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Four performing arts students from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) traveled to San Angelo, Texas last week to compete in the preliminary rounds of the Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition, a prestigious national scholarship audition for theatre students. NEO students were nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition at the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF), a national theater program. They competed at the regional level against predominantly graduate school level students. Universities and community colleges from six states were represented; bringing more than 700 students together to compete in both theatre and musical theatre performances. NEO has not had students selected to participate in ACTF since 2006.

Hannah Baker of Mannford, Oklahoma and Jessica Cryan of Skiatook, Oklahoma were nominated for the competition by an American College Theatre Festival representative who attended NEO’s production of Call of the River last fall. Each nominee prepares a scene with a partner and competes with them in the competition. Baker’s partner was Michael Rarick of Baxter Springs, Kansas and Cryan’s partner was Justice Tamplen of McKinney, Texas. Call of the River director Ben Whaley said, “We are extremely proud of these students for their talent and their level of commitment to the Fine Arts Department. NEO couldn’t have sent better representatives to this important competition. I’d be proud to present our students next to any in the state or in the country.”

In October, the Fine Arts Department collaborated with the American Indian Center for Excellence (AICE) to present the world premiere of Call of the River by renowned playwright Dr. JudyLee Oliva. The play chronicled the removal of over 40 Native American Tribes from their indigenous lands through an emotional retelling of historical events and their lasting effects. Whaley said Baker and Cryan demonstrated their versatility as actors by taking on different characters in the show, learning new skills, and showing leadership for the cast in creating the challenging and exciting new work. Tamplen and Rarick supported the show both onstage and off and are well-deserving of the opportunity to compete on this level as well.

According to the Kennedy Center website, “The Irene Ryan Foundation of Encino, California not only provides financial assistance to students but also provides recognition to the top performers in the arts departments at the college level. The scholarship to the outstanding performers are awarded at each regional festival. The funding for these scholarships are made possible by the late Irene Ryan who is remembered as the classic ‘Granny Clampett’ in the Beverly Hillbillies.” Not only is a scholarship provided to the actors but supplemental awards are given out to the actors’ partners in the competition.

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