Dramatic arts take center stage

The dramatic arts took center stage this weekend as nearly 1,000 high school students, theatre directors and chaperones from 32 schools across Iowa come to campus for the 2013 Iowa Thespian Festival.

Thespian Festival
Workshops at the Iowa Thespian Festival give high school students the chance to improve upon their skills.

On Friday and Saturday, participants watched main stage productions, including "Pippin" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie," in the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center (GBPAC) and in Strayer-Wood Theatre. They  also had the opportunity to perform in one-act plays and smaller shows to share what high school theatre departments are doing across the state.

The festival is open to thespians and non-thespians who are interested in acting, singing, improvisation, dancing, stage combat, hair and makeup, and lighting. To help them improve upon their skills, workshops are held in all of these areas.

The Iowa Thespian Festival is also a time for students to compete in theatrical auditions. These Individual Events, as they're called, are performed in front of festival adjudicators; students' ultimate goal it to qualify to perform at the 2014 International Thespian Festival. Individual events will be held in such areas as Duet Musical, Theatre Stage Management, Costume Construction, Group Acting and Team Improv. Prior to the conclusion of the festival, select groups will perform on the GBPAC stage for all delegates.

Iowa's Thespian Festival, which has been held at UNI since 2010, is sponsored by the Iowa Educational Theatre Association. Lynn Jensen, Iowa Thespian Festival director, said UNI is a perfect location for the event because festival venues are close to one another, the theatre department is exceptionally supportive, and more than 90 UNI theatre student volunteers eagerly serve as campus hosts and guides.

"There is no other conference in the organization that has this type of extensive college student and faculty support for a thespian conference event," said Jensen.

After an educational and fun-filled weekend, Jensen knows participants will continue to benefit from their festival experience.

"Students will have gained new theatre-related skills, seen theatre performances and will feel a greater sense of community among their fellow Iowa thespians," she said. "Directors will take with them a renewed sense of support from shared collegiality among the other high school theater teachers. And they'll also benefit from their students' renewed sense of being part of something bigger than their own school program."

Learn more about the Iowa Thespian Festival events at www.iowathespians.org.