Design student to compete at Kennedy Center

Elizabeth Grim, a Northwestern College senior from Huxley, Iowa, will compete with scenic designers from across the nation at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) April 16–21 in Washington, D.C.

Grim will present her designs for James Joyce’s the Dead, a musical produced at the college in February 2006. Grim’s design won the Barbizon Design Award at the Region Five KCACTF, held at Iowa State University in January.

Grim says judges at the regional event asked many questions and offered little praise during her evaluation, so she was shocked to be named the winner. Northwestern theatre professor and designer John Paul later told Grim she was impressively articulate as she answered every design question the judges asked.

“My research for the show was extensive,” Grim said. “So I was able to prove there was a reason for every element of the design, no matter how small.”

Set in 1904, James Joyce’s the Dead takes place in the home of three spinsters who are music teachers. A holiday party is attended by their nephew Gabriel and his wife, Gretta.

The evening’s music leads to a story about Gretta’s forgotten, passionate adolescent love affair. The story is a surprise for Gabriel, a self-assured professor who thought he knew his wife and relationship so well.

Grim started her design research during the summer, eight months before the production took the stage. Her design attempts to reflect the fragmentation of memory with windows and picture frames, some of which are filled and others unfilled to represent relationships broken and people forgotten.

The Irish Catholic heritage of the characters is reflected in an image of Ireland that was stretched and fragmented around the wood floor, which is laid in a triangular pattern. Other groupings of three—windows, candles, liquor bottles—also represent the Trinity.

“The set needed to be fluid and conducive to quick scene changes,” says Grim. So she put furniture on casters and repurposed it from one scene to the next.

At the national event, Grim will compete against winning undergraduate and graduate designers from seven other KCACTF regions.

Originally a chemistry major, Grim has worked behind the scenes for nearly every theatre production during her college career. She currently is pursuing a theatre major and history minor. She has applied to graduate-level scenic design programs throughout the Midwest.

Grim’s design mentor, Paul, has designed for both stage and screen. His resume includes award-winning theatrical design credits, collaboration with Oscar award-winning artists, and work on seven feature films, including Fargo, by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Grim is the fifth Northwestern College student selected to participate in the national KCACTF event in the last 15 years. Jonathan Allsup was selected to serve as a student stage manager in 2002. Amanda Gordon was one of eight finalists in the costume design competition in 2001. Dawn Wittke was named the first runner-up in the lighting design competition in 1998. In 1992, Kimberlee Soo Felton was one of 16 finalists in the acting competition.