Weber State University students Marley Keith and Porter Lance took home top prizes at the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C. for their lighting and scenic designs.
Both students were one of eight national finalists in each category to compete at the Kennedy Center.
Recent WSU grad Keith earned the National Award for Lighting Design. Lance, who is a junior, earned the National Award for Scenic Design and the National Partners of American Theatre Andy Gibbs Design award.
The awards were for the lighting and scenic designs for the WSU production of Sweeney Todd, performed here in November 2022.
As part of Keith’s accomplishments, she will represent the U.S. next month at the international Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, the world’s largest event in the field of scenography.
“They’ve both been very involved in the theatre program at Weber State, and we’re thrilled for them to be recognized at this level,” said Jessica Greenberg, theatre program co-director at WSU. “They’re both smart, creative, hardworking and dedicated to their crafts.”
Keith initially sparked an interest in theater lighting as a career when she was on her high school’s stage crew. She began shadowing a few people and designed her first show, The View Upstairs, at the Good Company Theatre in Ogden. In 2019, she started studying at Weber State and earned a theatre department scholarship.
“I fell in love with lighting as a storytelling method,” Keith said. “I worked hard throughout my education to hone my skills and learn all about putting your passion and emotion into your art.”
Lance began as an actor and was later drawn to creating art through props and scenery. As he started at Weber State, he quickly learned the challenges of designing a show while balancing his personal life.
“It took months and months of my time, consideration, preparation and learning,” Lance said. “I cared about what I was creating and the team I was working with. I love storytelling, and in theater, servicing the story is your most essential job.”
As challenges arose, the students felt they had the support of faculty and staff in the theatre program and opportunities to advance their skillset. Lance said the students and professors treat each other with “great respect and understanding” and are motivating mentors.
“We’re proud that we offer so many hands-on learning opportunities for our students,” Greenberg said. “We have very engaged faculty and staff mentors spending hours in rehearsals, classrooms and shops, helping the students learn by doing.”
Lance plans to work this summer at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the largest performing arts festivals in the country, and intends to return to Weber State in the fall for his senior year.
Keith wants to use her skillset to work as a full-time theater technician and will soon apply to graduate school.