For the first time in three years, several Moraine Valley Community College students attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Flint, Michigan, coming home with many successes.

The first time Dr. Craig Rosen, Moraine Valley theater professor and Academic Theater coordinator, took his theater students to this event was in 2016. It brings together students from four-year colleges and universities and some community colleges throughout the Midwest region to engage in workshops for acting or technical theater, enter contests, audition for short plays and learn from their peers and professionals.

Moraine Valley students and staff attend the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

Moraine Valley students and staff attend the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

“This is a great opportunity for our students. They get to learn, take part in activities and learn how good WE are and that we can compete against these other schools,” Rosen said.

Nearly all the Moraine Valley students auditioned or took part in some play performed at the festival. Two students competed in the Tech Olympics. Sophomore Lena Werner, of Worth, reached the semi-finals for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, further than any other Moraine Valley student has gone. Students who attended included Natalie Cross, of Summit; Sam Dell, of Crestwood; Jalin Hooper, of Blue Island; Aidan McGuire, of Mokena; Gracie Polchan, of Justice; Skylar Post, of Alsip; and Jason Suwaidan, of Tinley Park.

Werner was chosen to compete after being nominated from her first-time lead performance in the play “Eurydice” last May. Before winter break, she had to submit an audition and used a monologue from her acting class. For the festival, she prepared two monologues and a piece with a scene partner. Out of 46 students, 16 were chosen for the finals, and she was number 17.

“Even though I didn’t make it to the finals, I was still very happy to place where I did. Everyone else was getting higher degrees in theater and had been working on their pieces for a while, and I hadn’t worked on mine as long,” she said. “It was a great experience overall. People in our hotel were commenting on my performance, and it was mind blowing. It was unbelievable to have all these people saying you’re better than you think you are. I was very honored, but I came home and thought, ‘what more can I work on.’”

This festival is a valuable tool for students looking to move into the field and understand what they do in class translates to what they might do at another school or in their career.

“Our department is small, so the festival exposes the students to other options they might not be aware of,” Rosen said. “We’ve always had a lot of success here, but this was the most consistent.”


For news media inquiries, contact Maura Vizza, Moraine Valley communications specialist and sports information coordinator, at (708) 974-5742 or