Jim Wood, an associate professor at South Dakota State University, has been selected as the 50th recipient of the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s Region 5. He will be honored during the upcoming virtual festival, which will be January 16-22.
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival annually honors individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theater and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the development of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Recipients have demonstrated a strong commitment to the values and goals of KCACTF and to excellence in educational theater. It is the most prestigious regional award given by KCACTF and is considered one of the great honors in theatre education.
“KCACTF has contributed immensely to my evolution as an artist and educator so it’s very humbling to be recognized for my work,” said Wood, who attended his first Kennedy Center festival in 2002. “I’ve been a part of the organization for 20 years and it’s not only given me many opportunities as a student and then a faculty member, but has also allowed me to pay it forward to students in a way that I never thought imaginable.”
Since coming to SDSU in 2012, Wood typically takes more than 25 SDSU students to the festival. SDSU was the festival host in 2019 and 2020 when the festival was in Sioux Falls.
“When I first got into leadership with KCACTF, I thought ‘Oh, this will be great professional development.’ It proved to be so much more. It’s really been a mutually beneficial experience because we’ve been able to do some cool things for students, and it’s also helped me grow as a human,” he continued. “I’m a much different person now.”
After serving three years as vice chair, Wood just completed a three-year term as the region’s chair and is currently its registrar and immediate past chair.
“It’s really nice to see all of the cool things we were able to do for students come to fruition. We really focused on student empowerment. We created the first regional student advisory board in the nation. It was a game-changer to have students provide input on what they wanted from their festival experience,” Wood said.
“We were also the first region to create a drag show and the first region to start incorporating affinity groups at the festival so students could get together and chat with like-minded people,” he continued. “Our region was extremely proud to be at the forefront of representation, equity and diversity. I’m honored to have had a seat at the table as it became a national initiative. We not only give students experiences, but also give them the tools to survive because it’s getting a lot harder as the pandemic has made everything more difficult.”
Brad M. Carlson, KCACTF’s Region 5 chair, said it was an easy decision to award this honor to Wood for his dedication to theater and work with the KCACTF.
“Being the 50th award recipient in the region is an incredible honor. I know I’m in company with a lot of great people. However, I’m not looking at this as the defining moment in my theater educator career; I have a lot more to do,” Wood said.
About the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival
Since its inception in 1969, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theatergoers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide.
The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.
Through state, regional and national festivals, KCACTF participants celebrate the creative process, see one another's work and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design.