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WIU MFA Grad Lands Prestigious Kennedy Center Acting Positions

May 30, 2017

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MACOMB, IL – A recent Western Illinois University alumnus, who was a finalist for the Kennedy Center's Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, has been hired to write and act in nine new Kennedy Center plays and perform in two Shakespearean productions through March 2018.

Jeff Young, who received his master of fine arts (MFA) degree from Western this month, and his fellow MFA graduate and acting partner Brett Olson, took part in the Kennedy Center competition in April.

During the event, Young was awarded the College of Fellows Jane Alexander Acting Award, as well as the Shakespeare Theatre Company Fellowship. The Jane Alexander award, named for the film, television and stage actress who also previously served as chair of the National Endowment of the Arts, provided $2,500 to Young to write and act in nine new plays at the Kennedy Center, July 22-31.

"I will be doing this with the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Wooly Mammoth Theatre and others," said Young.

Through the Shakespearean fellowship, Young will perform in the theatre company's productions of "Twelfth Night" and "Hamlet," directed by Michael Kahn. The acting position includes an apartment in Washington, DC, for Young and his wife at no cost.

"We are so incredibly humbled and excited by these blessings," said Young. "These awards will definitely aid my career and future as an artist."

In April, Young and Olson were one of 16 finalist teams in the Kennedy Center's Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Irene Ryan was an American actress who is best known for her role as "Granny" in "The Beverly Hillbillies." Her scholarship is considered the biggest acting award at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

The Kennedy Center performance includes the same three pieces that the team has performed at each level of the competition. The first piece is a dramatic scene from "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," about two soldiers fighting in the Iraqi war; the second is a classic comedic piece from "The Illusion," and the final is a monologue by Young from "The Women of Lokerbie."

All three segments fit into the six-minute timeframe allowed in the competition.

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

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