By: STO Gentry Phillips, Springtown High School, Troupe 1494
2021 is bringing on changes and new faces! This year we have nineteen STOs on the board, which means there are nineteen names to learn. Don’t stress though! This task should be an easy one after reading this blog post. Take this as a formal first introduction to the members of the 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers.
STO: Abi Colburn, age 17
Board Position: I am one of the Co-Vice Chairs. My job is to oversee the candidates at festival and help Philanthropy when needed.
Actor or Technician: I am an actor, specifically I love performing in musicals.
Hobbies: I enjoy reading and studying history.
Favorite Animal: Red panda.
STO: Avery Martin, age 17
Board Position: Leadership Academy Co-Chair.
Actor or Technician: Actor, I have teched a handful of shows but majority of the time I act.
Hobbies: My main hobby is reading. I’ve read for 14 hour straight before which is definitely not healthy but I could not help myself.
Favorite Animal: Penguins.
STO: Brenna Kenney, age 16
Board Position: I am honored to serve as the Chair of the STO Board this year! That means I oversee all of our work, keep effective communication with the STOs and Adult Board, make sure everything is running smoothly, schedule and update our calendars and Google Drive, and make sure we meet all deadlines efficiently.
Actor or Technician: I am an actor! I mainly do straight plays but I also sing a little in the ensemble for musical season!
Hobbies: I run cross country, like to hang out with my friends, watch Grey’s Anatomy, and I work at Tropical Smoothie Café!
Favorite Animal: Elephants!
STO: Brooke Ferrell, age 17
Board Position: I'm the co-advocacy chair! That means I handle advocacy workshops, development of information materials on theatre advocacy, inclusivity initiatives, and of course, Theatre In Our Schools Month!
Actor or Technician: I'm both! I was a child film actor, and I perform whenever I get the opportunity. However, theatre has helped me expand my boundaries, and so I've now been a three-time properties mistress, two-time costuming head, and assistant director!
Hobbies: I write a lot, mainly about queer representation. I also knit, crochet, rock climb, and captain the Name That Book team at my school.
Favorite Animal: Elephant.
STO: Folarin Oyeleye, age 15
Board Position: I am the Co-Blog Chair. My job includes coming up with blog ideas and scheduling when posts go up.
Actor or Technician: Actor.
Hobbies: Some of my hobbies include reading, writing, drawing, crocheting, cooking, and playing D&D.
Favorite Animal: Pandas.
STO: Gabriel “Gabe” Brock, age 17
Board Position: I am one of the two Vice Chairs and that means I am there to help the other chairs on the board with anything they may need technical, content, or editing. I also oversee STO candidacy in the fall.
Actor or Technician: I am an actor but also a lighting designer, scenic designer, and stage manager.
Hobbies: I love photography (follow me on Instagram @gbphotoco), and also love to sing, cook, and hike.
Favorite Animal: Black panthers.
STO: Gentry Phillips, age 17
Board Position: I am a Co-Blog Chair! I write and oversee the process of creating blogs for the website.
Actor or Technician: I am primarily a dramatic actor, but I plan on writing and directing plays as a career.
Hobbies: My hobbies include writing, making collages, reading, and fashion!
Favorite Animal: Opossum's.
STO: Gonzalo Delgado, age 16
Board Position: Philanthropy Chair, I help give back to the communities that want to see us succeed.
Actor or Technician: Actor, though recently I've been getting more into directing.
Hobbies: Making short films, mixing music, and hanging out with friends.
Favorite Animal: Kittens.
STO: Jace Petrovich, age 17
Board Position: Social Media Co-Chair, manage the social media for Texas Thespians and help design graphics for anything needed such as the website, social media accounts, or pamphlets.
Actor or Technician: Technician! I’m a lighting designer.
Hobbies: I mostly work (at Dutch Bros. Coffee) and hang out with my friends.
Favorite Animal: Penguin.
STO: Jackson Layton, age 17
Board Position: I am an advocacy chair, I reach out to local officials to emphasize the importance of theatre in our community and state
Actor or Technician: Actor.
