National Festival Workshops


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Workshop Topics:  Adjudication  |  Administration  |  Artistic  |  Acting & Directing  |  Technical Other


AACT’s Adjudication Workshops

Intensive 5-Day Workshop

Facilitator: Kathy Pingel

This intensive workshop will begin on Tuesday evening, June 23 and continue throughout the festival, culminating on Saturday, June 27. There is also an optional session over breakfast on Sunday to share your opinions of the awards presented. Participants will learn the skills of adjudicating and gain practical experience through observing and critiquing the festival shows. Sessions will be Tuesday evening and mornings (when other workshops are meeting), then between the shows (when the audience is hearing from the national adjudicators) the workshop participants will practice adjudicating the shows and receive feedback in the workshop setting.

The AACT Adjudication Workshop is part of the national festival, but requires an extra fee ($135) to help cover the costs of the four plus days of intensive instruction. Register for this workshop when you register for AACTFest. For more information contact the AACT office.

Photo of Kathy PingelKathy Pingel has adjudicated at the state, regional, national, and international levels for AACT.. She has taught workshops on improvisation, directing, and senior theatre. She also facilitated AACT’s Theatre Education Directors Conference in August 2010. Kathy was the Director of Education and Youth Programming at the Des Community Playhouse for 10 years, having recently retired in November 2014. She also served as Artistic Director of the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre. She holds a BA in Theatre from Eastern Michigan University, where she studied with Virginia Koste, and a MA from Northwestern University in Performance Studies, where she worked with Frank Galati. She also holds a MAT in Teaching from Northwestern.

Special Workshop: Introduction to Adjudication

Facilitator: Kathy Pingel

For directors and others who are not interested in being adjudicators, but want an insight into the adjudication process, this workshop is offered  Tuesday, June 23, 6:30-8:30 pm. The fee for the Intro to Adjudication is $25. Register for this workshop when you register for AACTFest. For more information contact the AACT office.

Already registered for the festival and want to add either workshop?
  • Registration is now available online to add the Adjudication Workshop or the Intro to Adjudication workshop for a person who has already registered for the festival. Festival registration plus the workshop fee are required. Click here to add the workshop
  • If you have not already registered for the festival, and wish to attend both the festival and the workshop, you may do so at the regular festival registration page.


Listed below are workshops currently on the roster. These workshops are included in Full Registration.  Check back for additions & updates.


Toastmasters and Theater... a Winning Combination

Saturday June 27, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Susan L. Harrington, Toastmasters International

For 90 years Toastmasters International programs have promoted competent speaking and leadership skills, both of which can benefit community theatres, on and off stage.  Through use of Toastmasters materials, the presenter will demonstrate the usefulness of Toastmasters to theatre groups.

Susan L. Harrington is a former teacher, VP of Arlington Friends of the Drama, membership director for Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres (EMACT), and liaison to AACT and New England Theatre Conference for EMACT. She has been a member of Toastmasters International since January 2010.  Susan is a member of The Talk of the Town Toastmasters and Advance Access Toastmasters.

Sit down with Stage Rights

Friday June 26, 9-11:45 am

Facilitator: Samantha Levenshus, Steele Spring Stage Rights

Get the inside scoop from Stage Rights! Whether you’re a producer or a playwright, bring your licensing and publishing questions and get the answers you’ve been looking for…over bagels and coffee of course! We’ll also be providing valuable information on programs and products we offer to make producing on a tight budget a breeze, our open submissions policy, and a deal on your next production that you’ll have to see to believe!

Photo of Samantha LebenshusSamantha Levenshus has been at Stage Rights since 2008, where she now serves as Managing Director. She has helped publish more than half of their catalog, and works with playwrights and theatre administrators on a daily basis. A playwright herself, Samantha's script, The Grimm World, plays around the country. Samantha holds a BFA from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).  Steele Spring Stage Rights is one of the foremost boutique theatrical publishers in the United States, providing stage performance rights for a wide range of plays and musicals to theater companies across the country and internationally.

OSHA  . . . dammit.

Friday June 26, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Tracy Alexander

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Join Tracy Alexander of Midland Community Theatre (Texas) on a journey to US Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) compliance and come away with a roadmap for your own company.  Tracy will share what she is learning along the way and maybe make it easier for your community theatre to reach the goal of being compliant with OSHA regulations, procedures, and training. Let's feast on OHSA regulations!

