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The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

KCACTF Award for Sound Design Excellence

The purpose of the KCACTF Award for Sound Design Excellence is to provide student designers with feedback from professionals working in the field; to give outstanding student designers national recognition; and to provide the opportunity for student designers to attend the national festival at the Kennedy Center. Designs will be appraised on the basis of quality, effectiveness, and originality.

The KCACTF Sound Design award is focused on the ideas behind, and approach to, a design that supports a production, and not on the equipment in the original venue.

Students who have designed the sound for a KCACTF associate or participating entry are eligible for the KCACTF Award for Sound Design Excellence. A student sound designer may be nominated to enter the regional sound design competition by a KCACTF respondent, or a faculty member from their own campus. Entering schools will, at the time of registration with the Kennedy Center and Regional Chair, inform the Regional Chair of a student sound designer and will request a KCACTF respondent.

Please be sure to provide contact information, including email, for all student designers.

The student designer will be notified of their selection for the regional design exhibition according to the procedures of their region: at the time of the initial KCACTF response; by the Regional Chair; or at the announcement of the productions chosen for the regional festival.

At the regional festival guest designers will respond to the projects of regional sound design nominees who are present; they will select one winner from the regional design entries.

A national winner in sound design excellence will be selected from the regional winners by the national design respondent/s during the national festival. The national sound design winner will be awarded a design fellowship at the O'Neill National Playwrights' Conference, where they will serve as a design assistant to the resident designer; the award includes travel, housing, and tuition waiver to the month-long summer program.

General Information on the KCACTF Sound Design Award

Student designers may be selected to attend their regional festival as sound design nominees regardless of whether the production itself is selected for the regional festival. Regional sound design nominees must attend their regional festival, and display their designs, in order to be eligible for nomination to the national KCACTF Sound Design Excellence Award.

The designer is responsible for developing a suitable method of shipping their design to and from the regional festival, including providing the appropriate mailing and insurance charges.

Should they become a national finalist, the designer is also responsible for shipping their design to and from the national festival, including providing the appropriate mailing and insurance charges.

A guest designer, or designers, will respond to the work of all regional nominees who are present at their regional festival, in a public forum. One regional winner (national finalist) will be selected. The selection of the national finalist shall include the guest design respondent/s; the selection process may include other guest respondents as determined by the regional design & technology chair.

The regional finalist in sound will be announced at the regional festival. National finalists will be invited to exhibit their design display, and attend the national festival in Washington, D.C in April.

KCACTF will provide national finalists with travel, shared hotel accommodations and per diem for the period of national festival (normally Tuesday through Saturday). Attendance at the national festival is not mandatory; however, the national award will be determined by a student's work and participation in workshops and master classes while at the national festival. Faculty mentors are not able to observe workshops or master classes held during the national festival week. Please see the “What Next?” page for further information on the national festival.

National finalists are welcome to bring their portfolio to the national festival at the Kennedy Center. National design respondents may be available, time permitting, to examine portfolios.

Regulations and Procedures for the KCACTF Sound Design Excellence Award

Only students who have designed an associate or participating KCACTF entry are eligible for the KCACTF Sound Design Excellence Award. Entering schools will, at the time of registration with the Kennedy Center and Regional Chair, inform the Regional Chair of any student designer in sound and will request a KCACTF respondent.
Only bona fide students are eligible for this award. A bona fide student is:

  • an undergraduate student who is registered for a minimum of six semester hours or nine quarter hours at the time of production;
  • a graduate student who is enrolled for three semester or four quarter hours at the time of production;
  • a continuing part-time student who is enrolled in a regular degree program at the time of production

After the initial KCACTF response, the KCACTF respondent will inform the nominee/s and the regional chair of a student sound design nominee from the production they have viewed. After such nomination, and appropriate notification from the regional design & technology chair, the student designer will send their design materials to the host of the regional festival. The designer is responsible for developing a suitable method of shipping; return postage and packaging must be included for the work to be returned via mail.

The timely delivery of such materials will be determined by the host of the regional festival. Alternatively, some regions may require that students bring their materials in person to the design exhibit space at a specifically scheduled time.
The complete design presentation should be approximately 16 to 24 square feet. Please see Suggested Format for All Design Exhibits. Each region shall determine its own specific requirements as to space and presentation at their regional festival. Please check with individual regions for specifications and restrictions.

Should a regional sound design nominee move on to the national festival in Washington, D.C. as a national finalist, an approximate space of 24 square feet, including a table surface, is normally provided.

Designers are encouraged to include all of the following materials in their design display at the regional festival. Please note that an inability to provide all requested materials should not discourage or prevent students from participating in the sound design competition. The design materials requested are:

  • At least two representative production photographs, in color, labeled as to scene/locale, and including appropriate identification of an accompanying sound cue and/or effect. - At least one photograph should illustrate the entire setting and show the world for which the sound was created.
  • Visual materials which serve to show research and any other sources of inspiration that demonstrate the designers' process and evolution.
  • A one-page statement of the design approach to the production; included separately from other materials.
  • Script w/cues and notes from meetings with the director.
  • List sound choices with pertinent recording information, artists, recording dates and background.
  • If sound cues are engineered by the designer, explanation of methods and types of equipment would be helpful for the respondents to understand the student's design process. NOTE: Process can be best documented by illustrating how cues were built. Samples of layering one effect upon another can easily communicate procedure.
  • Paperwork – such as sound plot, board hook-up, speaker placement, etc., illustrating how the design was implemented – is critical. All drawing and schedules should be prominently displayed.
  • Sound effects may have been recorded using any medium: CDs, minidiscs, etc.
  • Playback suggestions for display purposes include CD; portable minidisc; or small boom box players (CD or cassette tape) via headphones, or with no more than two small external speakers (these speakers must be driven by the headphone jack). No racks will be permitted for display.
  • All design materials must be labeled with: the play title and playwright; act and scene; and the student designer's name. Wherever possible the name of the designer's college or university should not be visible on the front of any materials. The designer's return address should be on the back of each item of the entry.
  • If including CDs or minidiscs, the designer should also supply a phone number and email address on each case.
  • All equipment should be properly labeled with contact information; and the designer should be sure to record serial and model numbers in their personal files.
  • It is the designer's responsibility to provide the necessary insurance for any equipment used in their presentation. Note: KCACTF and its staff cannot assume liability for damage or loss incurred to designers' work during shipping to the regional or national festival; nor for loss, theft or damage to equipment used in the display