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Student wins prestigious acting award, headed to Kennedy Center

Date released: 03/27/03

SAN MARCOS — One of the best actors ever to grace the stage at Southwest Texas State University will pit his formidable acting skills against the best of the nation when he travels to Washington, D.C., April 14-20 to compete in the American College Theatre Festival.

Cole Wimpee, a senior in the Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program at SWT from Rockwall, will attend the festival representing Region 6, which includes Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. He earned the honor by beating out 220 other actors for the regional Irene Ryan scholarship– named after the actress who portrayed “Granny Clampett” on the long-running Beverly Hillbillies television show. In addition to the Irene Ryan regional award-–which carries with it a $500 scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to Washington to compete for the national Irene Ryan award and a $2,500 scholarship–Wimpee also took home the Molly Rizzo Classical Acting Award for his portrayal of Hotspur in a scene from Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, Part 1-– a double-dose of success that’s practically unheard of.

“It was like the Academy Awards. My partner for the scene, Jared Culverhouse, and I– we didn’t expect to win at all. There were a lot of good actors there, but we kept advancing,” Wimpee said. “They had already given me a prestigious award for best classical Shakespeare, the Molly Risso Award, so we thought it was it was like a handout : ‘You did a good job, but sorry we can’t advance you to the Kennedy Center.’

“When they called my name out, it was a complete surprise. Jared, he’s a big guy and he just about threw me over a couple of rows of chairs he was so excited. We’ve been on cloud nine ever since.”

Wimpee will be accompanied with his acting partner Culverhouse, a senior in the Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program from Pasadena, to the American College Theatre Festival, where they will perform a scene from Search and Destroy by Howard Korder. For his part, Culverhouse will compete for the Kingsley Colton Award, given to the best partner at the competition.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever had a student win it,” explained his coach Charles Ney, associate professor and head of acting at SWT. “Irene Ryan really believed in supporting student actors and left this endowment for the award. It was founded in 1969, but we’ve never won it in all those years. So this is very special.”

And Wimpee will keep busy in the aftermath of his Kennedy Center performance. The BFA Senior Acting Class at SWT is going to New York City for a five-day showcase in May where they will participate in workshops and meet with agents and casting directors. Then in June, Wimpee will accompany a group of student actors in a Study Abroad trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, to workshop with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the famous Globe Theater.

“The department has been really supportive,” Wimpee said. “We’re both very proud to represent our university. We have a fine theater program here –there are a lot of kids here, and a lot of talent.”