For The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — A spirit of innovation and collaboration in the face of an unprecedented challenge helped the St. Ambrose University Theatre Department and KALA-FM, the public radio station on campus, earn a first-place national award.
During its March 6 conference, the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System presented an award for Best Radio Drama to St. Ambrose for its fall 2020 performance of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, “An Enemy of the People.”
The St. Ambrose submission won first-place honors over nominated performances by the University of Virginia, Kansas University, DePaul University, Montclair State University and Chapman University. It marked the second straight first-place award for KALA, as Sharon (Adasme) Bentley, ’20, won the Best Newscast award a year ago. St. Ambrose’s radio play also was honored as an invited submission at the virtual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region IV in January.
“An Enemy of the People” aired on KALA radio during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic protocols led theatre professor Corrine Johnson to accept a longstanding invitation from KALA station manager Dave Baker to perform a play as a radio broadcast.
“We’re delighted,” Johnson said of the national honor for her actors, who adapted to a new way of performing and learned new ways of conveying characters and emotions. “It was a wonderful experience.”
In casting for the radio play, Johnson said she turned her back to the actors to better understand the range of voices and to be certain each voice was distinctive enough to be recognized in character by listeners. The cast included December graduate T.J. Green ’20, seniors Luke Peterson, Anthony Duckett, Tyler Hughes and Niki Dewitt and sophomores Peyton Reese and Quinnie Rodman.
The award is especially welcome for a theatre department in transition. The theatre major will be discontinued, but Paul Koch, PhD, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, said theatre education will be ongoing and annual performances will remain a staple St. Ambrose activity.