Theatre Arts graduate students Kala Ross and Lashondra Hood
Theatre Arts graduate students Lashondra Hood and Kala Ross

Theatre Arts graduate students Kala Ross and Lashondra Hood won first place in the regional finals in South Carolina for the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

It’s the first time individual students from Theatre Arts have received the honor.

In April, they’ll go on to compete at the National Finals at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., with expenses paid for by Kennedy Center.

Theatre Arts graduate students Kala Ross and Lashondra Hood
Theatre Arts graduate students Lashondra Hood and Kala Ross

“There will be a lot of scholarship money to be won and exposure to top notch theatre professionals in the industry,” said Baron Kelly, a theatre professor who helped Ross and Hood prepare their winning performances.    

Ross said an adjudicator from the competition chose her as an actor to compete in the regional finals and she chose Hood to be her partner.

She had only two weeks to prepare three pieces for the regional competition in South Carolina: two scenes with Hood and one solo piece. It was a challenge fitting preparations into their already hectic schedules as Hood is a teaching assistant working on her thesis and Ross is a graduate assistant in Theatre Arts’ repertory company.

But, the whole department pulled together to support them along the way, they said.

Professor Ari Calvano helped direct their pieces and Professor Rachel Carter helped establish their characters’ dialect while Kelly met with them early mornings for acting coaching. Fellow students helped as well, they said.

“I believe we were as prepared as we were because of the resources offered through this program,” Ross said.

Ross and Hood said they’re headed to D.C. next month ready to win and are excited about the opportunities the competition could offer.

“It’ll be a great networking—great professionals will be there, people who’ve made a mark on the industry,” Hood said. “I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who are doing the things you want to do.”

Theatre Arts will have another bragging point in April, as well.

Virginia Tech and the Smithsonian Institution will present the second ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival April 5-7, at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The festival celebrates creative exploration and research happening at the nexus of science, engineering, arts and design (SEAD).

Theatre Arts will deliver a performance there of “The Mountaintop,” a fictional exploration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night on Earth. That show kicked off Theatre Arts’ season this year. Those who missed it can see the shortened version prepared for the conference April 3 in the Thrust Theatre. Click here for more information. 

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.