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Prophet wins gold medallion for contributions to regional theater association
3/29/10

Becky Prophet, professor of theater

Becky Prophet, professor of theater

Beloved on campus for her teaching, her humor, her leadership and her genuine caring for her students, Becky Prophet, professor of theater at Alfred University, received accolades from her colleagues in the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival for her service to the organization’s Region Two.

Prophet received the Gold Medallion, the association’s highest honor, during the Region Two festival earlier this year.

The medal, which has been awarded since 1972, albeit in dwindling numbers each year since the supply of original pieces is running out, is “presented to those in the KCACTF regions who have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theater and to the development and quality of the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival.” The award also recognizes efforts to “raise the quality of college theater in the United States.”

Unaware she was the guest of honor for the evening and wrapped up in her work with directing students at the festival, Prophet very nearly missed the awards dinner, arriving an hour late. While she might have been suspicious something was going to happen when her husband Craig arrived at the festival – ostensibly to help technical director Zach Hamm – Prophet said she was caught off-guard by the presentation.

Melanie Baker, an Alfred University junior with majors in English and theater, spoke on behalf of Alfred students in presenting the award. Baker called Prophet “a brilliant professor and asset to the students in Alfred. She is famous around our campus for her impressive crossword puzzle skills and delicious baking and she is infamous for her biting wit and endless use of puns.”

Prophet said she began her affiliation with the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival years ago, before she returned to her alma mater (she is a 1971 graduate of AU) more than 15 years ago, charged with creating a theater major. “With the geographic challenge we face here – our distance from major cities and theaters – I wanted our students to be exposed to and to understand what’s going on in other” theater departments, Prophet explained.

That led to Alfred University student and faculty attendance at the regional festivals, but it also led Prophet to become the premier “road warrior” for the region, meaning she attends as many as 10 or 12 productions at other schools in the region each year as an evaluator, more than any one else in the region.

Region Two is different from some of the other regions, Prophet explained, in that it no longer calls its evaluators adjudicators, but “respondents.” “It’s not a competition. We don’t judge. We try to offer constructive criticism.” For her, that means trying to determine if the production “achieves what it wanted to achieve.”

Based on their observations, the responders select five to eight productions for the region to invite to the annual festival. Twice during the past decade, Prophet has been invited to present her productions at the regional festival “Sylvia” in 2000, “American Doll” in 2008.

Given the number of schools in the region, and the number of productions staged throughout the expansive area each year, for one faculty member to have two invited productions in eight years is a remarkable achievement.

Regardless of what other AU faculty attend the festival, Prophet takes on the responsibility of organizing, getting students there, introducing them to the festival, and meeting with them at least once a day to review what they are doing or to attend a production together.

It’s a role the students appreciate. Baker said Prophet “has become a second mother to me” at the Festivals.

She has served as National Plays Project director at several regional festivals; the intent is to help playwrights develop their work through a concert reading of their work for evaluation.

Casts are selected, and have five hours to prepare a scene for the responders. It’s a “time-intensive program, but very gratifying,” said Prophet.

Prophet has been an Irene Ryan judge as well, evaluating student actors for regional awards; those selected advance to the national festival.

Seeing a lack of programming for student directors, Prophet created the Student Directing Institute and has run the program for the past seven years. A unique feature of the Region Two festival, the Institute ‘gives students a chance to study and engage in directing at the festival,” Prophet explained. This year, Prophet made it even more memorable than usual by inviting a special guest instructor – Actor Bill Pullman, an Alfred University trustee.

Her involvement in the Student Directing Institute led to an invitation to the national Kennedy Center festival on a fellowship in 2006.

The Student Directing Institute is not her only innovation for the region. In the late 1990s, she saw a need for something for student stage managers, and her students made the first presentation of a production book. It has grown to the point where now about 20 student stage managers make presentations for critique at the festival. She was involved as well in developing programs in dramaturgy, a relatively new profession in American theater where research on plays, their time periods, and social conditions is brought into rehearsals and design processes.

“I have definitely been very well-rewarded” for her commitment to the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival, said Prophet. “I know what’s out there (at other schools) and I know what to work for and build toward at Alfred.”