Theatre major Jimmy Balistreri ’19 excels at regional theatre festival

Theatre major Jimmy Balistreri ’19 has achieved a first in Ripon College history: becoming both an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition semi-finalist and a Design and Technical Management finalist in the same week, Jan. 9-14.

Balistreri has attended the annual Kennedy Center for the Arts Theatre Festival (KCACTF) for all three years that he has attended Ripon. KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theatre students an immersive theatre experience, allowing them to receive feedback on dramatic, technical and playwrighting activities and competitions through the course of one week.

“When I found out I was moving on to the semi-final round of the Ryan’s, I was completely shocked,” Balistreri says. “My partner, Bailey Jerrick (’20 of Stoughton, Wisconsin), and I had to completely reorganize our schedules around the next round.

“The second round itself was a good experience because we were able to really focus on and refine our acting. It was a pretty tense time, too. I was really glad I had the experience of having acted in the Ryan’s twice before with Sophie Widman (’18 Boulder Creek, California.) It helped to keep me sane.”

For the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition, actors are nominated from college productions and they perform with partners before judges.

Balistreri’s lighting design for Ripon College’s recent production of “Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike” advanced to the final round of in the Design and Technical Management category.

“It was really great to talk to professional designers and other students and professors about my work and get practical recommendations about how to improve in the future,” Balistreri says. “Now I have my sights set on next year.”

Professor of Theatre Ken Hill says of Balistreri, “He sees classwork and production work as an opportunity rather than just an assignment — an opportunity to learn more and excel. He is what I look for in a student and young theatre artist: grounded, bright, hardworking and creative.”

Professor of Theatre Bob Amsden adds, “Jimmy is an outstanding actor, and we are lucky to have someone of his capacities in the department.”

Balistreri says the experience he gets in Ripon’s theatre department is invaluable. “Being able to act on stage as a freshman and begin designing as a sophomore are experiences I never expected to have when I enrolled,” he says. “Most theatre programs out there wouldn’t have done that for me until I was an upperclassman. The hands-on work I’ve done with Professors John Dalziel, Ken Hill and Bob Amsden is invaluable, and I really feel like I am prepared to go out into the world.

“Seeing the work I put into each production come to life on opening night is a rewarding experience in itself. That’s why I love working in the theatre.”

Dakota Marlega ’21
Waupaca, Wisconsin

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