Hobbies: Guitar, skateboarding and basketball.
Favorite Animal: Goose.
STO: Jennica Avila, age 17
Board Position: I am the historian, I take pictures during festival as well as editing the photos that the design team might use in their graphics.
Actor or Technician: I am both, but spend more time as an actor.
Hobbies: My hobbies include practicing cosmetic beauty, doing puzzles, and building miniatures.
Favorite Animal: Llama! (the llama is the animal of Peru, and it just so happens that I am Peruvian... coincidence, I think not)
STO: Karis Klammer, age 16
Board Position: I am the Secretary!. I keep attendance as well as take notes during meetings. I also keep our Google drive clean and organized!
Actor or Technician: I’m an actor, but I always help build sets, make props, assemble costumes. Anything I can do that will help out the show!
Hobbies: I really love singing, learning everything about music, and how to take care of my voice. I’ve recently started learning piano again.
Favorite Animal: Ducks or toucans.
STO: Lillian “Lily” Land, age 17
Board Position: I am one of the Leadership Academy Chairs. I work on everything that deals with leadership which includes, Leadership Days, Leadership Workshops at Festival, J-fest Leadership workshops, and Leadership Academy/Honor Troupes.
Actor or Technician: I am a Technician. I specialize in stage management, but have also done lights, costumes, etc.
Hobbies: Some of my hobbies include reading and crocheting.
Favorite Animal: Cats.
STO: Maleah Minyard, age 17
Board Position: Blog Editor, I check for spelling and grammatical errors on any writing that the STOs put out!
Actor or Technician: Actor!
Hobbies: I love to spend time with my family and friends. I also love trying new food, coloring, and crafting.
Favorite Animal: Pit Bulls.
STO: Marisa Berrones, age 16
Board Position: Technical Chair. My job is to make sure everything is working technically and to prepare technical aspects such as zoom backgrounds.
Actor or Technician: Technician, I mostly do lights but I am also well versed in stage management.
Hobbies: I read a lot and I love painting.
Favorite Animal: Manatees or penguins.
STO: Michael Hernandez, age 17
Board Position: Vlog Chair! I am in charge of recording and uploading videos to our different media outlets, such as our youtube channel.
Actor or Technician: Actor.
Hobbies: I am a captain in Speech and Debate and I also enjoy making a good quiche.
Favorite Animal: Bats and Rabbits!
STO: Olivia Snyder, age 17
Board Position: Social Media Chair. I help make graphics and edit graphics. I also help schedule when we’re posting the graphics.
Actor or Technician: I am a technician who mostly stage manages, but I have also ran lights.
Hobbies: I really love playing video games and embroidery.
Favorite Animal: Cats.
STO: Piper Daniell, age 16
Board Position: Co-Chair of Philanthropy. We help reach out to Texas Thespians across the state on how they can help others and give back to their community.
Actor or Technician: Actress 110%!
Hobbies: Reading, running, baking, and working with special Ed children.
Favorite Animal: Baby elephants.
STO: Talya Hammerman, age 17
Board Position: Advocacy Co-Chair, meaning I discover ways to advocate for theatre locally and state-wide, and then share that information with all of you!
Actor or Technician: Both! I started as an actor, but junior year I took on some tech positions such as lights and publicity.
Hobbies: I love to write poetry, paint, breakdance, play the ukulele, explore interior design and collect enamel pins.
Favorite Animal: Cats.
To future friendships,
Your 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: STO Folarin Oyeleye, Foster High School, Troupe 7961; STO Maleah Minyard, John Horn High School, Troupe 6292
Ah summer, a wonderful chance to unplug and go out. Taking this to heart, your beloved STOs did just that! From the confined digital boxes of Zoom to finally meeting each other in person, we bonded with one another and tackled our projects for the upcoming year. So, grab a log to sit on as we regale the tales of the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch experience!
Day 1: Huh, I Thought You Were Taller?
