Michelle Bombe of the Hope College theatre faculty has been selected to receive the 2016 Kennedy Center Medallion from Region III of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) on Saturday, Jan. 9.
As explained by the KCACTF, the medallion honors “individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the development of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Most importantly, recipients have demonstrated a strong commitment to the values and goals of KCACTF and to excellence in educational theatre. It is the most prestigious regional award given by KCACTF and is considered one of the great honors in theatre education.”
Bombe is the director of theatre, resident costume designer and professor of theatre at Hope, where she has taught since 1991, and has held leadership roles with KCACTF at the state, regional and national levels, including as newly elected national vice chair. She will receive the award during Region III’s annual festival, to be held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday-Sunday, Jan. 5-10. The region includes colleges and universities from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Bombe’s involvement with the KCACTF began in her undergraduate days at the University of Evansville, where she was first exposed to the opportunities provided by organization. While obtaining her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, she was recognized with a National Design Award honorable mention from KCACTF for her lighting design.
When she began her teaching career at Hope, she immediately signed up to be a responder to travel to colleges to view theatre productions and give a response to the students on their creative work. To date she has traveled and responded to almost 100 collegiate theatre productions.
She was invited to serve on the selection committee for Region III of KCACTF in 2004. She was named Michigan’s state chair in 2006, serving until she stepped down in 2009 to accept the position of the region’s vice chair. She was the Region III chair from 2012 to 2015, and currently serves as the region’s financial director.
Her leadership for the national organization includes representing the eight regional chairs on the National Committee from 2014 to 2015. Her recent election to a three-year term as national vice chair will be followed by three additional years as national chair.
Bombe has been very active in campus governance at Hope. She was elected a Faculty Trustee on the Hope College Board of Trustees for a term from 2008 to 2012, and during her time at the college has chaired or served on several campus boards and committees. Her involvement in the life of the institution also included presenting or co-presenting Winter Happening seminars in both 2006 and 2010 focused on costume design.
She has designed costumes for more than 120 productions in her career, which has included professional work with Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Theatre at Monmouth, and 17 seasons with Hope Summer Repertory Theatre. She was head of design at Kentucky Shakespeare Festival for 10 seasons, interviewing and hiring all of the technical staff, in addition to designing costumes for all the productions. In 2008, the Jasper Arts Center in Jasper, Indiana, held an exhibition titled “Michelle Bombe: Costume Designs for Kentucky Shakespeare Festival 1998-2008.”
Bombe’s design work for Hope College has been recognized with Design Excellence Awards by KCACTF and inclusion in the Region III Costume Parade. She has particularly enjoyed mentoring her costume design students, and it was a memorable highlight for one of her students to be awarded the Costume Design Excellence Award and travel to the National Festival in 2015. Her students have been placed in graduate programs around the country, with many now teaching at colleges and working professionally in the design field. She is most proud of Hope’s 2007 production of “Rose and The Rime,” which appeared at the Regional KCACTF Festival and at the National Festival at the Kennedy Center in 2008.
‘Shakespeare Behind Bars,’ the prison Shakespeare program founded by her husband, Curt Tofteland, has been an important component of her career as well. She served for 10 years as the costume designer for the original program at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky. She appears in the 2005 award winning documentary, “Shakespeare Behind Bars,” by Philomath Films and has toured film festivals, conferences and colleges across the United States and abroad with Tofteland to talk about her experience working in the prison. She continues to visit the program Tofteland runs in Michigan, and has taught several courses with field trips to the prison in both Michigan and Kentucky.
The KCACTF is a national program designed to encourage excellence in college and university theater in the United States. Started in 1969, the program involves 20,000 students from more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country. The program is divided into eight regions.