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The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship

Awards and Scholarships

The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships provide recognition, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. The Irene Ryan Foundation awards sixteen regional and two national scholarships annually. One nominee and partner from every region will be invited to the national festival and the nominee will receive a $500 scholarship. The runner-up in each region will receive a $500 scholarship, but will not attend the national festival to audition for the national scholarship. Students and coaches are encouraged to consult their regional chair or regional Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions Coordinator for information on other regional awards. The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships are, indeed, scholarships; so the Foundation disburses the award through a school designated by the winner, to pay tuition and fees for further education, not necessarily limited to theatre arts.

URTA Benefit for Irene Ryan Regional Finalists

The University/Resident Theatre Association (URTA) continues to invite Irene Ryan regional scholarship winners and their partners to attend the URTA final auditions at the annual National Unified Auditions/Interviews (NUA/Is). Finalists and their partners will be provided a $25 discount on the application fee. The URTA auditions and interviews offer an extraordinary opportunity for candidates to pursue placement in respected professional MFA training programs at leading graduate schools from around the nation, and eventual casting in the professional theaters often partnered with these programs. Visit for additional information, or contact URTA at or (212) 221-1130.


Auditions will be evaluated using the following criteria at every level of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions and are of particular importance in the regional preliminary round:

  1. Ability to urgently pursue strong, clear objectives.
  2. Ability to partner.
  3. Ability to make varied, specific and bold acting choices.
  4. Mastery of an expressive and flexible vocal and physical instrument.
  5. Demonstration of facility with language and a clear understanding of the text.
  6. In addition to the above criteria, auditions in the semi-final and final rounds will be evaluated on the candidate's ability to demonstrate range and contrast.
  7. Given the above criteria actors are strongly encouraged to select and prepare material for auditions that will demonstrate the above competencies, and to avoid material designed to demonstrate the actor's cleverness as an end in and of itself.

What happens if I win the regional scholarship and advance to the National Festival in April?

The national scholarship is $5000 for the nominee and $1000 to the partner. A second place scholarship of $2500 is awarded to the nominee and $500 to the partner. The Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions are, indeed, scholarships; so the Foundation disburses the award through a school designated by the winner, to pay tuition and fees for further education, not necessarily limited to theatre arts.

Additional awards are made to Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Audition participants and their acting partners each year at the national level. Past awards include a fellowship to attend the Society of American Fight Directors' National Stage Combat Workshop, a full season in the acting company of The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC, the Williamstown Theatre Festival Fellowship for outstanding minority candidates, the National Partners of the American Theatre Classical Acting Award, the Mark Twain Scholarship for Comic Performance, fellowships to attend the Margolis Method Summer Intensive, the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre and Mad River Festival, and an offer to become a member of the acting company of the Sundance Theatre Lab. In addition, the recipient of the Kingsley Colton Award for Outstanding Partner receives a cash prize of $500. The list of awards and student opportunities associated with the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions at the national festival continues to expand each year and the auditions are now undoubtedly one of the most exciting educational and artistic opportunities for student actors in the country.

Information forwarded to the National Festival

Within ten days of the closing of the regional festival, you will receive information from the National Office requesting your contact information and two 8"x10" photos—preferably sent electronically.

Samuel French Royalty information

A royalty payment is required only if you advance to the National Scholarship Finals in Washington D.C. You must pay a royalty fee of $15.00 for each Samuel French title performed (or $125 in the case of Neil Simon titles). Please make your check payable to “Samuel French"and be sure to include your school name, school address and title of the play along with your check. Send your check and school information to the National Office at the Kennedy Center (who will immediately mail it to Samuel French, Inc.). National finalists are asked to not mail these check(s) directly to Samuel French, Inc.


Transportation, lodging, and a per diem allowance are provided for each national festival participant and for each partner.

On Site Rehearsal

At the National Festival, an initial rehearsal and a dress rehearsal will be scheduled. The initial rehearsal is a closed rehearsal and only the candidates, their partners, and accompanists will be allowed. Coaches may attend the dress rehearsal.