More than 75 schools are participating in this year’s Arizona Thespian Festival, taking place Nov. 18 & 19 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Most are from the Phoenix metropolitan area, but other parts of the state are also represented. Think Tucson, Bisbee, San Tan Valley, Vail, Yuma, Holbrook, Payson, Sahuarita and Wickenberg.
The event program features a graphic with paw prints that reads “Thespians Can’t Be Tamed” and this year’s “We Were Born This Way” theme. Theater students, more than any others perhaps, combine respect for individual differences with love of working together. They’re some of the country’s most creative and hard-working youth, yet perpetually strive to get to the next level.
So it’s no surprise that more than 80 workshops are being offered this year – on everything from “The Rap & Rhyme of Shakespeare” to “Advanced Playwriting.” Even “Rigging Safety,” “Intermediate Juggling,” “Speaking the British Dialect” and “Hand to Hand Combat.”
The festival helps high school theater students hone on-stage and behind-the-scene skills, and helps teachers connect with others working to improve arts education despite budget shortfalls and other challenges.
Two schools were selected to perform full-length productions at this year’s festival – Perry High School (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and Desert Mountain High School (“Ruthless!”).
Seventeen schools are presenting one-act plays, and some students are participating in competitions spotlighting specific abilities such as delivering monologues, designing costumes and creating short films.
Between workshops, competitions and performances, students visit with representatives from various colleges and universities – some in Arizona, some from other states (including California, New York, New Mexico and Nevada). I was especially excited to see my own alma mater, Pepperdine University, on the list of places eager to recruit Arizona students.
An event of this magnitude takes extraordinary effort by dedicated individuals, and an incredible amount of teamwork. This year’s program lists 31 Arizona adult state board members, including Linda Phillips of Agua Fria High School, who serves as Arizona Thespian Chapter Director. It also notes the names of 22 Arizona student state board members, including Captain Thespian Chris Rodriguez of Desert Ridge High School.
I’ll be heading out the festival again on Saturday morning, eager to glean tips I can share with young readers on topics like auditioning, applying for college theater programs, marketing shows and pursuing careers in theater.
Something tells me I’ll come home with enough stories to carry me through until next year’s festival. Have you ever heard the one about the horse’s head?
Coming up: A playground dispute takes center stage