LR theatre wins 2023 NCTC Award

Playmakers in performance of "Fun Home."

December brought the theatre department at Lenoir-Rhyne University an unexpected honor – the 2023 North Carolina Theatre Conference (NCTC) College/University Award, which recognizes artistic, professional and educational excellence in one North Carolina college or university theatre program each year.

“The theatre department and LR Playmakers are such a special community of talented, bright, hardworking, engaged, collaborative and kind students who completely deserve this recognition,” said Lindsay Weitkamp, Ph.D., theatre professor and program coordinator. “We’re so grateful and have such respect for the North Carolina Theatre Conference, the staff members and board, and all they do for theatre in our state.”

Each year the NCTC Board of Directors – a volunteer panel comprising members of the theatre industry and academia from around the state – presents seven awards to companies, schools and individuals that have made exemplary contributions to North Carolina theatre. In addition, Hickory Community Theatre, which sometimes includes performers from the LR Playmakers, won this year's award in the Community Theatre category.Nominations for the awards come from individual members, member institutions or individuals affiliated with the member institutions, including students. The NCTC confirmed LR was nominated by an individual member not affiliated with the university.

“The Lenoir-Rhyne University Theatre Department is a valued member of NCTC and the statewide theatre community. We’re thrilled to recognize the theatre department for their commitment to developing well-rounded artists who are curious, creative, collaborative, and engaged in the world around them,” Angie Hays, NCTC executive director commented.

She added, “The theatre department at LR is known for supporting the development of future artists and audiences through their partnership with the NCTC High School Play Festival and the outreach to local schools through programs like The Little Read. We celebrate the faculty and students for their excellent production work and community impact. The NCTC Board of Directors is proud to honor Lenoir-Rhyne University with this award.”

Since the award was announced this week, Weitkamp said she has been overwhelmed with messages from current theatre students as well as alumni and LR Playmakers members sending their congratulations.

Theatre graduate Justin Chapman ’17 shared, “Lenoir-Rhyne has a reputation for excellence, and the theatre department is no exception. This award is proof that LR plays an important role in the culture of North Carolina.”

Many of the students and alumni reflected on the sense of belonging and community they found with the Playmakers and the theatre program from the moment they started.

“LR Playmakers has given me opportunities to shine. Even though I'm not a theatre major or minor – even though I would like to be – they are always welcoming with open arms to anyone to be a part of the Playmakers,” shared youth and family ministry major Christopher Wilson ’24.

LR Playmakers president and theatre and psychology major Emma Seibert ’24 commented, “What sets the Playmakers apart is the community and support that we all have for each other. Anyone is welcome to join, and I think that allows us to have a more diverse perspective for our productions.”

As a community member who joined the Playmakers cast for the production of “Fun Home” in fall of 2023, Hickory community member Kaylyn Hall immediately recognized she was part of something special. “The educational aspect is important and unique to the Playmakers. I learned so much in such a short time and LR Theatre has become a second home to me where I always feel supported, loved, and inspired. It is truly a tight-knit community of talented humans who have the biggest and most welcoming hearts. I can’t think of any other program more deserving of this incredible honor and award.”

As the accolades roll in, Weitkamp and the Playmakers are gearing up for the remainder of their 2023-24 season, which will include a production of “Noises Off” in February and “We Are Water Protectors” as part of The Little Read in April. 

“It is such a gift to create alongside colleagues and students,” said Weitkamp. “Here at LR, we believe in theatre's capacity as a connective art form; it guides us to better understand the human journey, gives insight into other experiences, and serves to create empathy. We have a deep respect for our craft and the opportunities it provides.”

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