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Student wins regional runner up for Irene Ryan acting award

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Draven Jackson

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Taylor Montgomery, a junior theater major from Troy, won runner-up in regional acting competition.

He was nominated to compete based on his portrayal of  Peter Pan in “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Montgomery was nominated for the Irene Ryan competition, which awards “outstanding student performers” at each regional festival.

He was honored at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) for Region IV, which he attended for the first time with seven other Troy nominees and their partners.

Montgomery said he was surprised by winning runner-up.

“When they called ‘Runner-up, Taylor Montgomery,’ I just remember not hearing anything after they said my name,” Montgomery said. “And just a bunch of people from Troy just turning around and looking at me with really big faces.”

According to Quinton Cockrell, an associate professor of theater and dance, students are nominated for KCACTF by respondents — professors from other universities in the region — who come to assess the student’s performance according to a set of national criteria.

Everyone who worked in a production is eligible for nominations for awards at KCACTF, though the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship is geared specifically toward actors.

Only 250 students are nominated to compete in the Irene Ryan competition; of those, 48 move on to the second level of the competition. The final round of KCACTF sees the top 16 competitors perform.

After they are nominated, students team up with a mentor on campus and prepare various performances for the competition, from monologues to songs to scenes. Jesse Graham, a lecturer of theater, helped Montgomery choose pieces and prepare for the competition.

“For Taylor, he is such a physical actor that it was a real pleasure to sort of pick out material that would be fun for him to do and fun for us to work on,” Graham said.

According to Montgomery, he and Graham began rehearsing pieces after the conclusion of “Peter and the Starcatcher” last October, kicking it into high gear at the start of the term.

“As far as working with him, he isn’t interested in platitudes, he isn’t interested in sugar coating anything,” Graham said. “He is very interested in an honest assessment of where he is, what he can do to improve, he is constantly hungry for more material, and I think his dedication to the work and the process is what really got him as far as it is.”

Graham said she was ecstatic when Taylor’s name was called as runner-up.

“I jumped out of my chair screaming,” Graham said. “They called his name, and I leapt from my chair.”

The next step after KCACTF is a national competition in Washington, D.C. If the winner is unable to attend the national competition, Montgomery will represent Region IV and compete at the national level.

Montgomery said he is honored by his achievement, but he went into the competition with the mindset that it would not affect his feelings about his talent or abilities. His advice for first-time students competing at KCACTF is to not let failure or success change how they feel about their own talents and skills.

“I was lucky to have older people there who were able to give me advice and who had been (to KCACTF) before,” Montgomery said. “How I went about it is that I knew that whether I got passed on or not or won an award or not says nothing about me as an artist or as an actor …

“It’s all a journey, and whether you get passed on or not says nothing …It’s so subjective and up in the air what the judges think of you that it’s not all on you if things go well or if things don’t. All you can do is work and prepare.”