The Keene State College Theatre and Dance Department’s fall production of “Equus” earned four national awards for outstanding achievement from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).

KSC senior, Taylor Jorgensen, of Wilton, New Hampshire, won Distinguished Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. William Howell of Peterborough, New Hampshire, a KSC alumnus and staff member, won the Distinguished Performance by a Guest Artist-in-Residence award. “Equus”, which was co-directed by Professors Peggy Rae Johnson and William Seigh, has earned the award for Distinguished Performance and Production Ensembles. This production also won Distinguished Achievement in Production.

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

“We always think in terms of the stars, but it is a matter of full collaborative ensemble work, including folks behind the scenes, that make it work. This was a lovely tribute,” Johnson said The Theatre and Dance Department has been invited to present its production of “Equus” at the KCACTF New England region, from January 27 to 31 in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Johnson explained the method by which these awards are given.

The Kennedy Center, which is the sponsor of academic theatre, has eight different regional festivals. These festivals select what productions are considered top productions of the previous year. To do so, Johnson explained, “Respondents go out to each show that registers, then the committee meets at the end of the year and says what the top shows were.” New England is region one out of the eight and only six shows have been selected to go to this particular regional festival, according to Johnson.

Equus was originally written in 1973 by Peter Shaffer. It centers around a young man (played by Jorgensen) who has an unnatural pathological interest in horses and the psychiatrist who tries to treat him (played by William Howell). “It’s an incredible honor and we couldn’t be prouder of our actors,” Johnson said, “It’s an incredibly intense show. It’s very demanding physically, as well as psychologically and emotionally.”

Jorgensen explained that his character, Alan, “is not crazy and he’s not a bad person, which is difficult to portray when you have the whole of society going against that notion.” He said that the role was a challenge. Erika Nichols, a KSC senior who attended the show, said that she could “feel the tension between Taylor and the horse, even from the back of the theater.”

Jorgensen and Howell, the two leads of the play, both have been awarded for their performances. Johnson said that these awards are “about the highest honor a college student could receive. The challenge for these lead actors was huge,” Johnson said, “ and I’m thrilled that they were both recognized.”

Along with the two lead actors, the ensemble were also recognized. The ensemble, according to Johnson, “spent additional time, on weekends, going out to observe and be with horses.” For this production of Equus, both leading performers and the ensemble were recognized, and Johnson said that, “The fact that the national committee recognized the ensemble work as well as the main actors is an extraordinary testament to their talent.” “I have to say that this award is entirely accredited to the support and talents of my directors and cast mates. This was an ensemble effort and everyone’s role in it was crucial,” Jorgensen said. “Although I am receiving an award, it’s because of all of our love and labor. We are a family and a win for one of us is a win for all of us.” Jorgensen credits the success of the show to the talent and passion of everyone involved in the production.

“Equus” was not only well received by KCACTF, but also by KSC students who saw the show. KSC senior Maya Wescott said, “It was a life changing performance that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

Sarah Rooney can be contacted at

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