Here are the Festival 50 journalists in the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy. Their first assignment was to introduce themselves to the festival in a 100-word biography. We are lucky to have professional journalist Michael Morain with us again this year as our festival guest…
Rachel Bland is a graduate assistant at the University of Central Missouri where she is earning her masters in theatre and graduate certificate in women, gender, & sexuality studies. She also enjoys serving as a lead teaching artist for The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City. Originally hailing from Dallas, Texas, Rachel holds her bachelors in theatre performance from Ouachita Baptist University. Before returning for her masters, Rachel taught high school theatre/ AP language and worked in children's theatre in Arkansas. In her free time she enjoys eating tacos and watching good movies with her husband and cat, Princess Buttercup.
Matthew Briggs is a sophomore at the University of Central Missouri pursuing a degree in Speech Communication and Theatre Education. At UCM, he has served as an actor, director, and technician. His favorite experiences include playing a “White Dude” in The Toxic Avenger and being an Assistant Director for Tartuffe. Some passions of his include watching reruns of Friends and drinking “Starbucks.” This is Matthew’s first year attending the festival, and he is thrilled to participate as an ITJA respondent. He looks forward to growing as a writer and improving his ability to analyze and interpret productions.
Mariana “Jo” Jabben is a freshman Elementary Education major and Theater minor at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. In addition to theatrical criticism, Jo is active in MNU’s hair and makeup departments and appeared in their production of The Greek Olympiaganza, as well as the upcoming Much Ado About Nothing. Additionally, Jo will stage manage MNU’s spring production of Eleemosynary by Lee Blessing. In the future, Jo hopes to utilize her love of theater -- specifically criticism and stage management -- in urban school districts, preparing young children for life-long theatrical learning.
Allie Kantack is a senior English Writing major at South Dakota State University. After graduating this spring, she hopes to someday become an editor. Throughout college, Allie has served as a writing tutor, a magazine editor, and a publicist for State University Theatre. She occasionally appears on stage, most recently in “Unnecessary Farce” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Besides theatre, Allie enjoys playing piano, figure skating, and wearing purple Crocs. This will be her fourth year at KCACTF and her second year participating in the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy. She is thrilled for the opportunity to improve her writing and to experience another side of theatre.
Lindsay Koehler is a senior double majoring in performing arts as well as journalism and mass communication at Iowa State University. Blowing in from the Windy city her focus is on producing and promoting theater. During her time at Iowa State, Lindsay has worked as a stage manager and as a student representative for the performing arts department. She has also served as a production assistant for the Chicago Festival Association, producing the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade. This is her first year participating in the ITJA and she cannot wait to see where her writing goes.
Lydia Lonnquist is a senior at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. She is majoring in English and theatre with a minor in communications. Lydia has had several creative works published in Inkwell magazine (such as a Profile Essay on her 80-year-old motorcycle riding grandfather), as well as articles in the Canby News during her 2017 summer internship. Possible careers she wishes to pursue are that of freelance journalism, playwriting, and acting. Currently, Lydia is playing Ellen in BLC’s winter musical, Oklahoma. Throughout the semester she will also be adapting the Anne of Green Gables series into a stage play.
Kendall McKasson is a junior theatre major with a minor in arts administration representing St. Ambrose University. She has a long history in theatre where she has explored almost every area, but has minimal experience in journalism, she is excited to expand her knowledge and enthusiasm on the topic as she returns to KCACTF for her third consecutive year. Kendall is currently preparing to assistant stage manage her university’s production of Cabaret. She aspires to be a college level theatre professor and share her love of theatre with as many people as possible.
Rachel Phillips is a senior at the University of Missouri where she studies arts and culture journalism and theatre performance. During the past year, she performed in a musical revue titled “Sinners and Saints” and served as master electrician for “The Laramie Project.” Her writing has been seen in the Missourian, Vox Magazine and single-topic publications for brands like Newsweek and Teen Party. In her free time, Rachel enjoys singing with MU’s University Singers, reading and watching an obscene amount of Netflix. This is her first time attending KCACTF, and she is enjoying taking in all the festival offers.
Gabriela Velasquez is a junior arts & culture journalism major and theatre minor at the University of Missouri. When she’s not watching football or studying “Star Wars” trivia, she manages the social media and performs for MU Improv, Mizzou’s only long-form improv troupe. Favorite onstage roles include Mark Antony (“Julius Caesar”), Nehebkah (“Aida”) and Henry Drummond (“Inherit the Wind”). She has covered education, crime and culture for the Columbia Missourian and Vox Magazine, and covers women’s professional wrestling for SmarkOutMoment.com. She is thrilled to return to her roots at KCACTF and write about her greatest love: theatre.