Photo of Tracy AlexanderTracy Alexander is currently Production Manager at Midland Community Theatre (Texas), and is working her way through OSHA’s Material Safety Data Sheet’s (MSDS), Regulations, Safety Procedures, and Volunteer Training.

Build Your Audience Through Digital Marketing

Thursday June 25, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Erin Bemis, Constant Contact

Review small business marketing campaigns that help achieve goals, including the importance of email communication to customers, donors, clients, and supporters.  Five popular social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest) will be examined to help you decide what is right for you. Tips will include simple but effective best practices to help make email newsletters more effective.

Photo of Erin BemisErin Bemis is Constant Contact’s engagement marketing expert in the Great Lakes Region. She has nearly 20 years' experience working with small businesses, non-profits, and associations in a variety of roles.   She has successfully created and launched social campaigns, email newsletters, membership drives, and fundraising campaigns.

From Transactions to Relationships: CRM Strategies

Thursday June 25, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Eugene Carr, Patron Technology

Based on his book Breaking the Fifth Wall: Rethinking Arts Marketing for the 21st Century, Gene Carr highlights the latest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), website design, social media, and email marketing.  Attendees will learn how best to leverage Facebook and Twitter; why email marketing is still your best marketing tool; how to optimize your website for online ticket-buying; and why CRM is critical to providing data-driven marketing and better customer service to your patrons.  Also included will be the results of ten years of an annual arts patron survey, examining trends in patrons’ behavior and preferences online.

Eugene Carr has been a thought leader in the cross-section of arts and technology since he founded in 1995. He wrote his latest book to help educate arts organizations on how best to leverage technology, and is the leader of Patron Technology, provider of PatronManager CRM.

New Ideas in Senior Theatre

Thursday June 25, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Bonnie L. Vorenberg, Senior Theatre Resource Center

From directing to creating new programs, senior theatre in community theatres continues to grow and flourish. Find out how you can contribute to the field. This session will feature how new research in aging is fueling the growth of Senior Theatre. Learn about the most popular kinds of Senior Theatre, plus marketing, recruitment, and resources to make your Senior Theatre program successful. 

Bonnie L. VorenbergBonnie Vorenberg (B.A., M.S. Theatre) has been called “The Guru of Senior Theatre” for her groundbreaking work as a nationally recognized expert and pioneer in the field.   A senior theatre educator, director, speaker, and author, Bonnie is the President of ArtAge’s Senior Theatre Resource Center. With a mission to provide information, education, and inspiration, Bonnie’s goal is to help older adults find fulfillment in the arts.

Ticketing Basics for Serving Patrons with Disabilities

Saturday June 27, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Jon Skaalen, VSA Minnesota

Using resources developed by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and applicable to every size of theatre that sells tickets online or at a box office, this workshop will help your theatre to comply with the letter and the spirit of the new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations. When accommodating persons with special needs, you must comply with ADA ticketing regulations, including wheelchair & companion spaces, seats near interpreters or captions, successfully navigating the online ordering process and much more. Tips in this workshop (developed by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and adapted by many theatres) will share specific customer service practices, forms, publicity, terminology, etiquette, and other options that will make you and your customers comfortable and ready to enjoy the show.

Jon SkaalenJon Skaalen is accessibility and grants coordinator for VSA Minnesota, an affiliate of VSA, a program of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Jon is a past AACT and MACT board member, an award recipient (Fliehr from MACT, Jaehny from VSA), a playwright and an awful actor.

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When Color Does Matter

Friday June 26, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitators: Sal Jones and Susan Harrington 

The purpose and intent of this workshop is to identify and discuss scripts where color-blind casting is not an option, where to look for actors and actress to fill the roles and the barriers, and obstacles to mounting such plays/productions.

Sal JonesSal Jones is the founder and artistic director of the Lexington Players (Massachusetts) and the Lexington Players Youth Stage and Drama Program and, former VP of Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatre (EMACT). 

Susan Harrington is a former public school educator, VP of Arlington Friends of the Drama, Membership Director for EMACT, and serves as liaison to AACT and New England Theatre Conference for EMACT.

Theatre Changes Lives! Theatre for Youth with Special Needs

Friday June 26, 9-10:15 am

Facilitators: Chad-Alan Carr and Morrie Enders

Artistic Directors share their experience in replicating The Penguin Project (theatre production for those with special needs and their peer mentors): How it works, what it takes, and how the project resulted in more sponsorship money.  Presenters will share stories and a short documentary film about the project. Find out how you could bring this program to your theatre and change lives. Theatre is for everyone! You can do it too!

