Northwestern College theatre major wins second place in national contest

Jack MacGregor, a Northwestern College theatre major from Denison, Iowa, placed second nationally for scenic design at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) competition April 21–26.

MacGregor was honored for his work on Northwestern’s production of “Silent Sky,” a drama based on the true story of Henrietta Leavitt, an astronomer who made a groundbreaking discovery in the early 1900s while dealing with the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field.

MacGregor won runner-up honors while competing with graduate theatre students getting their Master of Fine Arts degrees in scenic design. He also won a full summer fellowship to work as a scenic designer for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut, which is described as the launchpad of American theatre.

“Jack has a remarkable ability to collaborate with other designers,” says Dr. Robert Hubbard, professor of theatre at Northwestern. “He does his own research that integrates seamlessly into the ensemble. In ‘Silent Sky,’ Jack created an environment where the lighting designer could visualize the night sky. The combination was breathtaking.”

“Silent Sky” was produced in the spring of 2023, when MacGregor was a sophomore at NWC. As the scenic designer for the show, he was asked by the director to give the audience the sense that they were sitting under a night sky.

“The show was going to be in the round, so I decided to make the set a planetarium,” MacGregor says. Because quick scene changes and visibility were important, he designed desks, tables and other furniture to be small, lightweight or on wheels.

“Since the play revolves around astronomical discoveries in the 1900s, I decided to paint the floor and set pieces reflective of 1900s astronomical art,” MacGregor says. “Overall, the show turned out beautifully. I loved the design process, seeing it come to fruition, and experiencing how it helped tell the story of ‘Silent Sky.’”

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is one of the most prestigious new play development workshops in existence. This summer, MacGregor will be working alongside some of the most respected and admired theatre makers in the world.