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Adam Navarro, Courtney Howe, Meredith Hinckley and Paul Collins at KCACTF

Cal State Fullerton Theatre Majors Win National Awards

Pairs Make History at Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Meredith Hinckley

Cal State Fullerton theatre arts majors won the top two acting awards, plus a major design prize presented at the 41st annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The weeklong theatrical showcase and competition in Washington, D.C., ended Sunday.

It’s the first time in the history of the Irene Ryan Scholarship auditions that students from a single university won both national titles.

Judges selected graduate students Meredith Hinckley of Santa Ana (with acting partner Paul Collins of Santa Ana) and Adam Navarro of Costa Mesa (with partner Courtney Howe of Rancho Santa Margarita) from CSUF’s Department of Theatre and Dance for the two $2,500 national Irene Ryan fellowships. The awards recognize their work in campus productions of “The Night of the Iguana” and “As You Like It,” respectively.

In a separate award, Howe was named “Best Partner” in the Irene Ryan Competition.

In addition, CSUF’s Joseph Holbrook of Buena Park, won the Barbizon Award for Theatrical Design Excellence in Scenic Design for his designs for the campus production of “Urinetown the Musical.” The honor includes a $500 honorarium and all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the National Design Portfolio Review at Lincoln Center, as well as a professional development residency.

Joseph Holbrook's award-winning design for the campus production of "Urinetown the Musical." Photo by Edwin Lockwood.

The students secured their place at the national festival during the regional competition held in February at Cal State Fullerton. The Region VIII festival attracted 1,500 students from universities throughout the West.

“We are so proud,” said James R. Taulli, associate professor of theatre and dance who chaired the Region VIII festival. “It’s astonishing that of the thousands of participating Irene Ryan Acting students and Barbizon Design students from throughout the nation, that three of the national winners would come from California State University, Fullerton.”

In further recognition, Hinckley also won the Classical Acting Award of Excellence, which includes a two-week internship at Canada’s prestigious Shaw Festival. She also received Utah’s highly coveted Sundance Theatre Lab Acting Fellowship, for a three-week workshop in July.

Navarro, meanwhile, also received the Voice And Speech Trainers Association scholarship, as well as a yearlong internship at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

In the design arena — in addition to Hollbrook’s award — CSUF’s LaTasha Tobias of Rancho Cucamonga received the O’Neill Institute Internship for the summer, as well as an invitation to attend the Broadway Master Lighting Class in New York in May. Tobias is pursuing a master of fine arts degree in theatre arts. She earned a B.F.A. in art in 2005 with a concentration in illustration and entertainment art/animation.

Susan Hallman, chair and professor of theatre and dance, characterized the abundance of CSUF awards as “a remarkable achievement and testimony to the quality of our students, faculty, staff and institutional support.”

The history-making showing for Cal State Fullerton at the national festival comes on the heels of the university celebrating the naming of the Clayes Performing Arts Center, in recognition of a $5 million gift to the College of the Arts from the estate of Joseph Clayes III. The former student body president and member of the Class of ’61 was a patron of the arts.

Awards and Festival Background

The Barbizon Awards provide student designers with feedback from professionals working in the field, give outstanding student designers national recognition and provide the opportunity for student designers to exhibit their work at the Kennedy Center.

The Irene Ryan Scholarships provide recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, launched in 1969, is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide. It has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of the nation’s college theater programs. The program has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country.

Related Stories:

Cal State Fullerton Students Competing at National Level

Exhibit Offers Behind-the-Scenes Look at Costume, Lighting, Scenic Design

Media Contacts:
Jim Volz, Theatre and Dance, 657-278-3538 or
Paula Selleck, Public Affairs, 657-278-4856 or