ArtsLink: Doing a Little Bit of Bragging on Our BHS Thespians

By Jason Young on July 09, 2012 from A&E Blog via

I have started and restarted this blog five times.
I have tried to be creative. I have tried to be original. I have tried to be witty. I have tried to be deceptive.
This has all been in an attempt to coerce you into reading just long enough for me to be able to slip in some shameless bragging.
I can’t do it. I have failed.
So, I am just going to brag. If you don’t like it, scroll down to the bottom of the page and leave a comment. You can’t hurt my feelings these days because I am one very proud papa (metaphorically speaking).
Last week, six members of the Bridgeport High School Theatre program attended the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, and on a global stage represented themselves, Bridgeport, and West Virginia in a far more than respectable fashion.
First, I need to comment on how humbled I am by the bravery of this delegation. Of course, it was an amazing experience and a ton of fun, but even at 29, the thought of traveling 1,000 miles and a time zone away, auditioning for some of the best college theatre programs in the nation, and competing against some of the best youth theatre performers in the world gives me butterflies. Then as a chaperone, to navigate and be responsible for two hotels, four airplane rides, four taxi rides, three rooms spread across two dormitories, two shuttle rides, and nine days of close proximity with each other…no, thank you…I will pass.
But without a blink, second thought, or longing look back over the shoulder, they went. Then, what happened when they got there is more than I ever expected.
I want to brag primarily about the two major events that the students participated in.
Kody Mullins and Maggie Ludwig took part in the Thespian College Auditions. Some 50 colleges and universities come to the Festival from around the country to recruit the world’s top rising seniors. The auditions are set up in a “cattle-call” style; that means that each of the over 400 students who had pre-registered for the event was allocated two minutes in front of all 50 schools. What the students did during those two minutes was up to them.
Kody and Maggie both chose to present packaged auditions. This means that during the two minutes, they sang a section of a song from a musical and also performed part of a monologue from a play.
When the almost 15 hours of auditions were finished, each school posted a list of students they would like to “call-back,” or begin the interview and recruitment process with.  My wife told me that it seemed like the entire Festival descended upon the lobby where the lists were posted, similar to every movie scene that features a list of names or results being posted on a wall.
When the dust had settled, Maggie found her name on the list of 13 different schools, while Kody found his name under, an amazing, 22 different letterheads.
Allow me to put this in perspective.
If a student athlete went to an NCAA combine where he or she was put through a series of workouts in front of scouts from different Division I programs, and at the end of the day that student was given the personal business cards of the representatives of more than a dozen of those schools, he or she would be labeled an All-American, or a “Blue Chipper” for all you Dick Vitale fans out there.
While collegiate theatre doesn’t exactly have rankings like that, I am comfortable in predicting that in a year or so, you will read a story on Connect-Bridgeport about both of these students packing up and heading to a prestigious theatre school, just like you read about Connor Kornbrath’s recent relocation to the University of Iowa.
Now, the success in front of the “higher eds” would have been more than sufficient to celebrate the trip; however, I am far from finished.
Kody, Maggie, and Brooke Cottrill also participated in the National Individual Event Showcase (NIES). This event truly isn’t a competition in the sense that there is no clear winner, but it does have multiple rounds that students have to pass through in order to advance to the International Stage.
The first round for these three students came in Charleston in April: Kody, in the Solo Musical Theatre division, and Maggie and Brooke, together in the Duet Musical Theatre division, competed to earn a trip to the International Festival. Each piece; for Kody it was “I’m Not That Smart” from William Finn’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and for Maggie and Brooke it was “Who Will Love Me As I Am” from SideShow; was presented to a panel of two judges. The judges then had to independently rank each piece as Superior, Excellent, Good, or Fair. Only those pieces receiving all (in this case two) Superior rankings at the state level advanced to the International Festival.
Well, obviously both entries received all Superior rankings. So, it was on to Nebraska.
There are three rounds of NIES at the Festival. Each round is adjudicated by three judges, and in order to advance to the final round, where students get the opportunity to perform their pieces in front of every Thespian who had gathered at the University of Nebraska, the students have to receive all Superior rankings.
The kids from Bridgeport competed on Tuesday, the same day that the college auditions were held, as if one of these events wasn’t stressful enough on its own.
On Wednesday, the results of round one were posted. Our students did not advance.
On Thursday they received their judges score sheets. Both entries received two Superior Rankings and one Excellent Ranking, which was not enough to advance to the second round but enough to earn them a certificate of accomplishment for an overall Superior NIES entry.
These two pieces have now set the bar for every NIES entry from BHS next year. Having this kind of success in front of the students as something to aspire to will prove extremely beneficial.
Okay, I should stop.
It doesn’t mean that I am finished, but it does mean that it is time for me to admit that the accomplishments aren’t what makes me the most proud. I could have stopped this blog 750 words ago when I told you how humbled I was that they even decided to make the journey because in the end, that is what it is really about, right?
All of them, Maggie, Kody, Brooke, Ally, Christie, and Sarah, got out of their comfort zones. They saw shows presented by schools from across our country. They attended workshops taught by leading industry professionals and respected college professors. And they rubbed elbows with those that are most like them; the people who have the same passion and the same dreams about the same things that they do. Then, they came home, safely, and better off for it. That is the biggest accomplishment of them all.
If you have read this far, thank you for humoring me. I won’t be talking about BHS Theatre for a little while….
…until August 6 when we announce the shows to be presented in our upcoming season (wink wink).
So, mark your calendar.

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