The Whole State’s a Stage

Thespians Perform at Texas Festival


Photo Courtesy of CPHS Theatre Booster Club

The Thespian Troupe poses for a photo at the Thespian State Festival in the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. Two members, juniors Brady Allen and Claire Poulter won the duet acting competition and qualified for Nationals at the convention. “It was definitely an exciting experience to qualify for Nationals,” Allen said. “I’m wishing that we can afford the trip, because advancing to Nationals and seeing all of the activities they have to offer would be a really unique experience that I’ve been looking forward to for a while.”

Jaden Kolenbrander, Reporter

Over Thanksgiving break, the best of the school’s theater department traveled 211 miles to act out what they had practiced for months at state competitions; nine left with the opportunity to travel even further to the national level. From Nov. 18 to Nov. 20, the theater department attended the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center to participate in the 2021 Texas Thespian Festival. Workshops and national recognition were only a few features the Thespian Festival offered to its attendees.   

The Thespian Festival is an event that the Theater Department takes part in every year. Organized by the Texas chapter of the International Thespian Society, an honor society for theater students, the Thespian Festival is an annual event where over eight thousand delegates from schools across Texas meet to engage in a wide variety of activities, such as competitions for categories like acting, improv and technical theater.

“Competitions are the first and biggest highlight of this event,” theater tech teacher Colin Falk said. “They test your skill in one specific area of theater. You could be asked to do a musical number, or you could be asked to participate in a scene with another actor. If you specialize in design, there’s also a lot you could do, such as designing a set or a costume.” 

Some members of the International Thespian Society went and competed in all the Festival had to offer. The theater department had nine contestants who advanced to Nationals: senior MJ Kelly, juniors Ryleigh Jordan and Makayla Cox, sophomore Madison Cooper and freshman Casey Phillips for group acting, juniors Brady Allen and Claire Poulter for duet acting, senior Emma Frith for stage management and senior Kaitlyn Delay for makeup. The tech theater team also claimed second place at the State competition.   

 “We’ve been working for the entire fall season up to this moment,” theater director Alisa Mirabella said. “It’s been disappointing in the past, qualifying for Nationals but not being able to participate. We’ve been trying to put our all into this year, and through the hard work of our students we achieved substantial results.” 

For senior MJ Kelly, who advanced to Nationals in the group acting category, she practiced more than she normally would have for a standard five-minute scene, the time they were given for the competition. She is glad to see her hard work pay off in one of the highlights of her time in theater.

“It’s seriously a dream come true,” Kelly said. “I’ve competed in the festival twice by now, but I didn’t advance the first time I competed [in solo monologue].  It’s really nice to see that my skills have improved and all the work has paid off.”

Aside from competitions, however, the festival also offers workshops where theater students can gain direct experience in various skill sets like acting, improvisation, special effects makeup, singing and even musical instruments like drumming.

“The State Festival made sure that our workshops were varied and gave our students what the full theater experience might be like,” Falk said. “Although aspiring theater kids will likely never have to involve themselves in 90% of these activities, the other 10% will come in handy with all of the roles that you can encounter. It’s always nice to have a wide skill set.”

Coming back from the festival, Mirabella hopes the Thespians will see even greater success. Although they have had students advance to Nationals, expenses related to travel have been one of the biggest roadblocks to attending the competitions, which are often held in the Midwest.

“It’s been quite challenging for the Theater Booster Club to afford,” Mirabella said. “This year, boosters are seeing if they can afford the trip. If so, it’ll be one of the best gifts to our kids who have been working so hard over the fall to qualify.”

Allen, who partnered with junior Claire Poulter to win the duet acting category, were assigned a scene depicting an argument between a husband and a wife regarding the wife’s affair with another man. For Allen, mustering up the performance for the toxic, abusive husband required months of preparation before the competition, and he is glad about advancing.

“While practicing for the actual performance took only a few weeks, preparing for the role and talking about how we would achieve a certain aspect of the scene took months,” Allen said. “It was definitely an exciting experience to qualify for Nationals. I’m wishing that we can afford the trip, because advancing to Nationals and seeing all of the activities they have to offer would be a really unique experience that I’ve been looking forward to for a while.”