Blacksburg Theatre Department at the 2019 VA State Thespian Conference

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Blacksburg Theatre Department at the 2019 VA State Thespian Conference

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Every year, schools from around the state send their theatre troupes to attend the Virginia International Thespian State Conference to attend workshops, performances, and competitions.  This year, Blacksburg High School’s troupe 3600 attended the conference at Radford University with 25 students and showcased their talent in multiple events.

Over 100 workshops were offered during the conference, with topics ranging from lighting design to preparing for a college audition.  Students were told to sign up in advance using a Google form online to be placed in workshops based on their interests. Workshop schedules were handed out on the first day of conference.  

“Participating in the workshops allowed for me to not only learn new things but also to make new friends from across Virginia.  I especially enjoyed the dance workshops,” said Brynn Yaun, Senior.

In addition to workshops, students were also able to sign up to compete in Independent Events (IE).  Seven BHS thespians participated in IEs ranging from musical performances to monologues. Their performances were assessed and scored by a panel of judges and performances rated superior were eligible to move on to compete at the national conference in Lincoln, Nebraska.  BHS had three actors receive a superior rating: Brian Bush, junior; Emma Bush, junior; and Genesis Simmons, Senior.

“I wasn’t really expecting to qualify, but it meant a lot that I did.  The song I sang had a lot of personal meaning to me, and it was really rewarding to be recognized for something I am passionate about,” said E. Bush.

Some thespians chose to compete in a different type of performance.  The Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Beauty Pageant (a.k.a. The Womanless Beauty Pageant) was open for biologically male contestants to take on a drag persona for the competition, which included a talent and interview portion.  This year, BHS’s Jamie Perks, junior, took to the stage as “Miss Perky.”

“It was very eye opening to work with such a diverse group of people, and it really helped me step out of my comfort zone.  Drag shows aren’t something I normally participate in, but overall it was a very unique experience,” said Perks.

BHS was honored to have a person representing the school on the State Thespian Officer (STO) team this year.  Markley Bortz, Senior, had been selected to previous year to serve on the committee.

“Being a STO this year was overall a great experience.  I was very busy the entire time, running around helping with ceremonies and events.  I didn’t participate in workshops like the other thespians, but I still learned valuable leadership experience.  One of my favorite parts of conference was working with the other amazing STOs from other schools,” said Bortz.

Some of the highlights of the weekend included various shows presented by schools to showcase their talent.  Show lengths ranged from one-acts to full length musicals. The productions were spread out throughout the three days and held in various locations around campus.  

One of the most popular productions of the weekend was “Bright Star” performed by Rock Ridge High School.  This high school production of the broadway musical included a cast of 24 and a live band. The plot took place in the early to mid 1900s and followed the journey of Alice Murphy and Billy Cane, two seemingly unconnected individuals, as both of them strive towards their own personal goals  The performance was very emotionally charged and was extremely well received by the audience.

Blacksburg brought two one-act shows to conference, “The Brothers Grimm Out of Order” and “Lafayette No. 1.”  Lafayette No. 1 was BHS’s competition one act performed at states. Both shows were awarded Outstanding Physical Work, and the competition one act received Outstanding Tech Design.  Two actors from each show were recognized for their outstanding acting abilities.

“Overall, the trip was really good bonding time for the troupe outside of school, and in this particular conference BHS was very involved. We had an STO from our school, multiple students participate in IEs, and performed two one acts during the conference.  Our involvement and recognition really helped round out our conference experience and made it successful,” said Carrie Mayer, troupe director and theater teacher.

At the end of the weekend, it was announced that next year’s conference will be hosted by Shenandoah University, and the troupe is extremely excited to continue representing BHS through showcasing their talent.


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