Photo of Morrie EndersMorrie Enders is the Executive Director of Lincoln Community Playhouse in Nebraska. For his efforts in bringing the Playhouse back from a 10-year decline, Morrie received a Mayor’s Arts Award and was made an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy by order of the Governor. In 2007, Morrie facilitated the Managing Directors Conference for AACT in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the 2007 festival, Morrie received the AACT Distinguished Merit Award and was awarded the honorable designation of Fellow of AACT.

Photo of Chad-Alan CarrChad-Alan Carr is the Founding Executive/Artistic Director for Gettysburg Community Theatre, located in historic downtown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He is a proud member of AACT and board member of Pennsylvania Association of Community Theatres, and was awarded a Distinguished Theatre Alumni Award from Sam Houston State University in Texas. Having recently produced the first Penguin Project replication site outside of the foundation's home state of Illinois, Chad is excited to share the message of The Penguin Project theatre program for youth with special needs and their peer mentors.

Write a Musical?!

Friday June 26, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Lucinda Lawrence

Have a story that cries "musical theatre," but you're stuck for what is next? These top 10 picks for the 99% perspiration of creating musical theatre include matching music style and dramatic atmosphere, making lovely musical phrases for singing, and composing sing-able melodies. Handouts provide more than 10 additional tips and tricks.  >Download workshop handout

Lucinda LawrenceLucinda Lawrence has been a soloist at Carnegie Hall and Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.  She was published as an undergraduate and has been cited in books on music for dance.  Lucinda initially composed for modern dance, taught courses on Collaboration and Arranging for Band, then returned to composing with 1787 the Musical, and now writes other musicals

Shakespeare for Kids

Saturday June 27, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Robert Picklesimer

How to teach kids Shakespeare, using Shakespeare to help them learn about theatre, as well as language and subtext in theatre.  You'll also learn ways to perform Shakespeare plays with predominantly young actors.  >Download workshop handout

Robert PicklesimerRobert Picklesimer has advanced degrees in both English and Theatre, He has directed over 90 productions in 15 years at a children's theatre, and over 20 of them have been Shakespeare, including  Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, King Lear, Much Ado about Nothing, Twelfth Night and The Tempest.

Surprise! Shakespeare Got Italy Right!

Saturday June 27, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Wally Hurst

A focus on an approach to "the Italian plays" of Shakespeare, by examining the real places, people and practices of the locales in which Shakespeare set so many of his plays.  Explore Verona, Venice, and “the island" of The Tempest. Not just a geography lesson, these locations are great clues to understanding the depth of Shakespeare's knowledge of Italy, its people and customs.

Wally HurstWally Hurst is the Director of the Norris Theatre at Louisburg College, where he has instructed courses in Drama, Acting, Public Speaking, Political Science and Business Law. Wally is responsible for the programming and utilization of the intimate Norris Theatre, which hosts student productions, classes, and professional and community productions. He has directed over 100 productions on all levels of theatre, including many in the Shakespeare canon.   Wally’s BA is from Duke University, his Doctorate in Law was earned at the University of the Pacific, and his MA in Shakespeare Authorship Studies was received in 2012 from Brunel University in London. Wally lectures internationally on Shakespeare and specializes in the evaluation of the evidence surrounding the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy. He is also a trained bibliographer and paleographer, and a Reader at The British Library in London and The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Veterans, Seniors, and Oil Workers -- Oh My!

Saturday June 27, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Kathy Coudle-King

Best practices, pitfalls and joys when theatres incorporate meaningful projects into their season.  Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre will share experiences of securing grants, creating original works, producing and touring original works, and discuss their production of Deployed which was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition and on Air Force’s closed-circuit stations.

Kathy Coudle-King has served as the Executive Director at the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre since 2011, and has worked as an independent producer and playwright for 30 years.  She holds a BFA from New York University in Dramatic Writing and an MA from the University of North Dakota in English.  She is currently working on creating monologues from the essays of Veterans who served in WW II thru the current wars in the Middle East. These pieces will be toured in summer, 2015.

Playwriting - Is It For Me?

