Hot on the heels off Mallory Herzing’s win is that of senior Kaylee MacKnight, also at the 2015 Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity Conference who took home 3rd Place in the Fine Arts and Humanities Oral Presentations category. While Kaylee’s work took a different direction than Mallory’s, both ladies’ presentations and work were equally impressive and accomplished. Kaylee met with us earlier and shared with us what it was like to put her entire body of work together, and how that affected her as a student, presenter, and even a friend to some.


Kaylee and Mallory’s awards, given out on Awards Day this week!


Kaylee described for us the initial process of her work “Island Song: From Page to Stage”:

I was very nervous taking something like a new work from established playwrights and pulling everything together for an initial staged reading, even with their blessing. It’s a lot different when you’re playing every role, putting together everything yourself, knowing that you’ve got to be able to rely on yourself in every instance. I was not only director, but stage manager, producer, actress, and anything else the show required! I never felt terribly stressed, but I definitely wasn’t completely relaxed; how could you be with all that to do?

From there, Kaylee shared what she felt were the hardest parts of the entire experience, as well as the high points

Without a doubt, directing was the hardest part of the entire thing, as I was leading everyone, while performing, and while wearing all these other, different hats at once. On any given night, I would be filling in for those missing rehearsal, correcting lines, setting sets and spikes up, and then taking them down. There was definitely a lot to do as a director to pick up all the slack that came from me doing everything on my own. I would be leading the cast, then have to step out of that role to read a missing part, or to correct someone as to line readings, all of which can take you out of the moment and prove incredibly disruptive to your rehearsal, but it all went smoothly still! A huge part of directing that I was really worried about was finding a way to separate myself and my friendships from the rest of me, and be able to form boundaries with the cast, allowing me to direct them even as their friend. Thankfully, that too had no major issues and I felt at ease closer to the end of things.


Kaylee and her adviser, Stacy Alley, at Awards Day 2015!


Kaylee described most of her apprehension for the project stemming from her anxiety not with the work itself, but staging it and speaking about it to others:

Thankfully, the performance part came most naturally, with my instincts kicking in and relaxing me as the performance went on. I am so proud of my cast, all of whom stepped up equally to help this amazing ensemble cast come to life. Honestly, I was more worried about performing this new work from Sam Carner and Derek Gregor, two amazing upcoming musical theatre writers who were generous enough to let us perform and workshop this show. I was super excited and worried all at once to work with such prestigious newcomers who have made and are still making a name for themselves. It was fascinating working with Carner and Gregor personally on the music, putting on the revised show with the authors’ help.

Another of my major worries was the presentation itself, as I don’t think I’m a fantastic public speaker, and I was scared to sum up 4-5 months of work in only 12-15 minutes of time; I wondered if I could even do such a thing! I went in and I was a bit unsure at the start, but when I was told I had made it to the semi-finals, I was infinitely more at ease the second time around presenting.

I’m so thankful for this entire opportunity, my fantastic collaborators, and especially having my hard work recognized with a 3rd Place award in the end. I’d like to thank anyone who helped this project and myself along in anyway, and mostly to Carner and Gregor for letting me work with their new, amazing works!