24 thespians advance to nationals

Annual state festival returns to in-person


Photo courtesy of Pierce Polomsky

All together, seniors Mattie Jacobs and Marlee Parrish, juniors Cooper Smith, Kaley Carr, Cate Emma Warren, Lauren Grammer, and Marissa Denman, and sophomore Pierce Polomsky and freshman Aiden Hansen stand in their final pose at the end of their IE. The students performed “Welcome to the Renaissance” from the musical “Something Rotten!” “ITS is my favorite part of the year,” Parrish said. “There is a lot of opportunity for learning and growth. I really enjoyed getting to experience the festival back in person my senior year.”

For the annual Texas Thespians convention, students in the Theatre Department visited the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine from Nov. 17-20 before going on Thanksgiving break. The International Thespian Society convention included workshops, performances, traditions and other activities. 

Last year, due to COVID-19, the convention was held online and on four different “Super Saturdays.” The students also competed virtually, by submitting videos of the independent events, known as IEs. This year, the festival returned back to in-person, and students were advised to wear masks.

“Getting to come back to the festival this year and getting to return to ITS is definitely going to be one of the highlights of my year,” junior Cooper Smith said. “Since COVID-19 caused the festival to be virtual last year, getting to go back for my junior year was such an amazing experience. Getting to work with my peers on our IE was so much fun, and getting to advance with them to nationals was and is very exciting. I also loved getting to go on all the workshops that were available for us this year. ITS was such an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to go again next year.”

Graphic courtesy of Vicki Kirkley

Students in the department chose whether to participate in group events or individually. 

A group of nine musical students chose to compete together, performing the opening number from the musical “Something Rotten!” – called “Welcome to the Renaissance.” The group chose the musical selection together, and each student prepared their individual parts and solos as they worked together. Group member sophomore Pierce Polomsky choreographed the piece.

“I considered who all was in it. Then, I thought about what we could do as a group,” Polomsky said. “As opposed to more dance numbers, this piece had a lot of blocking and different kinds of movement compared to actual dance steps. I really thought about pictures that we could make, and more simple ideas that would look clean opposed to battements and arabesques. I did what we could with what we had, and I think it turned out really well. We have some really pretty pictures, and I feel like we told a story.”

Nine other students competed in group acting, with a piece from “Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl. “Eurydice” was the One Act Play for the department in 2018. Senior Jessie Kuhn chose a piece from the play to compete with, and put together a group of “talented actors and actresses’” she believed would “best fit” each role. 

“I choose ‘Eurydice’ for our group IE because I am very familiar with the material, and I like the style of the show,” Kuhn said. “We rehearsed for about 40 minutes after school a few times a week for two months. We struggled to stay focused a little bit, but we did work as a team and try to keep everything cohesive and everyone comfortable with their roles.”

In their opening position, seniors Jessie Kuhn and Karolina Rubio-Terrazas, juniors Austin Rose, Madeline Wentz, and Tate Lauby, and sophomores Anna Stringer, Rachel Jackson, Kwasi Boamah and Titus Boyd prepare to perform. The group showcased a piece from “Eurydice.” “It was really fun getting to work on something that meant so much to me personally,” Jackson said. “I loved working with my peers to create art.” (Photo courtesy of Tate Lauby)

The improv team also competed for the first time after one year of getting together. One of the theatre directors, Christopher Kulmann, organized the team. The improv group will have their first show this Thursday, Dec. 9, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the show are $5 cash or check, and will be sold at the door. 

“We started working on the improv show late last year and over the summer,” junior Lauren Grammer said. “It has been in the works for a long time. We have been learning about Commedia for a long time time, too, so it’s been nice to see that come together. Commedia is archetypes of different characters. We’ve been working on learning those archetypes, and then we were all assigned one for the show. For the show, we have a very rough and basic outline of the path the show is going to take. But, the lines, setting and detail are all improved.”

There were a few shows by other schools that students could watch each night, including “Clue,” “The Play That Goes Wrong,” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” The convention included workshops ranging from stage combat to props 101. Students got to pick their own schedules and take as many workshops as they chose.

Working together, juniors Madyson Heaton and Stone Porter hold on to each other, mimicking a part of their duet. The two sang “Dangerous Game” from Jekyll and Hyde. The national competition will take place in late June in Indiana. (Photo courtesy of Madyson Heaton)

“My favorite part of ITS included working with my fellow Thespians to create magic on stage,” sophomore Anna Stringer said. “Competing at ITS will forever remain a special moment. After working hard for so many months in ‘Eurydice,’ I got to see not only myself, but my friends take on our roles. The workshops at ITS were amazing. I loved learning about the technicalities that go into acting. For instance, breath control, movement, speech and how to maintain a busy schedule.”

Senior Alex Oshunkentan, juniors Dylan Korsah and Summer Riche and freshman Erica Smith qualified in the Solo Musical or Monologue categories. Riche sang “Watch What Happens” from “Newsies.” This was Riche’s first year competing in the Solo Musical category.

“I am very proud of myself and that I was able to accomplish qualifying to nationals,” Riche said. “Especially since there were so many really talented people that performed and competed in my category. I am very proud of our department and what we were able to accomplish. I am very happy that I get the chance to go to nationals.”