This is a follow up to the Why The International Thespian Festival Is So Important article I posted on June 17th, 2016. In that article, I detailed my excitement about attending the festival and what the festival means to me. Well…it’s been a week since I returned from Thespians and I have to tell you, I can’t stop thinking about it. Attending the 2016 International Thespian Festival was one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences of my entire life and one I will cherish forever. Here’s why…
Stage Rights Table at the 2016 International Thespian Festival. By the last day, our table was bare.
1. MEETING THE STUDENTS: Stage Rights exhibited at The Lied Center For The Performing Arts from Tuesday June 21 – Saturday June 25. For the most part, we manned our booth from 9 AM – 7:30 PM. Yes, it was a long day, but interacting with the students and talking about our scripts made me forget how tired I was. As the week progressed, we saw the same students pass through The Lied Center so we had the opportunity to get to know them. I talked with them about their college auditions, scholarship callbacks, and the shows they were performing in. Toward the middle of the week, I found myself sharing in their nervous excitement as they waited for the results from the college auditions panel, their enthusiasm about performing on the mainstage, and their sadness as the festival drew to an end. Some of the students actually came back to the Stage Rights table to tell me the results of the college auditions and I found myself jumping up and down in excitement or feeling their sorrow when they didn’t get a callback to the school they wanted. It was like reliving high school all over again.
The NIE Technical Showcase Finalists and Thespian Scholarship Callback Lists
2. THE SHOWS: OMG the shows! I saw two shows live and one show through the monitors out in the lobby. The student talent that graced the mainstage at The Lied Center put many of my professional actor friends to shame. First, I saw the musical 42nd Street presented by Thespian Troupe 1794, Floyd Central High School from Floyds Knobs, Indiana through the monitors. Boy, do I wish I saw it live. From the moment that curtain rose to 20 students tapping their hearts out, completely in sync, I found myself speechless. On Wednesday night, I saw Zombie Prom presented by Thespian Troupe 7023, Arab High School from Arab, Alabama. The set, the lights, and the sound design were not only professional, but spot on. These elements truly enhanced the experience of watching this musical come to life as a live comic book. Satire/parody is very difficult to pull off from an acting perspective. While the characters need to be larger than then life, they still need to be real human beings: human beings with feelings, connections, and emotions that are authentic and true.— ya know, human beings you actually care about. Too many times in professional theatre, I find myself rolling my eyes as actors tend to focus so much on the parody as opposed to finding a healthy balance between the over-the-top nature of the character and the fact that these are living, breathing souls. Well…the students from Arab High School NAILED IT. Not only did they create characters that were over-the-top, ridiculous, and fun, they actually found a way to make them real people that an audience actually cares about. At the end of the show, I found myself crying. Not because the show ended on a sad note but because I was so moved by the experience. The supportive energy in the room generated both from audience members and the cast onstage was infectious. On Friday, I saw Chicago presented by Thespian Troupe 5981, Champaign Central High School, Champaign, Illinois. I have to admit; I was a bit skeptical as I thought to myself “How do kids pull off Fosse?” Well…THEY DID! The students not only performed Fosse, they embodied. They had such a firm understanding of his language, style, and technique. The cast’s precision, not only with the choreography but with the characters themselves, kept the show to thehonored the show to its original vaudevillian concept.
Zombie Prom program from Arab High School
3. Getting My Picture with Johnny Carson: With special thanks to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, I got to have my picture taken with the late night talk show host himself. That was definitely the cherry to a fantastic festival.
A selfie with myself and Johnny Carson