ASTEP Returns, Revitalized!

Alexander Balzano and Dierdree Glassford

Business Major and Hospitality Major


After a semester’s worth of planning and saving, 7 members of ASTEP SMCC, Artists Striving to End Poverty, headed out last week on the 26th for a week long theater conference they would never forget. Having led a trip for the past 2 years, and attended KCACTF for the past 6, Dierdree Glassford, Executive Director of SMCC’s ASTEP chapter, thought she knew exactly what to expect from the festival this year. The same workshops, the same shows, the same gist. What she couldn’t have predicted was how much this years trip would change her life. Because it wasn’t just the same workshops that they have every year, or the same popular musical, or the same people even. It was SO much more.

Arriving at the festival on Tuesday after a 4 hour drive or so, ASTEP SMCC’s fatigue quickly wore off, and those much coveted naps they were thinking about the whole ride receded from their minds as they took in the already bustling energy of the festival. Students from all over filed in one after the other, their bags packed with the essentials, like toiletries and clothing for the week, and the theater essentials, like a first aide kit, scripts, and make up kits. Making their way to the front desk students checked into their hotels, ready for a week of workshops, competitions, and reconnecting with friends.

For Miss Glassford this trip is like a comfortable routine, and as she got the registration tags and rooms settled in, she braced herself for an exhausting but invigorating week. This year one variable was very different, she was part of the ASTEP team, and planned on attending every ASTEP workshop she could get her hands on.

The first night of the trip started off with a social and emotional bang with the Keynote Address titled The Theatre as a Site for Social Justice and Social Change, with a keynote speaker in the form of Artistic Director Curt Columbus from Trinity Repertory Company. The room teeming with thespians of all ages and styles buzzed with anticipation as Curt Columbus took the stage. A better Keynote could not have been chosen, invoking drive and intensity into his message, Columbus urged the new generation of thespians to be bold, and think strongly about how they can affect the world with their theater. Letting them into his world, he talked about his ups and downs in his theatrical career, and how theater could change for the better. Instead of being a black box performance where your audience is silent and put in the dark, bring them out of their box, give them a voice, make them comfortable, challenge them, get them involved! With theater comes the ability to communicate a message in a tangible, live presentation that lives and breathes as you watch. Curt Columbus urged this new generation to create new theater, fresh theater, and socially relevant theater. He was sent off the stage with a standing ovation, tears in the eyes of many who were very moved by his words.

The rest of the week was a string of similar topics being discussed and taught that pertained to the relevance of the times today. Panels on Diversity in the Theater, and Human Rights, Social Change, and Owning Your Artistic Identity. Multiple devised theater workshops that taught students to think on their feet to create a message of truth and lasting resonance.

For the majority of the trip members, it was their first ever trip to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and although they expected to come back home with a great expeiriance, they never expected it to be so life changing.

Actress and Community Outreach Coordinator for ASTEP SMCC, Lauren Gamble, had this to say about the festival: “This week at KCACTF was honestly the best week I’ve ever had. I learned so much about who I am as a theatre artist and what I can do. I saw incredible theatre, met so many great people and learned how to make social change through theatre. I don’t want this week to end.”

Another first year attendee, Olivia Bean stated, “I am home from one of the most amazing experiences of my life. KCACTF was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t be more thankful for the mentors I gained, the friends I made and the friends I got to rekindle friendship with. It was a beautiful, exciting, inspiring trip and I can’t express that enough.”

Students left the festival this year with a sense of inspiration, purpose, and path that they were ready to follow. Lauren gamble plans on traveling with the global organization of ASTEP helping teach children in need in impoverished countries. Olivia Bean hopes to continue to write, and will be applying to Clark University for their Playwright program next Fall after having met the director of theater at this years festival.

“I could have never imagined how much of a difference this years festival would make. I mean I know for theater people its sometimes the first time that they experience a place where everyone is like them, and where they are completely understood. That by itself is a priceless gift. I could not have imagined how changed we all became as human beings. I know what my next step is, and I haven’t felt confidant in that in a long, long time. I could not have asked for a better festival, it was one of my best years yet!” Dierdree Glassford says, reflecting on this years trip.

Want to know more about what ASTEP SMCC has to offer you? Contact Dierdree Glassford at for further information for whats coming next! This semester’s project is going to be huge!



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