Jessica Allen and Raquel Daniels are the two newest nominees for the Irene Ryan Award. The two were nominated for their superb performance as Grace Dubose Dunbar and Marie Dunbar, respectively in the 1960’s themed stage play The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First 100 Years (The Nacirema Society).
The Irene Ryan Award is an acting scholarship that provides recognition, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to further their education.
To be nominated your school must first enter a school production into the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) and from there, a judicator comes to watch the performance and selects the nominee or nominees.
Anedra Small is a FAMU theatre professor who said that there is a history of students being nominated for KCACTF.
“At the very least, two students are always recommended from each of our productions. We have a history of students being nominated for KCACTF,” Small said.
After a student is nominated, they must then prepare to audition in their region to receive the scholarship. There will be multiple rounds of the audition process where each nominee will be asked to perform a monologue and a song.
The Nacirema Society marks Raquel Daniels’s debut to the FAMU Essential Theater main stage. So understandably, the nomination came as a complete shock to her.
“I was in class and a few people told me to check the call board. When I went to look, I saw my name under Jessica’s and I just couldn’t stop smiling. It is such a blessing to even be considered,” Daniels said.
Jessica Allen, on the other hand, has been featured in six main stage productions with the theater and is now preparing for her seventh. She will star in “Mississippi Delta” in the spring semester.
“I’ve never been nominated before, so to be recognized by such a prestigious foundation really means a lot to me. I just hope I live up to their expectations,” Allen said.
Small doesn’t doubt for one-second that Allen will not only meet the expectations, but exceed them as well. “Allen being nominated really speaks towards her work ethic,” she said.
Much like Daniels, Allen also found out that she was nominated through a group of friends who told her to check the call board, located directly outside of the Charles Winter Wood Theatre in Tucker Hall.
If either student is chosen to be the regional winner, they will win a $500 scholarship and will then advance to the national round of auditions set for April of 2018. If they gain the national title then they will receive a $5,000 scholarship and recognition on the KCACTF website.
During the auditions, nominees will be judged on their ability to urgently pursue strong, clear objectives. Their ability to partner, ability to make varied, specific and bold acting choices and lastly the mastery of an expressive and flexible vocal and physical instrument.
KCACTF awards the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship to 16 regional and two national scholars every year. Although FAMU has had students nominated before, no one has ever won the prestigious award. Both Raquel Daniels and Jessica Allen hope to change that and bring home the scholarship.