University News

Two WIU Representatives Named Finalists in Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Regional Festival This Week

January 9, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – One Western Illinois University student and one alumna have been named finalists in the Region 3 Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival in Madison, WI.

Nissi Shalom Smith, a May WIU graduate in musical theatre, from South Holland, IL, and Kaela Dawn Massey, a senior musical theatre major from Winfield, KS, have reached the finals in the Musical Theatre Intensive category.

Twenty-three WIU students left Tuesday for the festival, accompanied by WIU faculty members Assistant Professor Hadley Kamminga-Peck and Associate Professor Lysa Fox. They competed in the Musical Theatre Intensive, Irene Ryan Acting competition and the Technical Theatre Olympics.

"Our students are spending time and building relationships and becoming the artists of tomorrow. They are being exposed to new techniques and engaging with a broad range of critical and fundamental ideas facing our theatrical community, while getting to show their skill in a series of competitions and workshops," said Kamminga-Peck and Fox. "We are beyond proud of the work they have done to earn their spot here, and of how they are representing Western with dignity, pride, talent, drive and their spirit of generosity and collaboration."

After being named finalists, both Smith and Massey will now compete today (Thursday, Jan. 9) to move on to the national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in April.

Smith won the Region 3 MTI in 2018, and later that year, she won the national competition at the Kennedy Center. She was nominated for this year's competition for her performance as a lead in "Pippin," prior to graduation. She is also competing in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition during this week's event.

The national award provided Smith with a unique opportunity at the Open Jar Institute in New York City, where she attended theatrical workshops, met theatre industry representatives and attended numerous Broadway productions.

For more information about the WIU Department of Theatre and Dance, visit

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations