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Kelli Crump (left) and Melody Betts in Washington, D.C. during the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival
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Melody Betts as Emilia in WIU's Spring 2007 production of "Othello"
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WIU Theatre Grads Earn Summer Professional Training Awards

June 4, 2007

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MACOMB, IL - - Melody Betts (Chicago), a Master of Fine Arts candidate in theatre at Western Illinois University, and former MFA student Kelli Crump (Springfield Township, MI) provided such a showcase of their talents – along with Western's theatre and dance department – that the duo was awarded three of nine fellowships at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), held in April in Washington, D.C.

They advanced to the national festival when Crump, who was nominated as an actor, and Betts, who was her acting partner, won the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship at the Region III American College Theatre Festival, held in March in Milwaukee. At the national festival in The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Crump and Betts were among 32 actors and acting partners competing for scholarships. The weeklong event also included auditions, rehearsals and performing in the ACTF Short Play Festival; and master classes.

Betts earned the sixth annual Sundance Theatre Laboratory Acting Fellowship.

Crump was presented two fellowships: The National Partners of the American Theatre Classical Acting Award and The VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainers Association) Award for Vocal Excellence.

Betts' all-expense paid three-week acting workshop in Sundance, UT, is designed to give actors an ensemble of professional actors and resource artists to help them shape their work in a protected environment.

"I was totally shocked when I heard my named called for the award, because the focus is so much on the actual nominees," Betts said. "I had already taken my shoes off and collapsed back stage. It's the closest thing to winning regionals, and it's very exciting."

Betts will be at Sundance Institute in July as part of an acting ensemble, working on a project yet to be determined. "The Light in the Piazza" and "The Laramie Project" are plays which have been developed at Sundance, she said.

Crump received a $500 scholarship for the VASTA Award for Vocal Excellence, which included judging at a ACTF/VASTA master class and at the winners circle, as well as one year's membership in the international organization.

The National Partners of the American Theatre Classical Acting Award is a $2,500 fellowship that will send Crump to England July 23-Aug. 17 for an all-expense paid four-week intensive summer session at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).

According to the National Partners-American Theatre, the best acting stems from a classical base; and the goal of the fellowship is to foster the finest in classical acting.

"I'm so excited. I'm excited about going to LAMDA; I'm excited about the VASTA award and Mel's award to Sundance," Crump said.

"We made such amazing friends at nationals. We had a blast," she added. "I even got to audition for the director of the National Shakespeare Company."

Crump is performing in "Hairspray" June 6-24 at the Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan, IL, before preparing for her trip to London. She will report to the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver on Sept. 10 to continue her MFA training.

Kelli is the daughter of Archie, a retired Detroit Fire Department paramedic, and Deborah Crump, a retired Detroit emergency room technician of Springfield Township, MI.

Betts, who is taking summer classes before heading to Sundance, is working toward a professional singing career. She is a longtime member of Joshua Jeneration, a Chicago-based gospel music group; has traveled to and performed in Europe and Japan; and has been featured on five professionally released albums. She has also appeared in many stage plays at Western as well as The Little Theatre on the Square, an Equity Theatre in Sullivan, IL; and in musicals including "Tommy" and "Godspell." Betts also has her own website,

Melody is the daughter of Talmadge and Valerie Betts of Chicago.

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