On Friday, March 1, nearly 50 McNicholas High School students and teachers traveled to Sylvania Northview High School to participate in the three-day Ohio Thespian Conference. The Conference functions as an annual meeting and competition for thespians and high-school theater enthusiasts alike, and is attended by junior high and high school students across the state.
“It was a really wonderful experience, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it even though I had to sacrifice quite a bit of sleep!” sophomore Meghan Baker said. Baker was among those who attended the conference for the first time.
This year’s conference was especially memorable for McNicholas. The cast and crew of Is He Dead?, an adaptation of the original play by Mark Twain, were invited to perform the full version of the show for other students on Saturday night. During the fall, state thespian representatives attended shows around the state, ultimately choosing four to give full-length performances at the conference. Is He Dead? was one of the few to be chosen. Their performance during the conference earned them two standing ovations, both before and after the show.
Senior Matt Gabbard, who played the leading role of Jean-François Millet in the production, said the show was so successful because of the content. “Is He Dead? is an incredibly well-written play,” Gabbard said. “The lines and the jokes are hilarious, the actors involved are wonderful, and it was really just fun to be a part of.”
McNicholas theatre teacher and former Broadway actress Teresa De Zarn admitted that directing the play at a state competition was one of the most challenging tasks she has taken on in the theatre world. “Taking an entire cast, crew, props, costumes and a very large set, putting it up, doing the show and taking it down all in a window of 6 hours sounds like a crazy thing to do,” said De Zarn. “But if you could have heard the roar of the crowd, everyone jumping to their feet for the huge standing ovation, you would know that it was worth every bit of the work that went into it.”
With more than 3,900 troupes across the United States, the International Thespian Society has inducted over 2 million members since its founding in 1929. The Ohio Thespian Conference is hosted each year by the Ohio Educational Theater Association (Ohio EdTA), a chapter of the International Thespian Society. This year, there were about 1,800 in attendance, with close to 25 schools represented. Working with junior high and high school students, the Ohio EdTA’s mission is to “increase the skills and knowledge of the theater arts while advocating theater programs throughout the state.”
At the Conference, students were able to showcase their talents in a variety of categories, including single act, duet scene, mime, and duet musical. The cast and crew of Is He Dead? attained top honors and high marks in every performance category of competition. In addition, junior Scott Frenzel once again took first place in the Miming category and Gabbard was among those chosen to perform his monologue from “Mercy Seat” at the National Thespian Conference, which will take place this July at the University of Nebraska.
“This is something that I’ve been striving to achieve for the last four years of my life. And now, I’ve finally done it.” Gabbard said. “Honestly, I’m still trying to process the fact that I’ll actually be able to compete!”
De Zarn said that she couldn’t be more proud of her students’ performances. “We’re all still so excited about the experience. It’s a memory that I’m sure all of us will cherish for a very long time!”