News

Tabor College Junior Wins Regional Theater Competition

February 04, 2014

Categories: General News

Tabor College junior Cheyenne Derksen won the National Critics Institute Region 5 competition, as part of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival held Jan. 20-24 in Lincoln, Neb.

More than 1,500 students and faculty from 81 colleges and universities participated in this year’s Region 5 festival.

The 20-year-old from Goddard, Kan., competed against seven other students from Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. Each student traveled to Lincoln to spend time in workshops, performances and competitions that included playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design.

Familiar with drama from her role as president of her high school thespian club, Derksen thought her days in competitive drama were over. She didn’t even know about the KCACTF competition until Laurel Koerner, Tabor’s director of theater, suggested she submit an entry.

“We’d had a conversation in early November about her career goals, and the Institute came to mind,” Koerner said. “I asked later that day if it interested her, and soon we were talking logistics and submitting her application essay.”

Derksen said she was anxious about submitting her work.

“Before I was selected to the conference in the first place, I was so paranoid because I don’t function well without structure,” she said. “Initially I was terrified, because I had no idea what they wanted from me. All they said was to send in a review.”

In early December, Derksen’s test article was submitted for preliminary review and by the time classes concluded before Christmas, she’d already received an email confirming she was a one of the top eight students selected for the Region 5 competition.

Derksen arrived in Nebraska ready for the competition.

“At the actual conference, I was oddly calm—I wasn’t afraid at all,” she said. “I was just really glad to be in this vibrant community of people who are all enthusiastic about the same thing.”

The intense, four-day competition mixed elements of theater and writing. Each day, all eight students watched a production and then wrote reviews for critique by peers and other professionals. Articles consisted of 800-1,000 words and were then submitted on a blog, plus read aloud for the other competitors. Derksen said she felt very “vulnerable” to have to read her work in front of others.

Before the winner could be announced at the awards ceremony on Friday, Derksen was on the road back to Hillsboro.

“Since we live four hours away, we were already in the car and I checked Facebook on my phone at a gas station in Nebraska and saw that one person from high school had Facebooked me and said ‘Hey, I think you won something,’ (and) I text back, ‘WHAT DID I WIN?’”

She realized she won the competition and the celebration in the car was “totally anticlimactic,” Derksen said, adding that after sharing the news with Koerner, they celebrated all the way home by eating sesame sticks and animal crackers.

Derksen receives an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete at the Kennedy Center National Festival during the week of April 14 against seven others from all over the United States.

“Winning that award justifies Tabor’s need for a fine arts building,” Derksen said, “because it would grant the students much more access to the fine arts that are key for an applicable education in today’s world.”