FIU Theatre associate professor Tony Galaska was awarded the prestigious Gold Medallion by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at the Region IV festival last week.
The Gold Medallion is given to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to teaching and the production of theatre and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the development of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
“It always feels great to be recognized for the work that you do as an artist, but it feels even better to be recognized for helping others achieve their dreams and goals,” Galaska says. “I feel proud of the contributions I’ve made through KCACTF to help create a platform for students to be heard, share their work, and be recognized.”
KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country. Students attend eight regional festivals, hosted on university campuses, where they share their work and learn from professionals, faculty, and other students. It provides opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight and become the theater professionals of tomorrow. Additionally, students can earn scholarships to attend the national festival in Washington, D.C.
Galaska was awarded the Gold Medallion for his tireless contributions to the Region IV festival over the span of a decade.
Lisa Abbott, chair for KCACTF Region IV, has worked closely with Galaska for more than 10 years. She is impressed by the impact he has made on the theatre students who come to the festival to learn and grow.
“The thing that stands out about Tony is his total engagement with the students,” Abbott says. “He works with them on understanding the feedback they were given. He is a constant cheerleader, easing nerves, and is always there for questions and answers. His genuine engagement with each student makes him approachable even for students who are presenting for the first time, who may not have been coming from a program with a strong design team and are figuring it all out as they go. In this way, he became a mentor for students far beyond his own.”
Galaska’s relationship with KCACTF began as an MFA student at Purdue University. As a festival attendee, he was able to share his work and make connections with established professionals. In his third year, he was recognized with the Barbizon Lighting Design National Award for his work on Marisol by José Rivera.
When he made the transition to his professional career, both as a lighting designer and as a professor, Galaska continued his involvement with KCACTF. He became part of the regional leadership first as the Stage Management Coordinator, then became involved in coordinating all of the Design, Technology, and Management (DTM) events – first as vice-chair then as chair of DTM.
Galaska also coordinates FIU Theatre’s KCACTF contingent. Many of our students have benefitted greatly from their experiences at KCACTF. In the past five years, 39 students have been recognized for the quality of their work at the festival, receiving more than 50 awards and seven scholarships to attend the national festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Also, in the past six years, five of our productions have been invited to be presented at the regional festival.
“What I love about KCACTF is that it is focused on creating impactful opportunities for students,” Galaska says. “I have seen so many students grow enormously through their participation in the regional festivals. They find strength, understanding and comradery in seeing other students work and sharing their art and experiences with each other.”