed it and made a recommendation to the festival selection committee, ultimately leading to an invitation to perform at the festival. Immediately following the holidays, a team of students and faculty began rehearsing the show and practiced constructing and deconstructing the set.

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