Arriving at around 12:30, we all made our way to the conference room— the place where we did a majority of our work. Finally being together in one room almost felt surreal. After a bit of awkwardness, everyone’s preconceptions of each other slowly fell away, and we came to be quite merry. However, we soon entered work mode. Especially considering it was almost time to present our festival theme to the Texas Thespians’ Chapter Director, Amy Jordan. With the presentation over, we got a chance to head to our rooms and unpack. Soon after that, we were back in the conference room, eager to soak up our upcoming lesson in leadership. Having drilled a valuable lesson about the various types of leaders, Ms. Morgan motioned us towards our last activity for the day: a compass course. Once the sunset, we went into the woods using compasses to guide us from the first checkpoint to the campfire. Then once everyone arrived, we ate smores and headed back to our cabins for some shut-eye.
Day 2: New Job, Who Dis?
With the dawn of a new day upon us, we all got ready for the second day of camp. To kick things off, we had a few team-building exercises. Jumping into a circular padlock, giving a greedy gnome a diamond, and surviving in shark-infested waters. These trials, albeit very grand, were no match for our combined wit! It only took about...3 or more tries, but even in failure, we stood proud! With team-building complete, we went back to the conference room for our second lesson in leadership. After that, all the STOs got assigned their official jobs! As soon as we finished with those, we split up into our new groups. Each group was responsible for establishing their goals for the year and working on their respective assignments. This work format carried on into the night. Once the groups finished, they were allowed to turn in for the night.
Day 3: A Lot Happened
Time for day three! After breakfast, we began working on the presentation for our August 3rd and 7th leadership days. Stopping halfway for notes, we took some time to edit our work before continuing to present. As we finished presenting, Mr. Goodman (the State Festival Director) and Ms. Gette (the Junior Festival Director) came in to talk about what they needed for the festival and to add to the ideas we already had. The conversation was mainly around how to work the theme in various ways. But also lightly touched on keynote speakers and honor troupes. With the plans all laid out, our meeting came to an end. Soon we were busy getting ready to take pictures for the website (which you should check out in the STO Corner on the Texas Thespians’ website or our Instagram @texasthespians). Once we finished the professional pictures, we all got together to get some fun ones, just for keepsakes. Once we finished dinner, we went back to working on our projects and called it a day a bit earlier to allow time to finish recordings and pack up the conference room.
Day 4: John Newcombe, I Bid Thee Farewell
And finally, the dreaded, yet longed for, final day. We made our way to the conference room and immediately hit the ground running. We banged out the last few recordings and pictures needed before clearing out of the conference room to a smaller meeting area. As soon as we cleared the conference room, we went to clean out our rooms. As soon as we had all our items, we began to work one last time on our leadership presentation. Once we finished, everyone said their goodbyes and went home.
Getting to spend time with one another in person was a truly wonderful experience. We worked hard, laughed harder, and deepened our bond with one another. Chilling by yourself can be fun, but if you can go out and be with people, make sure you seize that opportunity because we can’t be the only ones having fun. So go out and have fun knowing that you have a wonderful year of theatre planned out and waiting for you.
Your 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: STO Gabriel Brock, Goose Creek Memorial High School, Troupe 8132
As the summer kicks into full swing and schools around the state close for the season, thespians are left with the task of filling their summer days with festivities. While there is a diverse variety of summer activities, a lot of thespians itch for an opportunity to do theatre even when the doors to their home performance space are locked and closed. Even some of our own State Thespian Officers can’t contain their urge to perform. We asked a few of our STOs what their summer plans were and how they planned to stay engaged in the arts.
“I’m performing In CCT’s production of Hello Dolly! This is the group I usually audition for in the summer and it’s a lot of fun! The best part of it hands down is the rehearsal progress. With these types of shows you start out knowing a few people and by the end, everyone is a family that gets to put on a beautiful show together!”
“This summer I am participating in Nexus, which is a virtual Musical Theatre camp at Texas State. Last summer, I was a part of Boston Conservatory’s Musical Theatre Dance Intensive that was relatively similar. The best part of the experience is getting to learn from all of the different faculty and being able to see what the college is like and how it is run!”
