Curtain Call: State Thespian Conference recognizes local student talent
By: Diane E. Samson
Once upon a stage students from the Parkway and Rockwood school districts showcased their talents, earning applause and awards.
The stage was the Missouri 2012-2013 State Thespian Conference in January. Put on by Missouri State Thespians, an educational theater association, the conference featured workshops led by theater professionals and included student performances and competitions.
In advance of the conference, high schools entered various acts, with judges coming to local performances to determine which acts would be performed at the conference. Statewide, only three mainstage, or full-length, shows were chosen, including Parkway Central’s performance of “The Diviners” and Marquette’s performance of “Into the Woods.” Marquette was the only school that performed a mainstage musical.
Other schools were chosen to perform shorter One Acts, including Parkway North’s presentation of “Summer by the Lake” and Parkway West’s presentation of “Actor’s Nightmare.”
Students directed, acted and served as the technical crew in all productions. Some students auditioned for scholarships and individual events such as duet acting, solo musical, lighting design and Improv Olympix.
“I was extremely proud,” said Amie Gossett, theater teacher at Parkway West High School. “We had the second largest troupe there.”
Gossett said students participated in every aspect of the conference, including workshops where they learned from theater professionals from around the country.
Seth Betzler, a senior at Parkway West, has attended the conference the past four years. This year he won the Bob/Marti Fowler Theatre Education $1,000 scholarship. Included in his application were educational lesson plans he had prepared and a video of himself teaching theater. Betzler also competed in the individual categories of technical and stage management, and he helped backstage during “Actor’s Nightmare.”
Betzler plans to pursue a degree in theater, English and education with the goal of being a high school theater and English teacher. He said he particularly enjoyed hearing from the keynote speaker who is a Broadway performer.
“It was a really good experience. I learned a lot from the people teaching the workshops who have been in the business a long time,” Betzler said. “I saw that theater is a viable career option and it was great to see and learn from people who have made it.”
Marquette High School brought a cast of about 50 students along with its entire set, costumes, microphones and sound system, musicians, instruments and props for their conference performance of “Into the Woods.”
Judi Greene, theater director at Marquette, said it was a tremendous challenge to work with a different stage, but that it was the opportunity of a lifetime to travel and perform for other theater students.
“They worked hard to perform a show that would entertain and share their love of theater with other students from around Missouri,” Greene said.
Paige Woodley, a senior at Marquette, played the witch in the show. She explained that the play is about how different fairy tales intertwine. Her character, she said, caused all the problems.
“It was such a rewarding experience,” Woodley said. “We worked so hard and long that it really gave our company great pride that we were one of three chosen out of the whole state.”
Lily FitzGibbon, also a senior at Marquette, played the narrator. She has been performing in shows since she was 9 years old and has been involved in every show at Marquette. FitzGibbon said performing at state was a huge accomplishment for her.
“We performed in front of 1,400 people,” she said. “It was probably the biggest show of my life.”
Patrick Devins, a junior at Marquette, agreed that it was fun to perform a great show before such a crowd. He has enjoyed being a part of Marquette theater for the last couple years.
“I enjoy the people,” he said. “Theater people are a special breed.”
For many of the students the opportunity to generate accolades will continue. The following students achieved a Superior rating for their individual events and are qualified to compete at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb., June 24-29:
• Dakota Payne/Mary Lumley, Duet Acting – Parkway West
• Danielle Feinstein, Solo Musical – Parkway North
• Alex Pack, Lighting Design – Parkway North
• Erin Gaubatz, Theatre Marketing – Parkway North
Scholarship recipients included:
• Karlynne Pinder, Theatre for Life Scholarship – Parkway Central
• Seth Betzler, Bob/Marti Fowler Theatre Education Scholarship – Parkway West
• Danielle Feinstein, Performance Scholarship – Parkway North
Timothy Kim of Parkway West received the Debbie Corbin Service Award.