Hundreds of students from across the state gathered at Chanhassen High School and at Minnesota’s premiere theater space – the Guthrie Theater – Feb. 16 and 17 for the Minnesota State High School Thespian Conference.
Among them were five local students who served on the thespian conference student board and contributed their organizational skills for the event. Those students are Abilene Olson, Elizabeth Sadusky and Hannah Beckman from St. Francis High School and Sophie Geerdes and Christine Menge from Blaine High School.
Throughout the two-day conference, students participated in workshops led by local and national theater professionals, took part in scholarship and college auditions, performed one-act plays, presented individual performances for adjudication, and much more.
Day one was held at Chanhassen High School where the thespian student and adult boards planned a day focusing on forging connections, including the presentation of an all-state staged reading of “Omnium Gatherum” by Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros.
Greg Hawks from St. Francis and Garrett Gessell, Amanda McMurtrie and Menge from Blaine were among the youth thespians performing in that staged reading.
Behind the scenes
Student technicians also had the opportunity to explore lighting, sound and design as they worked with professionals from Bedlam Theater during the conference.
Much was learned and many skills were recognized and awarded. Several students received superior ranking in various categories, qualifying them to participate in the International Thespian Festival in June.
Superior students include Geerdes for stage management and theatre marketing; Elizabeth Bartels and Geerdes for costume design and construction; and for solo musical performance Jacob Spaulding, Maya Richardson, Ashrene Mohammed, and Mallory Schmitt, all of Blaine High School.
Meanwhile, in the tech challenge, Colleen Halverson and Mercedez Johnson from St. Francis won third place in drop folding.
Another highlight of the Feb. 16-17 conference came when participants performed one-act plays on stage to an audience of their peers and professionals. St. Francis thespians performed “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” and Blaine’s troupe performed “Darcy and Elizabeth.”
The Minnesota Thespians offered four $1,000 scholarships based on interviews with each student and a review of students’ auditions and portfolios. Winning two of the four scholarships offered were Geerdes of Blaine and Olson of St. Francis.
“It was a great weekend,” said Glenn Morehouse Olson, St. Francis High School theater director, adding that several students were called back to audition for next year’s state show. Those students include Max Mauch-Morff and Natalie Hanson from St. Francis, and from Blaine, Garrett Gessell, Bradley Kimball and Paige Mooney.
Not only that, students were appointed to the state student board, replacing the graduating seniors. Students selected to serve on that board include Emily Pechovnik from St. Francis and Maria Sunderman from Blaine. Beckman of St. Francis will continue to serve on that board, as well.
Day two of the conference began at the Guthrie Theater where students participated in workshops with professional artists, practicing everything from acting and musical theater to comedy and playwriting.
In addition, students took backstage tours and had the opportunity to meet Guthrie staff through special “Inside Look” tours and panel discussions.
“It’s thrilling for the Guthrie to have the opportunity to serve hundreds of theater students in our world class building,” said Louise Chalfant, Guthrie education director. “These students are the next generation of professional artists, and to have them spend the day with us to network, learn, and to be inspired is very exciting for everyone involved.”
Sue Austreng is at