Alex Meyer heading to D.C.
Alex Meyer didn’t expect his name to be called that night in Des Moines, Iowa.
What followed was a blur of photos, hugs and “sort of a lot of screaming.”
It was the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), and the junior art and theatre major had just earned his ticket to the national KCACTF competition.
Held at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, the festival honors the top young talents in playwriting, acting, dramatic criticism, directing and scenic design. Meyer will be one of 20,000 representing the theatre programs of colleges and universities nationwide.
Meyer received the honor for his scenic design on When the World was Wild and Waste, an original play by religion professor Richard Swanson, which was first performed at Augustana last fall.
“I’m really excited to be there, in the company of so many esteemed students,” Meyer said. “I’ll get to work alongside industry professionals and make those connections. And being in the Kennedy Center to present and display my stuff, that’s going to be amazing.”
Meyer’s passion for scenic design started with a high school interest in theatre, which continued as a pastime when he came to Augustana. Meyer planned on having it remain a hobby, then he became a theatre major.
“I was always in the theatre,” he said. “That’s where my friends were, and I realized it was integral to my life.”
When theatre professor Jayna Fitzsimmons was deciding who should design the set for Swanson’s play, Meyer immediately came to mind.
“This was an unusual project, so I needed someone who could think outside the box,” Fitzsimmons said. “Alex was the perfect choice. He’s an excellent listener, and he’s willing to think beyond himself to mentally serve the story.”
As the play’s director, Fitzsimmons facilitated pre-production workshops where the cast, crew and playwright had the opportunity to collaborate with one another, brainstorming ideas that would later be scrapped for better ones. Swanson called it “playing around.”
“There are 35 ways we could play a scene, but maybe only five we want,” Swanson said. “In the middle of all that, Alex found things and taught me what the dimensions of the play were.”
Meyer said his design started with a concept from the director, coupled with a reading of the script. Though When the World was Wild and Waste was Meyer’s first play on Augustana’s main stage, the size of the endeavor didn’t intimidate him. Rather, Meyer said it allowed him room to create what he called his proudest work.
“I’ll remember forever the set model Alex made out of popsicle sticks,” Swanson said. “In that design I saw the depths of what I was looking for, and I couldn’t wait to see the final creation.”
While Meyer will not only present his work to fellow colleagues and judges but also take classes and workshops focused on multiple facets of theatre. It’s a week he hopes will cement his desire to work full-time in theatre after graduation.
“I want to go into the field of theatre as a scenic designer, either freelance or on the collegiate level,” Meyer said. “It’s my biggest passion, and if I have enough passion I’m going to make it into a career.”
Swanson has no doubt Meyer will do just that.
“I want to see what this guy is doing in 20 years,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to be reading about him and the shows he’s working on. That’s what I love about Augustana—I love working with students whose careers are going to be so interesting to watch.”
Though Meyer may not be sure in which direction his passion will take him, he’s confident he has the support to get where he wants to be.
“I’ve had the most outstanding support and congratulations with this whole endeavor,” Meyer said. “Even from people I don’t really know. I’ve had lots of encouragement. It’s astounding.”