Obviously our STOs love theatre, but don’t think you have to go to a camp or attend a conservatory to stay engaged in theatre or connected with your fellow thespians. Get together with your troupe mates and try to go watch your community’s local arts, like theatre in the park or a community concert. Audition for summer stock shows and support your friends who are. Whatever you do, don’t forget why you do what you do. Distance only makes the heart grow fonder, so don’t lose your spark, and when school starts back up in the fall (or when your show opens in the upcoming weeks if you’re doing summer stock) break legs!
Have a fun summer!
Your 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: ; STO Talya Hammerman, Ridge Point High School, Troupe 7678; STO Gabriel Brock, Goose Creek Memorial High School, Troupe 8132
With the school year coming to an end, we wanted to leave this year’s juniors and seniors with a little bit of advice.
Tips for applying/preparing for college
Q: What if I’m not majoring in theatre?
A: People have this stigma about those who don’t do theatre as a major. I’m here to say, you don’t have to listen to them. Do what is best for you. For me, I knew that I had done so much in theatre already, I’m not saying I’m done learning, but I wanted to try something new and push myself in another area. With a minor, you are able to do that and still do theatre. I will Major in Graphic Design with a Minor in Theatre. This will allow me some time to still use theatre as a creative outlet while doing something else that I love as well.
~ Campbell Lemons, 2018-2020 Texas State Thespian Officer
Q: What advice do you have regarding auditioning for colleges and finding which program is right for you?
A: My best advice when auditioning for colleges is to know your type. Do not try to fit into another mold. Being yourself is the best thing to do! When it comes to finding what program is right for you I completely recommend doing your research. Campus visits, talking to some of their current students, talking to some of their current students, watching a show from the college. Anything to make sure you could grow and thrive in their environment. Also when you know you know. When I stepped onto my college campus I knew immediately that that was where I was going to spend the next 4 years. If you have that moment, listen to it!
~ Jackson Barnes, 2019-2020 Texas State Thespian Officer
Q: How stressful is the entire audition/application process?
A: I'd say make sure that you pick pieces that fit you well. Most of the college auditions that I went on asked me if I had any pieces that better reflected myself as a performer. I wish that my primary pieces had been in my age range since they're generally looking for someone who can do a piece that feels natural for them. It can take a lot of time to find a piece that you love and that also fits you, but once you find something it's completely worth it.
~ Elam Blackwell, 2017 Texas State Thespian Officer/ International Thespian Officer
Q: What is the hardest part of the audition/college application process?
A: For me the hardest part was knowing where to start! Because of the nature of what I wanted to study combined with the fact that I didn’t have a list of “dream schools” to reference, it felt very overwhelming to begin looking at schools when you know little to nothing about their actual reputation in your field. I found myself just kind of going in circles looking for programs until I had to sit and make myself pick some schools I liked to apply to.
~ Annie Bailey, 2019-2020 Texas State Thespian Officer
Life is hard and school doesn’t make it any easier. Take these tips to heart and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your classmates, directors, or graduated seniors. When the fall rolls around and you’re auditioning for schools, (acting, playwriting, technical theatre, or anything in between) just remember to be prepared and don’t forget to break a leg!
Seniors, don’t think that because this was an auditions blog we forgot about you. Several state schools still have application periods open until May 30th, May 31st, or June 1st. You still have a few weeks to get in that application for the upcoming fall and if you’ve already committed we have a blog coming up about what to bring with you in the fall (both theatre and non-theatre related). So stay tuned!
Your 2020 & 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: STO Folarin Oyeleye, Foster High School, Troupe 7961
As the 2021 UIL Spring season comes to a close with an array of events wrapping up such as High School One Act Play, Theatrical Design, and Academic UIL, we wanted to show off the accomplishments of our fellow thespians. However, we also acknowledge the fact that they aren't just limited to theatre. With that being said, let's put on our dresses and ties as we walk into the world of Speech and Debate.
