October Alumni Spotlight- Bess Wallerstein Huff
Photo Credit: Tom Styrkowicz/53Tom
When did you participate in the Shooting Stars program?
I was a Shooting Stars finalist in 2000, my senior year of high school.
How did you utilize your Shooting Stars scholarship?
My scholarship was applied to my tuition for my freshman year of college at UCM (formerly Central Missouri State University).
What type of fine/performing/visual art were you passionate about then and do you still pursue that art today?
I started my artistic career in the visual arts, specifically drawing and 3-D mediums, but transitioned in the performing arts while in high school and continued to pursue a theatre education through college. Now, I find balance between serving as the Director of Marketing for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts which provides me the opportunity to support the performing arts year-round along with finding opportunities to produce, direct and create my own theater projects.
What has been happening in your life since you participated in the Shooting Stars program?
Since participating in the Shooting Stars program, I have gone on to work professionally as an arts administrator for several professional performing arts organizations in Kansas City. I founded and created two performance companies: One Time Productions, an environmental theatre company which produces live theatre in non-traditional spaces and engulfs audiences into the living theater experience and was the founder and chief member of CounterClockwise Comedy, an experimental improvisational comedy group that most recently “roasted” over fifty popular films (a la Mystery Science Theatre 3000) by providing live, improvised commentary over movies in partnership with Screenland Theatres. As an actor and playwright, I have worked at the Fishtank Performance Studio on two new works that explored the tabloid travesty of popular culture and served as a director for the Fishtank’s 2015 One Minute Play Festival. Most recently, I directed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer the Musical and The Wiz for Shawnee Mission Theatre in the Park and just last month wrapped up filming a television pilot that I co-produced, directed and acted in. It’s been a privilege to give back to the Shooting Stars program over the past several years as a judge of theatre performance category as well as provide training for the theatre performance workshop for students who are entering the scholarship program.
How has the Shooting Stars program helped you to become a better artist?
Shooting Stars was my first opportunity to audition for a program outside of my high school theatre season. Preparing two contrasting monologues and working closely with my theatre instructor afforded me the opportunity to further develop my skills as an actor. In addition, I was able to take a deep dive into text and character that I’d been eager to work on. Rehearsing and prepping for the audition process helped me to refine my audition materials for college, giving me a head start on the many auditions that were to come as I entered college and professional theatre.