Panola College to host Kennedy Center college theater festival

Panola College theatre students will present “The Oresteia” and “The Mystery of Irma Vep” during the Kennedy Center American College Theatre State Festival Wednesday through Friday.

Panola College is hosting the Kennedy Center American College Theatre State Festival this week, with five area colleges and universities showcasing their entries on the Q.M. Martin Auditorium stage and in Elizabeth R. Hedges Studio Theatre.

The showcase began at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, with the Panola College production of “The Oresteia” by Aeschylus. Today at 11 a.m., Panola College will present “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” in the Elizabeth R. Hedges Studio Theatre. At 6 p.m. today, Richland College will present Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Q.M. Martin Auditorium. On Friday, Texas A&M University Kingsville will present “Gravity,” an original play, at 11 a.m., followed that evening at 8 p.m. by “Urinetown, The Musical,” presented by Bossier Parish Community College.

Whether you go to all five plays or just one, the price is $5. That festival pass will be available at the door to any of the five productions as well as online at http://bit.ly/PanolaDrama.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Panola College theater professor Karen King said. “I mean you talk about the Kennedy Center, and there is something called the Irene Ryan award — When she died, she left a fortune to the Kennedy Center so that they could give acting scholarships and drama scholarships to acting college students. So there’s the Irene Ryan award; there’ll be other awards that students will get, so forth.

“You get to see all these different colleges’ work, and they’re traveling to show, so they’re putting together a lot to get it done,” King said.

The first play being shown, “The Oresteia,” has been around for a while.

“It’s one of the few surviving trilogies that came down from the Greeks, and it is considered the very first real drama,” King said. “It’s by Aeschylus. So we’re doing ‘The Oresteia,’ which is three little plays all put together.”

King said the festival is a great opportunity for people who love theater.

“They should come out because it’s going to be such a variety of theater, including brand new work, classics — and there’s nothing like seeing a live show. It’s different from being in a movie theater because it’s a live connection; it only happens right then and there when you’re seeing it live,” King said. “And it’s a great experience if people have never been to a live show.”