Speech and Debate are UIL event categories, and both have events that appeal to everyone. On the speech side we have events such as Dramatic and Humorous Interpretation, Duo and Duet, and Poetry/Prose. These events can all be seen as acting, and although they all seem similar they all have their own rules.
Dramatic and Humorous Interpretation are very similar in their formatting. For starters the speaker has 10 minutes (and a 30 second grace period) to perform. The structure for how the event works is the speaker providing a little snippet of their piece as a teaser then flowing into their intro. The intro is essentially a summary of the piece and any sort of relevance it has to today or the themes it tackles. Then, once the intro is done the participant pops back into the rest of their piece. This formula is how most events will work minus the time limit.
Duo and Duet are similar in that they're both team events but they differ in their approach. In Duo partners are not allowed to make physical and eye contact. However, in Duet you're free to do so. This allows for the building of healthy team dynamics as well as creative performances. And regarding the time limit it is also comprised of a 10 minute performance with a 30 second grace.
Poetry and Prose are both known as "binder events." What this means is that instead of having to fully memorize a piece, the speaker can have a binder with the piece inside. The main key is to have a healthy balance of memorization to where you can glance at the binder when needed, but not fully read it. These events are also only 7 minutes and can use up to four sources to make a coherent piece.
Moving onto the debate side we have events such as Congressional Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and Extemporaneous Debate. The debaters work to prove that their claim for an argument is more valid than the opposing side's assertion.
Congressional Debate works to imitate the legislation of the United States. In this event debaters will create a series of bills and resolutions as they deliver speeches for and against a certain topic. Some examples of discussion topics are: the bill to update the clean air act, regulate e-cigarettes, and to lift the ban on crude oil exports.
Extemporaneous Debate is a head to head debate in which competitors discuss more than one topic. They are given 30 minutes of prep time, and are allowed to use evidence but not necessity due to the short time span to prepare.
Finally, we have Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Speakers compete in a one on one match with a topic provided by the association. The rounds last 45 minutes on average (which factors in time for cross examinations and rebuttals).
Now that you're aware of the breakdown of the events, and what speech and debate entails, let's get our fellow thespians perspective on the matter.
Q: What made you join Speech and Debate?
"My director made me complete for the first time for a grade, and I continued doing it because I didn't know I was allowed to stop. but now I enjoy it." -Hannah Bronsell , Foster HS, Troupe 7961
Q: Would you recommend Speech and Debate to other theatre students?
"Absolutely. I feel as though they go hand and hand. Speech and debate not only utilize the performance skills that you learn in theatre. But they also develop key reasoning and deductive skills that help you better develop your character and stage work, all the work that goes into creating a compelling character and show." - STO Gabriel Brock, Goose Creek Memorial HS, Troupe 8132
Speech and Debate has been an integral role in allowing our students to find new ways to express themselves. With some state competitions ending and starting we congratulate and wish everyone the best. And to everyone participating in NSDA this summer, break a leg!
Have a good one,
Your 2020 & 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: STO Lia Graham, Texas High School, Troupe 2526
Goodbyes are never fun. Spring is always bittersweet for the STOs as it comes time to pass the torch onto the 2021 board, but the 2020 STOs have a few farewells. Some faces you will see for another year, but the rest take their place in the STO Hall of Fame. Here’s some words of advice from the 2020 Texas Thespians State Thespian Officers;
“The most valuable lesson I have learned is definitely how to advocate. Advocating for Theatre Education has made a lasting impact on my community and helped to inspire the students that feel their voices won’t make an impact. I’m going to miss the people, the STOs, and the adults, but I’m also going to miss working with and for Texas Thespians. This organization truly changes students’ lives and paves paths for them and their future.”
“I’ve learned that every new opportunity that comes up, take it. The most valuable skill I’ve learned is how to incorporate and compromise the ideas of everyone. I am going to miss all of the STO’s that are graduating because I never knew how close I could become to these people in such a short amount of time. I’m looking forward to making next year’s Thespians even better than this past year! (And this past year was pretty amazing)!”
