Northwestern play wins multiple national awards

Northwestern College’s production of “Jabberwocky,” a children’s play based on a well-known “nonsense” poem by author Lewis Carroll, won multiple awards at the 2021 national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), held in April.

KCACTF is a national theatre program involving students from more than 600 colleges and universities across the country. Student awardees for design, performance, directing, playwriting, stage management, dramaturgy, arts leadership and theatre criticism are invited from all eight KCACTF regions. Through master classes, presentations, conversations and staged readings, they learn from and connect with established theatre artists, as well as their peers from across the country. Due to COVID-19, this year’s festival was held virtually.

Ethan Koerner, instructor in theatre at Northwestern, framed “Jabberwocky” as the telling of a bedtime story and used a child’s imagination as the launching point for the action. Creatures like bandersnatches, borogoves, mome raths—and even the fearsome Jabberwock—were all portrayed through different styles of puppetry.

The Northwestern production was recognized for special achievement in the innovative use of technology and in virtual community engagement and audience development.

“One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is that the resulting limitations forced our theatre program to consider digital formats to make our art innovative and shareable,” says Dr. Robert Hubbard, chair of the theatre department. “Ethan Koerner and Drew Schmidt, who designed the app, deserve a lot of credit for their ingenuity. It’s wonderful they received national recognition from the Kennedy Center.”

Koerner’s work was also one of four productions cited for special achievement in puppet design. And Rachel Smart, a junior English teaching major from Brookings, South Dakota, was one of six students recognized for special achievement in dramaturgy.