Saturday June 27, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Jim Danek

Become encouraged to write a play, even if you have always wanted to but have never taken the first step.  Learn how to begin and how to continue after being stuck after a couple of dozen pages.  Explore what makes some scripts more successful than others, and compare some successful scripts from the last couple of thousand years as well as some that lost their historical significance.

Photo of Jim DanekJim Danek holds a BFA and a MA Theatre History from the University of Illinois. He is the author of full-length plays including Marrying Walt, Memories Of Viola, Kitchy Kitchy Koo, Break Time, and Evelyn's Girls, all of which have had productions around the country. One-act scripts include "American Gothic Summer" and "Henchmen," both of which have been presented numerous times at various AACT Festivals and have won numerous awards.

Resources for Musical Theatre & Licensing In's-And-Out's

Friday June 26, 10:30-11:45 am

At this all-inclusive workshop you'll discover MTI's latest and greatest production resources, learn how to lower your royalties, and make your interaction with your licensing house as pain-free and fun as possible!  Be sure to stick around for the RehearScore Challenge, where valuable prizes, including a free standard rental on your next show, could be yours!

For nearly 20 years, John Prignano, has been with Music Theatre International as Senior Operations Officer. He has led workshops around the world for teachers and community theatres, and has been instrumental in creating tools and fostering an environment at MTI that encourages meaningful dialogue and interaction between the licensing house and theatre educators.

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Acting & Directing

I Won't Dance ... Don't Ask Me!

Saturday June 27, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Chad-Alan Carr

Musical Theatre choreography for the non-dancer. In this fun workshop we will create simple yet stunning steps together that you and your non-dancer volunteers, or students with two left feet, can do and look great doing it.

Photo of Chad-Alan CarrChad-Alan Carr has over 200 productions in his resume and holds a BFA in Musical Theatre. He has been a Director/Choreographer and dance instructor for middle/high school and community theatre musicals for last 20 years. Chad participated in the professional national tour of Singin' in the Rain, and is currently the founding Executive/Artistic Director of Gettysburg [PA] Community Theatre.

Blocking: Creating a More Interesting Visual Presentation

Friday June 26, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Jeanne Johnston

Every theatre director needs to know how to block a play to maximize dramatic impact, comedic effect, and simply hold audience attention. Workshop discussions will include the difference between movement and activity, how to heighten dramatic impact with your blocking, and how to mine the script for hidden opportunities to add movement.  Guidelines will be shared to create a more interesting visual presentation.

Photo of Jeanne JohnstonJeanne Johnston is a former member of Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. She is an actor, acting teacher, and director, and writes an acting blog at "Good blocking that keeps the audience interested, maximizes the fun, and improves the storytelling can be so hard to find," she explains. "Yet it’s the simplest way to make dramatic improvements in both the quality of the acting and the audience’s enjoyment of the production as a whole.  I show you how it’s done.  This workshop is aimed at directors, but actors will benefit from it as well."

Directing Older Actors

Saturday June 27, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Bonnie L. Vorenberg, Senior Theatre Resource Center

Directing older actors can be an extremely rewarding experience, especially if you learn some basic techniques and adaptations. Using the Directing Survey and the author’s experience as a guide, this session covers tips and tricks to help you be more successful. It includes organization, staging, memorization, choosing scripts, casting, and more. It will help you leap over the barriers so your directing experience is exhilarating!

Bonnie L. Vorenberg

Bonnie Vorenberg (B.A., M.S. Theatre) has been called “The Guru of Senior Theatre” for her groundbreaking work as a nationally recognized expert and pioneer in the field.   A senior theatre educator, director, speaker, and author, Bonnie is the President of ArtAge’s Senior Theatre Resource Center. With a mission to provide information, education, and inspiration, Bonnie’s goal is to help older adults find fulfillment in the arts.

Working on Winning the Audition--The Shurtleff Approach

Saturday June 27, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: Pamela Livingstone

The Shurtleff approach is very practical and deals with questions that an actor or director can answer to discover the depth and truth of any scene or play.  Participants will receive short scenes to perform for the others, using Shurtleff's 12 Guideposts from his book Audition.  Other concepts like Opposites, Events, Actions, Humor and Mystery will be discussed.  The workshop will provide real, workable techniques to giving a good audition. 

Pamela Livingstone has been an award-winning director for over 35 years.  She studied and taught the Shurtleff approach at the Acting Studio Chicago, implementing the approach throughout her career.  Pam is a member of Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, and The Dramatists Guild.  She holds MFA in Directing from University of California, Irvine.