“The most valuable skill I’ve gained is the ability to make effective, concise, and more aesthetically pleasing presentations, which is something I struggled a lot with before. I’m going to miss teaching about Advocacy and getting to talk for a full 45 minutes about it to people who are so willing to listen.”
“It is insane how much connecting with other thespians can increase your knowledge of both theatre and leadership as a whole. During COVID I realized how important it is for thespians to be around other thespians. Despite not seeing each other in person all that much, I still feel emotionally attached to every single STO, and I am incredibly thankful for every second I've experienced with this family. Being on a call and seeing everyone's incredible personalities and working with these amazing leaders has been something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
“I have effectively learned how to advocate for myself and the arts. You won’t always be the best at something, so it’s more important to operate as a team to fully succeed at your goals. I’m going to miss the relationships I built with the STOs. They are my family, and now I’m sad it’s all ending.”
“A lot that I did not realize before being an STO is it requires a great deal of organization, taking responsibility, and ownership. The most valuable skill I’ve learned is editing videos in a short period of time. What I'm going to miss the most is the zoom calls, meeting up, connecting, and making videos.”
“One of the most valuable skills I've learned through being an STO is turning things in on time. Working in such a large group with many tasks and goals, by turning things in on time, we are able to complete our tasks and goals more efficiently. Prior to being an STO, I was rather hesitant about communicating in large groups. However, I was able to overcome this and be better at talking in large groups.”
“This year is not what we expected it to be. When we heard that festival would be virtual and that we couldn’t meet for STO camp, we could have easily given up. We all know that would never happen though. Even through a global pandemic, we led, advocated, and reached out. I am so proud of the work all thespians across Texas have accomplished, and I can’t wait to see where this foundation takes them next.”
“The thing I will miss most is definitely getting to work with my fellow STOs. They are some of the greatest people I have ever met and I am going to miss them so much! I am looking forward to being able to continuously make Texas Thespians better than we found it. I can't wait to work with the 2021 board to continue to make Texas Thespians amazing!
“I’m going to miss the people on this board the most and the connections we’ve gotten to make virtually this year across the state. I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned and using it to lead this new board to success. I’m looking forward to planning festival and leading a hopefully in person festival as an STO.”
“Being an STO has definitely made me appreciate every little thing that goes into setting up things like festival or leadership camps because I never knew how much time and effort it required. I’ve learned to appreciate everyone and everything that people offer and give up so they can help others. I’m very excited for next year because I’ll have more understanding of the expectations of events and processes the STOs undergo.”
“I think the most valuable lesson I’ve gained from being an STO is being able to fully appreciate teamwork. I’ve always worked on teams in the past, but it really wasn’t until I served on this board where I truly saw the importance and value of teamwork. I was never afraid to not have help, because everybody was so open, kind, and always willing to lend a helping hand.”
“Being an STO helped me improve on my team work skills and helped me learn to lean on people to become a better person and leader. When we were all chosen we didn’t know a pandemic was going to happen, so this taught us to have back up plans and also to adapt to overcome. Although I didn’t get to see them a lot in person, they have truly impacted my life with all their support and love. Each and everyone one of them has made me a better person and leader.”
“I’ve learned that not everything is going to go your way like you plan, so you have to embrace the change coming. You have to work hard even on the days you don’t want to continue persevering. I’ve definitely learned to be flexible and how to navigate through technology better, especially with COVID-19 throwing off a majority of our year, I think we all learned to adapt to changes very quickly.”
“Because of my time as an STO, I have learned many valuable things, but my experience working with a team to try and get things done is what I will most likely take with me for the rest of my life. Through being an STO I have learned a lot about time management and meeting deadlines.”
“We as a STO board had to work together even though we only met each other in person twice. My leadership skills are something that have grown. By being a STO, you have to be a leader and also be on the receiving end of leadership. I’ll miss the people. Getting to work with them is what made this experience worth it.”
“The most valuable lesson I've learned through being a State Thespian Officer is to trust the process. Things may look messy and disorganized at first, but trust your teammates. If you listen and work through the rough patches, the end product will turn out better than you imagined.”
