Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center's founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide annually. For 46 years, the organization has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country.
The goals of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival are:
- to encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs;
- to provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight; and achieve professionalism;
- to improve the quality of college and university theater in America;
- to encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, especially those written by students; the classics, revitalized or newly conceived; and experimental works.
Through state, regional, and national festivals, KCACTF student and faculty participants celebrate the creative process 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, dramatic criticism, directing, and design.
The KCACTF is a year-round program in eight geographic regions in the United States. Regional activities are coordinated through eight KCACTF regional administrations. With funding and administrative support from the Kennedy Center, the regional administrations coordinate all aspects of the production response process on the local and regional level and supervise regional-level KCACTF award, scholarship and residency programming. The playwriting chair works with schools that have entered new and student-written plays by providing mentorship in the development of new scripts--assessment specifically designed for a developing play--and by providing information on the numerous playwriting awards offered.
In January and February of each year, regional festivals showcase the finest of each region's entered productions and offer a wide range of activities, including workshops, symposia, and regional-level scholarship and award programs.