Playing the Verbs

Friday June 26, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Jeanne Johnston

Discover how verbs are concepts that every actor needs to know how to use. The "how" is introduced in clear and simple terms, and gives actors a new way to think about their characters.  Examine how to choose the strongest verbs and learn to rehearse differently to take advantage of your choices.  This is a hands-on, practical workshop - come prepared to play!

Jeanne JohnstonJeanne Johnston is a former member of Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. She is an actor, acting teacher, and director, and writes an acting blog at 

Trusting Fun: Children's Theater Exercises That Empower, Engage, and Enlighten

Saturday June 27, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Stephen Lydic

This exciting workshop focuses on unique ways to engage and empower children during the rehearsal process for a play, or in a classroom setting. The two games focused on are fun for teacher/director and children alike! Applicable to all ages, and with no cost, these interactive exercises awaken the innate energy in children, encourage imagination, and get to the heart of learning to act, write, and improvise. Also included: dialogue on avoiding the doldrums of discipline, and quickly setting up a safe, challenging, and efficient working environment for children to create and collaborate on theatre arts.

Stephen LydicStephen Lydic holds a BFA-Performance from University of Memphis. A professional actor and theater educator, Stephen has spent the past four years as Camp Director, Director, and Playwright for Performing Arts Workshop, a youth conservatory in Los Angeles.

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Places in 5

Friday June 26, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: John Eppert

Tips, tools, techniques, and words of wisdom from a veteran Stage Manager.  The role of stage manager in all aspects of the production process, from pre-audition to strike, will be discussed.

John EppertJohn Eppert has 30 years of theatrical experience.  His experience includes stage managing everything from small-cast shows with unit sets to full musicals with large casts and multiple scene changes, to outdoor productions spread over nearly 100 acres with upwards of 100 cast, crew and support personnel, and an attendance of over 1000 per night.

From Rags to Ball Gowns

Friday June 26, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Nancy K. Eppert

Costume design is much more than simply pulling clothes from the closet and hoping they will suffice. This hands-on workshop will focus on creating costumes that not only fit the director’s vision, but tips and tools for thinking outside the box (or closet), using found objects, re-working existing pieces and working with the entire creative staff of a production. Create just what the director wants, actors need, and fulfills the costumer's artistic eye.

Photo of Nancy K. EppertNancy K. Eppert is an experienced trainer, program developer, and facilitator. She has designed, created, and presented training programs in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Nancy has designed, coordinated and sewn hundreds of costumes over the past several decades, including The Lion in Winter, Oliver!, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and The Dixie Swim Club.  She uses her dramaturgical skills, as well and her skills as a professional seamstress, to create artistic creations for stage functionality.

Theatrical Lighting in a Small Space on a Limited Budget

Saturday June 27, 9-10:15 am

Facilitator: Robert Picklesimer

A primer on the four (not three, as most college textbooks would tell you) controllable properties of light; tricks on lighting in a small space, but applicable to a large space; and and the basics of lighting, lighting theory, and how to enhance performances through lighting.  >Download workshop handout

Robert PicklesimerRobert Picklesimer has a Master's in Theatre, multiple design and technical awards, and has designed over 150 shows at Idaho State University, Creative Dramatics Workshop (resident designer 15 years), University of Illinois, Parkland College, Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company, Station Theatre, Paxton Majestic and Sunshine Dinner Theatres.

The Art of Scene Painting

Saturday June 27, 10:30-11:45 am

Facilitator: David Len

Learn creative methods of scenic painting in this hands-on workshop with an experienced scenic artist. All levels of experience welcome. Paint clothes required for participants.

Photo of Nancy K. EppertDavid Len has been Scenic Designer for the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre for twenty-one years.  During this time he has designed and painted over 150 productions for Civic and other theatres in the West Michigan area.  David has won several Grand Awards for his designs.  His specialty is scenic painting.  He has presented various workshops and taught classes in Scenic Design, Stagecraft, and Scene Painting throughout the U.S. and in Germany. 

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A Career in Community Theatre

Thursday June 25, 10:30-11:45 am

Put your theatre skills to work in a fulfilling environment. Discover that stable employment can be found in community theatre. A panel shares how to earn a living doing what you love - community theatre!

Panel led by Harv Thompson



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