Your 2020 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: STO Gabriel Brock, Goose Creek Memorial High School, Troupe 8132; STO Folarin Oyeleye, Foster High School, Troupe 7961
The 2020-2021 school year has been one for the history books. Every aspect of school life was flipped on its head, and the UIL season was not any exception. This year One-Act Play and Theatrical Design both saw significant renovations to the contest structure and procedure. While OAP entered its 20th competition year, having to make a significant shift from how the contest functioned in the past, the Theatrical Design’s format played a considerable part in how it operated this year. We sat down (virtually) with Rachael Gomez, the UIL Theatrical Design State Director, and talked with her about how UIL Theatrical Design operated this school year amidst the Covid pandemic.
Q: Theatrical Design is probably the UIL event best suited for operating during Covid because of the event’s format, but how has the contest functioned this year?
A: We knew what our situation was going to be, and we knew it had to be virtual. We set it up in such a way that saved the integrity of the event but kept everyone safe; we wanted it that way. We didn’t have to rent any space, which meant we would be able to really help out other contests financially by making that choice as well. UIL Covid protocols were already going to limit the number of participants. So having OAP and Theatrical Design [in the same venue], would cause extra chaos or people to be on the same site. It just made sense to do it virtual this year.
Q: How would Theatrical Design work at State during an in-person year?
A: At State [during a regular year], you send your stuff in, it goes up on display, and you know what it and everybody elses’ looks like. I haven't been able to turn [the submissions] into a gallery for everybody to be able to see that digital work. You get to see everything. If you go to the State and you get to walk through that gallery. Oh, I just miss that so much. Beautiful. Yes, it’s like looking at a travel brochure instead of being at the site, you know?
Q: Have there been any unique challenges or tribulations faced this year?
A: We had the weather kind of hit. We were all set up to have everybody enter, and then that's when the snowpocalypse came on and that was right at our deadline. Because that was the week before preliminaries were due. The oral aspect, which was introduced two years ago, is probably the one major part of the contest [that would be the hardest logistically to implement]. I don't see how we're gonna be able to Zoom each person in to have 30 seconds with the judge and out. That just sounds logistically, horrible. If we can figure out how to make it happen, we're all for it. It's just the logistics of this. So many kids getting together one at a time. It would take a much more savvy technical person than me to do that.
Q: How have certain aspects, whether preliminary level or the state contest, different from those in previous years?
A: Obviously, last year, we had to make the decision that the state contest was going to be virtual, and this meant that kids couldn’t resubmit updated work. There were some new people that hadn't won before who won. I saw some new names of schools, and it was really fun. This year we saw an increase in [students and sponsors] that had not done it before. We've seen some growth of introducing new people because it was virtual. Another thing is we created a submission template. [It will] have the titles, the UIL logo, etc., and they insert their work into them. All of the judges will see consistent work. This way, we make sure nobody submits anything upside down or sideways. Hopefully, it'll be some new technology that we all learned this year that makes some sense. We also were able to get state judges that we never would’ve been able to get if we were in person because of travel. We have a couple of judges from New York, including a previous Hair and Make state champion who now makes wigs on Broadway and agreed to come. And we wouldn't have had that opportunity if we weren't virtual. We also have another judge who’s a professor at Texas State [University].
Q: How have kids, teachers, and sponsors handled the increased amount of emails due to changes and adding a virtual aspect?
A: I think it hit the hair and makeup kids the hardest. The kids who aren’t as good at the application or not as good at drawing rely on that side of it being the way to show their expertise. It turned out to be the worst year ever for makeup. Some kids were having to put makeup on their little brother because that was the only model they had. I definitely had an increase in emails, a lot of them starting with “Hi, I’m a first-year teacher” or “Hi, this is my first year sponsoring this event,” but the truth is this was like a first-year for everybody. If I have that many people asking it, I need to be more clear in the handbook. We love, love people asking questions.
Q: How has the state office dealt with equity in the contest, not just between schools affected by Covid, but between less and more affluent schools in the state competing?
