Most ever nominated for the Irene Ryan Award

Michelle Nelson

Dana Pollak, nominee for the Irene Ryan Award. Photo Credit: Michelle Nelson / Staff Reporter
Dana Pollak, nominee for the Irene Ryan Award. Photo Credit: Michelle Nelson / Staff Reporter

Thirteen CSUN students were nominated for the prestigious Irene Ryan award this year, the most nominations ever for the university. One dramaturg and two stage managers were nominated in addition to the 13 actors.

Actor Irene Ryan, who was most recognized for her portrayal as Granny Clampett on the “The Beverly Hillbillies”, established the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. The foundation awards up to $2,500 to recognize the best of student performers. Peter Grego, the theater department chair said the scholarship funds cover any tuition or educational costs; it is not limited to theater arts.

This year, Dana Pollak, a junior theater major, was among one of the students to receive a nomination for her role in “The Illusion.”

The Irene Ryan scholarship foundation is part of a larger festival known as the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). The KCACTF is a yearlong festival that encourages college theater programs to “improve the quality of college and university theater in America,” according to their Web site.

An outside respondent, who is a professional in the field, chooses the nominees based on the students’ performances. After the performance, the respondent and the actor engage in a talk-back session, where the respondent reviews the actor’s performance, said Grego.

The actors are critiqued on stage presence, the use of their voice, the movement of their body, and their knowledge and understanding of the script, said Pollak.

“I didn’t even think [the respondent] liked me that much,” said Pollak, “I wasn’t really sure how she felt about my performance. That’s another reason why I was so surprised when I got the nomination.”

After the talk-back session, the actors are invited to audition during the festival, where they compete with other actors from the region.

This year the region includes schools from southern Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Hawaii. The annual festival, which includes schools nationwide will be held at Dixie State College in Utah.

Pollak found out last Friday that she was nominated for an award for her lead role. Pollak attributes her success in the play to her professors, “I was stunned because I’ve never gotten a role like that,” said Pollak. “I think it’s really thanks to my professors and what I’ve learned.”

John Binkley, associate professor and regional chair for the KCACTF, said the construction of the new performing arts center would offer a proper venue to host future festivals. “We may even host the regional festival, which will bring the many opportunities to our campus,” he said.

Last year two CSUN students made it to the semifinals and one made it to the finals, said Binkley. Last year’s success “provided notoriety to CSUN as well as making our students aware of the opportunity. I think it also validates the training our students are receiving in the theater department,” said Binkley.

This year the department entered everything, said Grego. “We’re participating more than we have before … giving everyone an opportunity.”

During the audition process, the actor is to prepare a scene with another actor who is not a nominee. Pollak is working on a few scenes from plays and a monologue for the upcoming festival.

Grego said this year the theater department is offering an audition class that will help prepare students for the festival. The audition class will also prepare students for their audition requirement for admission into graduate school, said Grego.

“There’s going to be a lot of preparation,” said Pollak. However, the preparation does not feel like work, she said.

“Our work is what we love,” she said.

Pollak said that her nomination is a great opportunity to learn and grow from the experience, “it’s up to you to be able to learn, if you’re open [to learn] opportunities will come to you, if you’re closed off then you will look right past them. It’s important to be open to everything.”