Four actors on a stage lit with purple and yellow lights, a woman in a long dress, two men wearing dark pants, shirts and fringed vests, and a second woman in a tshirt, leggings and boots. They're all wearing felt turkey tails and leaning to their right. The stage is set to look like a theater classroom, with props and posters on three walls and the fourth open to the audience.
A scene from Doane Theatre's November production, "The Thanksgiving Play," written by Larissa FastHorse. The full cast is shown, featuring Katie Craig ’26, Logan Capek ’24, Ben Theiler ’23 and Percy Earle ’24. Images courtesy Doane Theatre / Jack Krejci

At the end of January, students from Doane’s Theatre Department journeyed to Des Moines, Iowa for the 55th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) for Region 5.

The week-long festival celebrates collegiate theatre students, departments and productions from Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Schools of all sizes, from fellow GPAC schools to NCAA Big 10 schools, bringing students from graduate and undergraduate programs, participate alongside one another during the events of the week.

Doane left with six Meritorious Achievement Awards, and student participation in multiple highly-selective events during the festival. Jules Damme ’24, Lincoln, auditioned and was selected for the Long Form Improv Team, which performed on the festival’s final day. Emma Woods ’24, Fremont, was also selected to serve as the stage manager of the 10-minute Play Festival.

Students also had opportunities to audition for regional professional theatre companies. All students who participated — Jules Damme, Ben Theiler, Hailey Trahern and Percy Earle — received callbacks.

“We’re all so proud of all our students and faculty for these amazing accomplishments,” said Rob McKercher, professor of theatre and co-director of the Theatre Department. “Doane is a small fish in a sizeable sea at the festival, and it’s a testament to the immense talent and hard work of our students, alumni and faculty that we regularly receive regional and national recognition from the Kennedy Center.”

Meritorious Achievement Awards were presented to casts and individuals by production:

An image from the production of "Reefer Madness" showing actors on a two-level set with brightly colored lighting shaped to look like marijuana leaves. Two actors, one in a fur cap with a tail and one in an angel costume, stand on the top level of the set. On the base level, two actors stand on the far left and right with flags, and a group of 11 actors pose together in the middle.

The spring 2022 production of “Reefer Madness”

  • The full cast was awarded with Outstanding Ensemble Performance
  • Outstanding Music Direction went to Boston Reid ’22, Omaha
  • Outstanding Prop Design went to Jax Stander ’25, Waverly
Two actors leaping into the air on a stage set to look like a grocery store, with two shopping carts and two doors on the left and right sides of the stage.

The spring 2022 production of “Love/Sick”

  • The full cast was awarded with Outstanding Ensemble Performance
  • “Love/Sick” was also nominated for Outstanding Scene
Four actors pose on a stage, with one miming a bowling motion. The stage has two levels, and a puppet dangles precariously from the second above the words "To Be or Not To Be." The rest of the set looks like a theatre classroom, with a desk and chairs, posters covering the walls and props littered around the edges.

The fall 2022 production of “The Thanksgiving Play”

  • Awarded for Selected Outstanding Scene, which was performed during the festival. It was one of the top 10 scenes chosen to represent the region.
  • Outstanding Stage Management was awarded to Paige Pulte ’25, Gretna

Additionally, Doane had eight students nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition, during which students perform a solo monologue, and perform a scene from a musical and play with a partner:

- Logan Capek ’24, Crete 

- Percy Earle ’24, Columbus 

- Nicole Carraher ’23, Gretna

- Hailey Trahern ’25, Ulysses, KS 

- Alexa Munsinger ’25, Shenandoah, IA 

- Jules Damme ’24, Lincoln

- Ben Theiler ’23, Omaha

- Katie Craig ’26, Lincoln

Carraher, Earle, Capek and Munsinger, along with their scene partners, advanced to the semifinal round in the competition out of nearly 300 regional actors. Munsinger (with partner, Trahern) and Capek (with partner, Carraher) performed in the final round of 16 students in front of the more than 1300 students and faculty who attended the festival.