A: I think that there absolutely needs to be more equity in the UIL contests, and we try our hardest to even out the playing field whenever it comes to theatrical design. Obviously, schools that have fewer resources aren't going to compete at the same caliber as more affluent schools. The school with five theatre directors will be much more capable than the school with a coach who has an off-period that teaches five UIL events. We try to make sure that the contest, as it stands, leaves an opportunity for any kid to place because every kid can have a great idea, it’s just a matter of communicating that idea and putting it on paper. While we can’t make the contest so easy anyone can win, we try to keep it fair and modest.
Q: While we’re over a year out before the next contest, is there any rumbling as to whether or not Theatrical Design 2022 will return in person?
A: That is definitely the plan. We had to stop and deal with the pandemic and everything. All we have to do is get over the speed bump, get through these years, make them as great as we can, and get back on track with the other.
Theatrical Design was not the only UIL Theatre event that had a serious face lift. The One-Act Play competition went through quite a serious overhaul to adjust to the current times, both major and minor: changes to the contest structure like modifications to official tech rehearsals and setup, the nullification of the 1-minute rule, a 10 minute break to allow for any finishing touches, once that ends curtains go up! You still had the usual 7 minute strike, but afterwards a fun twist! Critiques came right after strike, so there's no waiting around until after results. Not only did the individual contest see changes but the entire advancement chain was changed with the elimination of the Area contests, arguably making the contest more competitive. These new guidelines have been vital in ensuring the One-Act Play experience was still enjoyable, but safe first and foremost.
We extend an enormous thanks to everyone who helped the show go on and Rachel Gomez for contributing to this blog. Thank you to OAP companies and Theatrical Designs participants, to Contest Managers and Adjudicators, to the host schools, teachers, and sponsors, as well as the folks in the State office who helped make everything run smoothly.
Your 2020 & 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: STO Piper Daniell, Midway High School, Troupe 4770, and STO Gentry Phillips, Springtown High School, Troupe 1494
One Act Play has definitely looked different this year. With COVID-19 being an ever present fear, schools had to problem solve and think creatively in order to give the green light on their shows. Thus far, schools have competed in Zone, District, Bi-District, and Area competitions. That leaves Region to be conquered next.
Ah yes Region, the second scariest competition (State takes first place of course). These shows displayed a great amount of determination at the hands of the people who are running them. They worked tirelessly, actors, technicians, and directors alike, to make their show the best it can possibly be. We applaud you and are so proud of you!
After Region is state, the part of One Act Play everyone has collective dreams (and nightmares) about. This is the thing everyone has been working towards all of second semester. To move onto State is a great honor and privilege. For everyone competing in State, congratulations and break a leg!
So, where does that leave the rest of us? Do we just throw away our shows forever and forget this ever happened? No, of course not! Whether your school made it all the way or not, be proud of it! Your hard work and dedication speaks volumes, especially in the world's current climate. Theatre has the power to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. Your show made an impact on someone. It might be your director, a cast mate, an audience member, or even yourself. That impact is something to truly celebrate!
We are so proud of all of you!
Your 2020 & 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers
By: STO Talya Hammerman, Ridge Point HS, Troupe 7678, and STO Karis Klammer, Montgomery HS, Troupe 5986, and STO Brenna Kenney, Rouse HS, Troupe 7679
As the school year is coming to an end, we are so excited to welcome a whole new class of freshmen into our schools! Now, freshmen, we know that you are probably scared thinking about going to a bigger school, meeting new people, and having to try the cafeteria food, but have no fear because the STOs are here to answer all of your questions about high school! Below you will find the STO’s “Declassified School Survival Guide” (although you may be too young to understand that reference)!
There you have it: everything you could possibly need to know about high school (besides how to pass physics)! We hope this helped calm your nerves about high school and answered your most dire questions. We promise it’s not as scary as it looks in movies. The STOs wish you the best of luck in your high school endeavors, and now that you’ve read this blog, you are an expert on all things high school. If you have any more questions, let us know in the comments!
Break a Leg Freshmen,
Your 2020 & 2021 Texas State Thespian Officers