Brett Billings ’12 (Marion, Kan.) and Conner Woods ’11 (Stockton, N.J.) reached the semifinal round of the Irene Ryan Scholarship competition at the Region Two Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
More than 1,000 students from 87 schools in the Mid-Atlantic region attended the festival held in January at Townson University. Billings and Woods were among 222 pairs who entered the contest, and were in two of the 32 pairs who advanced to the semifinals.
Billings, an English major who performed with economics major Samantha Smith ’12 (Lynnfield, Mass.), did scenes from Ben Johnson’s Volpone and The Ghost Story by Booth Tarkington.
Woods, a history major, worked with Michael Suczewski ’11 (Chatham, N.J.), a biology and Spanish double major, to perform a scene from Sean O’Casey’s Shadow of a Gunman and a scene from Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
“We were proud of our scenes and thought that whether we made it to the next round or not, we could come home knowing we had accomplished something,” Woods says.
Michael O’Neill, associate professor of English and director of theater, entered Lafayette College Theater’s production of An Enemy of the People as an associate production in the regional festival. With the associate production, Lafayette was able to send two actors from the show. Billings and Woods were nominated by a regional adjudicator who watched the play.
This was Billings and Smith’s second time performing in the Irene Ryan Scholarship competition, but Woods and Suczewski were new to the event.
“Mike and I got ready for the competition in the same way we prepare for any other performance: lots and lots of practice,” Woods says.
“We did not know how well we did until our audition reviewers gave us their critiques, which were overwhelmingly positive. After the review, Mike and I thought we had a shot,” Woods says. “With both of our pairs making it to the semifinals, we felt we had won a tremendous victory for Lafayette.”
Billings says the competition taught him that he likes working with a scene partner. “I act better with others because it gives me a chance to build off their creativity,” he says.
In addition to acting, Billings enjoys directing, which he has been doing at Lafayette since his first year. This spring, he will direct the musical Aida for the College’s charity theater group Marquis Players, and last fall he directed a radio adaptation of War of the Worlds for College Theater. He is a recipient of the College’s Maggin Family Creative and Performing Arts Fellowship (CaPA).
Woods got involved with theater productions at Lafayette as a first-year student, first performing in Pride and Prejudice. Since then, he has performed in six more College Theater shows.
“College Theater has come to define my Lafayette experience. It has helped me to learn and grow, make great friends, and have the time of life,” Woods says.