Thespians congregate for convention


Collyn Burke, myself, Mama Yeye and Ayah Alomari after the Afro-Caribbean dance workshop. Thespian State convention has taken place in late fall in recent years, either the weekend directly prior to thanksgiving break or the weekend directly after break’s conclusion. Competitors who advance at state convention are invited to attend the national convention that is held in the summer.

Kerry Madden

If you want great people watching, I know a place. The Texas Thespian Convention or “Tex Thes Fest” is a yearly event that has been hosted at the Omni and Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in downtown Dallas in recent years. Troupes from high schools as well as middle schools from all across the state come together in a mass of over six thousand to form one of the most magnificent centers of energy, competition and art. Six thousand theatre kids contained for three days in a hotel; it’s quite a spectacle. Allow me to paint the picture for you; Individuals and teams practicing their competition material in every nook, spontaneous conversations with strangers, impromptu swing dance sessions and an escalator full of posing statues of people, and that’s just scraping the top. The convention consists of three main components: competitions, shows and workshops. Let me share a few of my personal highlights.

Three hours on a charter bus and a long spotify playlist later, we arrived. Some of us, myself included, had competitions that afternoon while the majority of the others had their competitions the next day. Waiting in the hallway amongst other thespians dressed in black competition attire, we rehearsed and sat with the other students from our school who came to support us. The doors opened, competitors and their supporters filed in and the competition began. One of my absolute favorite things to experience is the amount of confidence contained in a single room. Not everyone in the room was bound for broadway and despite the fact that they may have not had hit every note perfectly or remembered their lines, they continued on like they did, not out of ignorance but of confidence. It takes a lot of courage to keep confident in a room of strangers and I have immense respect for people who have that courage.

Much like marathoning or binge watching netflix, thespian convention has play marathons each day as well as two main stage shows. This year I attended one of the two main stages, “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” presented by Woodlands high school, and was not disappointed in the least. In the world of theatre, Putnam County Spelling Bee is a familiar show and I recognized the name, but I did not know the premise or any of the songs before that day. Now, I understand why it’s so loved. Following a quirky group of sixth graders, the story rises and falls with the events of a spelling bee. Clever lyrics, unexpected audience participation, and loveable characters drive the show to it’s success. I could not stop laughing. Really. The comedy was impeccable. I urge you to give the soundtrack a listen. The acting and technical aspects were practically flawless. It was a professional quality production. There was a bit of a luggage conundrum that almost made us miss the show, but in a sweep of careful planning, the crisis was averted and we got to see the show. This performance was the cherry on top of my convention experience.

Each day is packed with various selections of workshops that students can attend. Professionals teach these master classes, from dancing, singing, improv, yoga, to screen and stage acting. Because this year I had a competition event as well as college auditions and scholarship interviews, I was only able to attend two workshops; Afro-Caribbean dancing and Hip Hop You can’t Stop. The Afro-Caribbean dancing class was taught by one of the conventions most loved and yearly teachers, affectionately known as Mama Yeye. In addition to learning traditional dances, she emphasized the importance of caring about yourself and looking out for your future. In the Hip Hop You can’t Stop class, we learned the original choreography from the new musical “Holler if Ya Hear Me.” If you don’t know me, I’m a bit of a noodle when I try to dance, so I was mostly tagging along with other friends who spoke highly of the same teacher’s class last convention and wanted to attend again. I surprised myself. Learning the choreography was a blast and I didn’t look like a fool! In past years, a few other of my favorite classes include acro-yoga, slatting; making an impression, and swing dance. Workshops at convention are such a great opportunity for performers and technicians to widen the scope of their knowledge and try things they wouldn’t have access to otherwise back in their own departments.

In my final year of attendance of the state thespian convention, I was reminded of how much I love being involved in theatre. Being in an epicenter of enthusiastic people who love something as much as you do is one of the best feelings in the world. Spontaneity, confidence, and passion is always a combination for an unforgettable time. Be it theatre, spanish, football or golf: take what you love and do it to the fullest extent. Don’t be afraid to get involved in the thing you love most. I don’t regret it, I urge you to as well.