Northern Vermont University’s original online theater piece, “The Monument,” took home a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award in the national awards ceremony on Friday, May 22. This marks the second time that this piece, created by students in NVU’s Performance, Arts, and Technology program, has been recognized by the Kennedy Center — first when it was selected for presentation at the Region 1 American College Theater Festival held virtually in late January, and now as an award winner at the national level.
“This award means that the innovative work we’re doing in the Performance, Arts, and Technology program is tapping into something important nationally, as not only were we chosen to present our show regionally, but we were recognized nationally,” said Isaac Eddy, Assistant Professor and Chair of Performing Arts.
The award announcement stated: “The Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Awards recognize programs in higher education using theatrical production to promote long-term societal impact through an artistic lens, to encourage empathetic exploration of the complex cultural and physical world, and to advocate for justice on campus and throughout the world.” NVU’s “The Monument” was also recognized with two Special Achievements — in Virtual Community Engagement and Audience Development, and in Sound Design.
Kennedy Center Region 1 includes all of New England and New York State, and NVU was up against hundreds of shows from much larger schools during the selection process for the regional festival, Eddy said. The national-level award winners were chosen from the respondents’ (judges’) comments about the pieces presented in each of the regional festivals held across the country.
The Kennedy Center Awards announcement included this statement: “During these unprecedented times, we celebrate these imaginative and evocative theatre-makers and productions as being at the forefront of a revolution in artistry that ignites conversations of national importance through innovation in process, content, form, design, technology, outreach, and audience engagement.”
NVU’s entry stood out because it was presented live. Eddy sees this “as part of our purpose with the PAT program — to create live arts in a flexible way, to be aware of where we are in society and create art based on that, instead of trying to create a traditional work in a non-traditional time. We created this piece the way we did because of the pandemic,” he said. “Most of the shows presented at the Region 1 Festival in January were prerecorded, so to be able to have an interactive live experience had a lot of impact in the festival.”
The play is set in a fictional Vermont town and is based in real suffrage history with a staged Zoom select board meeting that takes place in the real problems of today. “Think of ‘The Monument’ as ‘Our Town’ set in 2020: less swooning about memories of mom’s breakfast and a lot more arguing,” Eddy said.
Students involved in co-creating the award-winning pieces were invited to submit statements to be read aloud during the awards ceremony, and two NVU students shared the following: “My one takeaway is that theater is adaptable and ever changing, and that it’s our job as artists to adapt and change with it,” said Addie White ‘23. “This performance showed me that there really is no limit to theater,” said Althena Abramowitz ‘22.
Information about The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival can be found at: https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/opportunities-for-artists/pre-professional-artist-training/kcactf/.
To learn more about all of NVU’s performance degrees, visit NorthernVermont.edu/PerformanceArts.