BOLIVAR (SBU) – Kylie Yeast first performed on stage at age 6. Cast in her community theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, Yeast began a journey that has come to define her calling. Now a senior at SBU, Yeast recently added winner of the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship to her long list of credits.
The competition, named after the iconic actress best-known for her role as Granny on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” was part of the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival that took place on Jan. 22-27 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Yeast competed against 250 actors and actresses from over 80 universities. As a regional winner, she will perform against seven competitors at the national festival on April 19-23. Yeast, along with her scene partner, SBU junior Miriam Mattsfield, will represent SBU and perform for approximately 2000 students, professors, and industry professionals at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The process for the competition began when Yeast was nominated by Jonathan Wehmeyer, SBU assistant professor of theatre, based on her performance in the 2022 SBU production of Pirates of Penzanze. Each of the 250 nominees recorded themselves performing two contrasting monologues and submitted their recordings to a panel of professors who selected the top fifty. From there, the semi-finalists performed live at the regional festival, where a panel of evaluators selected sixteen finalists. Finalists performed a monologue and a live partner scene in front of an audience of nearly 1800 festival attendees. After the finals, Yeast was announced as the winner.
Both Yeast and Mattsfield gave credit to their professor, Jonathan Wehmeyer, for his help in the audition process and for his guidance on stage and in their lives.
“Mr. Wehmeyer is an incredible instructor, an incredible person, and an incredible Christian,” Yeast said.
Although not an aspect of the acting competition, Yeast also gave credit to Sarah Howes, SBU assistant professor for music, for helping her develop her singing ability.
Yeast sees acting as an expression of her faith in Christ, and she finds inspiration from the fact that God is creative.
“The same way any person brings their faith and incorporates it into their profession, I do the same,” Yeast said.
“Creation is one of the greatest things we can do to be closer to God and closer to ourselves. It’s the thing that grounds me and so many other artists.”
Mattsfield likewise sees her craft as a calling.
“For me, it is important to take on roles both in the secular and Christian realms, and let my Christian values naturally shine through,” she said.
“All performances are given to the glory of God [through] the abilities He has given me. I cannot reach people with my performance without the Holy Spirit, and anything I do is through God.”
Yeast, who has experience in nearly every aspect of theater, from backstage, to carpentry, to gaffing, to front of house, plans to pursue a career in acting. Her final performances at SBU will include her senior showcase and her role in Dance on Bones, an SBU production that will run April 28-30. Post-graduation, Yeast will hone her craft, look for work, and follow any leads the Lord gives her.
As she has proven, and will have a chance to prove again, she has a gift to match the call.
For more information about SBU’s theatre program, and for a chance to see Kylie and Miriam perform, visit https://www.sbuniv.edu/campus-life/student-activities/theatre.php.