The Voice: Spring 2001
Theatre department wins ACTF awards
The Dordt theater department earned several awards at the regional American College Theater
Festival held in Kansas City in January. Jim Van Ry, the department's new technical director,
won a meritorious achievement award for his lighting design for the fall production of
Oklahoma. Conductor Norm Gaines earned the same recognition for orchestra excellence in
Oklahoma, and students Eric Van Wyk and Michael Contant earned awards for lighting
This is the first award we've received for lighting design, says Professor Simon du Toit, chair
of the department. In the past few years Dordt has also won awards for set designs and costumes.
Du Toit gives the credit for this year's lighting awards to Van Ry, who joined the department last
fall. Before he came to Dordt, Van Ry spent many summers working at the Creede Summer
Festival in Colorado, taking courses in theater technology while serving as a high school teacher.
Van Ry's professional experience and creativity-along with a lot of hard work-earned him the
achievement award. Dordt has been without a tech professional on staff for two years, and du
Toit admits that his experience in acting doesn't translate automatically to the technical aspects
of lighting and set building. He's grateful for Van Ry's contribution to the department.
There's a lot of mathematics and electrical know-how involved, he says. Van Ry did it
creatively and well.
The Dordt theater department has been actively involved in the ACTF for many years. Each year
the department submits at least one main stage production for judging by the ACTF, giving
students the opportunity to prepare for and compete in a national context. Although the main
stage show was not selected for presentation at the festival, seven Dordt actors were nominated
and invited to compete in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Competition that is part of the festival.
It gives students an opportunity to connect to other students working in theater and see what
other schools are doing, says du Toit. It also presents an added challenge for them to work to
their fullest potential. And, du Toit believes, it sometimes allows Dordt theater people to be a salt
and light to those around them, either in behavior or in what they present.
For the second year in a row, Jason Vande Brake reached the finals of the Irene Ryan
competition, marking the third time in the nine years that du Toit has been in the department that
a Dordt student has reached the finals. Having such talented students to work with makes the
department's work enjoyable.
We try to set high standards for our students, says du Toit. Seeing others being held to high
standards also is a good source of encouragement.