Tams-Witmark was thrilled to participate in the 2016 Texas Thespians State Festival, which ran from November 30th through December 3rd. The Festival, held in the Omni Hotel and Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, hosted over 7,000 Thespians from all over the Lone Star State. More than 6,500 high school students and 500 theater educators took part in workshops, performances, competitions, and college interviews at the state’s annual event.
According to their website, Texas Thespians is one of the largest state chapters of the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), which sponsors the International Thespian Society. EdTA Thespian troupes are chartered in public and private schools through the U.S., representing excellence in theatre education.
“As an educational honor society, we are dedicated to encouraging and improving the skills of theatre students throughout Texas,” the Texas Thespians explain. “A student can be inducted into a local Thespian troupe after earning points by working in school, community, and/or professional theater, both on and behind the stage. Any public or private school in Texas is invited to become a member troupe.”
At the festival, teens competed in solo, duet, or group challenges in musical and acting categories, or in technical events like costume or lighting design, marketing, stage management, writing, and other theatre skills. Prospective theatre arts majors interviewed with colleges or auditioned for scholarships. Many troupes presented selected material from their school productions in “marathons,” and five select troupes presented full productions in the Main Stage or Black Box Theatre.
Two of the five full productions were Tams-Witmark shows: Temple High School Thespian Troupe (#1966) presented CABARET in the Main Stage Theatre, and Cooper Theatre (#2332) presented CALVIN BERGER in the Black Box. Both shows were huge hits, and the festival was buzzing with chatter about their success. Audiences were impressed by the enduring relevance and timeliness of CABARET, and CALVIN BERGER’s themes of high school crushes and insecurities resonated with everyone. (Plus, as one student put it, “CALVIN BERGER rocks!”) Congratulations to the cast and crew of both shows – Tams was so proud and excited to be in attendance!
The festival also featured two keynote speakers: playwright/librettist Doug Wright (I AM MY OWN WIFE, GREY GARDENS, THE LITTLE MERMAID) and Broadway performer Synthia Link (HOW TO SUCCEED…, BIG FISH, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY).
Vendors and sponsors like Tams-Witmark set up individual booths in the Omni Hotel’s spacious lobby, where they interacted with the teachers and students. Ken Duffy, Nancy Duffy, and Jim Colleran represented Tams-Witmark, and they had a great time meeting talented, enthusiastic high school students and their theater directors and educators.
Theater folks – whether they worked onstage or backstage – were thrilled to share their excitement about all the great Tams-Witmark shows they had done. Jane Bankston and Cheryl Bradford of Cypress Ranch Theatre stopped by to share stories about their recent smash production of HELLO, DOLLY!
Jim also led three sessions of his workshop, “Timeless Musicals,” a guide to the greatest shows of Broadway’s Golden Age, with pointers on how best to approach the production of timeless material. Using songs and scenes from HELLO, DOLLY!, THE WIZARD OF OZ, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, and A CHORUS LINE, Jim guided young actors in finding the proper vocal technique, acting approach, and research methods to maximize their performance and enjoyment of great musicals. In each session, the attendees were thoughtful, talented, and enthusiastic, and everyone laughed a lot. The workshops were a big hit.
Ken, Nancy and Jim all agreed that the Texas Thespians State Festival was a wonderful experience for all. Congratulations to everyone involved. We’ll see y’all next year!