UMD Student Actor & Playwright Perform in Nationals

Compete in Washington D.C. To Become Best in Nation

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“What I think is beautiful about theater and acting, is the opportunity it creates for empathy,” said UMD student actor Jayson Speters.

Being on stage and performing in front of crowds has always come naturally to Jayson.

“It was one of the only things I found in my early teenage years that made sense, you know, it just,” Speters admitted.

For UMD student playwright Erik Meixelsperger, the joy of the arts is seeing his words come to life in front of his eyes.

“You’re surrendering your work to someone else,” Meixelsperger explained.

Both talents experienced the opportunity of a lifetime, competing on The Kennedy Center Stage in Washington DC, to be named the best actor and best playwright in the nation.

“Speechless, honored at the same time,” Meixelsperger said.

“If anything, it’s more celebration,” Speters added. “I get to go up and get to see really, really good work from all parts of the nation.”

Their journeys to the big stage weren’t easy.

It started at The Guthrie in Minneapolis for regionals, where Speters performed 3 different pieces with his partner.

Three hundred and fourteen pairs became sixty, and then eighteen.

“We were up against some grad actors who were really stellar, they were singing stuff and I was just like, that could be on Broadway tomorrow,” Speters explained.

And finally, one.

“It’s the very last thing the announce and it was terrifying, the whole time you’re waiting for it you’re just – I don’t know, I just didn’t think it was going to go to me, it was one of those things, when the made the announcement, it still doesn’t feel real I guess,” Speters described.

For Erik, the competition meant working with actors who performed his play, Fishbowl.

He, too, placed first in The Midwest.

“Having your work read is always an honor, but having it read at The Guthrie was beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of,” Meixelsperger said.

A few weeks later, he woke up to an email saying that he would be one of four playwrights headed to nationals.

“I almost rolled out of my bed,” laughed Meixelsperger.

Both students saw their trip to DC as a chance to grow, and proof that they made the right decision in following their dreams.

“What we do is so arbitrary and it is so subjective, that to receive some kind of recognition that what you’re doing makes sense for you, I mean there’s nothing better in the world than that,” said Speters.

Speters won 4 of the 12 possible scholarships in DC.

Both students say the trip was a once in a lifetime experience.

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