WCSU theatre arts department awarded highest honors at Kennedy Center national festival in Washington

Image of the award recipientsDANBURY, CONN. Western Connecticut State University’s fall 2015 theatre arts production, “Parade,” was nominated for 14 national awards and won five, including “Outstanding Production of a Musical,” Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Musical,” “Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Musical,” “Best Director of a Musical” and “Outstanding Choreography” at the American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. These honors represent the most awards WCSU has ever received for a production, and also the biggest sweep of awards at the American College Theatre Festival.

To celebrate this accomplishment, the university will honor “Parade’s” cast and crew at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 2, 2016, in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall in the Visual and Performing Arts Center (VPAC) on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. The event, which will feature the performance of a song from the musical, will be free and open to the public. To RSVP, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/parade-kcactf-awards-ceremony-tickets-24599723435.

Only 125 students nationwide are selected to participate in the prestigious KCACTF festival in the nation’s capital, and three WCSU theatre arts students were among them: Caitlin White, Shaylen Harger and Matthew Grasso.  

White, a junior performance major from Enfield, was invited to the festival as a leadership fellow and attended on full scholarship. During the week she participated in workshops on leadership in arts management and was provided behind-the-scenes tours of numerous stages within the Kennedy Center and D.C. area. She works as a box office manager at Western’s VPAC.

“To be among a select handful of students from across the country to represent WestConn on this level is amazing,” White said. “This group of leadership fellows has truly inspired me, and I’ve learned so much just from working alongside them in these workshops. To meet so many professionals in D.C. who have paved the way for us and learn from them is truly an honor, and I feel lucky to be among this class of fellows.”

WCSU senior Matthew Grasso, of Bethel, and sophomore Shaylen Harger, of Orange, both musical theatre majors, were recipients of national awards for “Outstanding Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Musical.” Grasso and Harger performed as part of the festival’s Musical Theatre showcase and were able to attend private workshops and performances by esteemed theatre professionals.

“Workshopping every day with theatre professionals at the national festival not only challenged me as a performer, but forced me to step out of my comfort zone as a human being,” Grasso said. “The guest artists helped me to understand who I am as an artist, which will shape my entire future career as an actor. I made lifelong friends with my fellow attendees during my stay at the Kennedy Center, as well as lifelong professional mentors within the industry. I am so thankful to KCACTF for all of the blessings they have brought my way. My path in life is forever changed because of their generosity.”

WCSU Musical Theatre Coordinator Tim Howard, who was awarded “Best Director of a Musical,” also attended the festival. Howard directed Grasso and Harger for their performance on one of the biggest stages in the country and also was one of nine theatre professionals to present a masterclass at the festival this year.
“To have ‘Parade’ acknowledged on this national level has been thrilling,” Howard said. “Our invitation to attend and perform at the College Kennedy Center Awards has given Western’s Theatre Department major exposure, both professionally and on the university level. We are extremely grateful and humbled by the multiple awards, and I intend to use this as inspiration to strive for continued artistic heights.”

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.



Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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