Student Blog: Junior Year in Review

Buckle in for a play-by-play (get it?) of everything that went down this year

By: Jun. 01, 2024
Student Blog: Junior Year in Review
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Junior year of high school is infamous for being the busiest and most intense. In my experience, I had to balance two AP classes, two performing groups, standardized testing, and more. In this blog, I am going to recap all of my theatre-related endeavors month-by-month throughout this school year, all the way from July 2023 to the present. Buckle in!

I kicked off my junior year with a leadership camp for my school drama program’s executive board in July. I served as Assistant Secretary this year. At leadership camp, we discussed organization and planning for the year, as well as doing exercises in boundary-setting, work-life balance, and more. The rest of the officers and I had a great time and felt more confident about our expectations for the year. Not long after, I opened The SpongeBob Musical, where I was in the ensemble. This show was my first show at the college level, and I learned a ton throughout the process as well as having a blast performing it. I also had the opportunity to appear on the podcast Fountainized, hosted by Dorian Maliq. I met Dorian through working together on SpongeBob and thoroughly enjoyed appearing on the podcast to discuss artistry, youth theatre, work ethic, and more. Before SpongeBob closed, I auditioned for Mean Girls and was cast as Damian. The rehearsal process began before the month was out.

In August, I interviewed to be the Costume Designer, as well as Costume department and Wardrobe Manager for my school’s fall play, Suite Surrender. While I did not end up getting selected to design, I was chosen to manage the Costume department and Wardrobe. This worked out in the production’s favor, since the designer (Sydney Gepson) and I worked extremely well together. I found a passion for organization and management, which is a new trait that Suite Surrender gave me the space to discover. Throughout August, I attended the readthrough, took measurements, and began meeting with my costume crew. Next, I auditioned and was cast in my school’s improv troupe, which rehearsed every other week. Suite Surrender production meetings picked up, and the production team took a trip to our costume rental facility to rent the pieces for the show. 

It may seem as though I forgot to mention the other show that I was apart of throughout all of that. No, Mean Girls was still rehearsing throughout all of the craziness of Suite Surrender. In September, we had a promo photoshoot at a local mall. The principals had a great time with our photographer, Noelle Parent, and we got some of my favorite photos from the process out of that day. We opened, and I realized while playing Damian that perhaps it was time for me to retire from the world of community theatre. During the run of Mean Girls, we had our first choir concert of the year. In my Company Theatre class, we also rehearsed the one-act that we were submitting for the Arizona Thespians One-Act competition, Rules of Comedy. We recorded it with a live audience and submitted it to our state thespian organization for scoring.

October was a quiet month, with the only major event being Halloweenpalooza, my school’s annual haunted house. The event is a fundraiser for theatre, choir, pom, and any other group on campus that wants to hold a booth. As a drama club officer, I led a room of our circus-themed haunted house: the clown room. Our room was definitely pretty scary, and ended up in the yearbook! I also continued work on Suite Surrender.

Suite Surrender ran the first week of November, and I got to work with my Wardrobe crew on maintenance, organization of costumes, and any last-minute changes that needed to be made. This would not have been possible without the leadership of our stage manager, Sydney Kennedy, and our ASM, MaryJane Savage, whose energy and knowledge made the tech/dress/show process one of the smoothest I have ever participated in. Company Theatre found out that our one-act, Rules of Comedy, was selected to perform at the Arizona Thespian Festival, so we had to put the whole show back together with a week’s notice. We did not end up winning the competition, but performing at the Phoenix Convention Center was one of the highlights of my year. I also got to perform with the improv troupe for the first time, and we placed second in the statewide Improv Tourney at Thespian Festival. At my last workshop of the festival, “Acting through Song,” I performed a musical selection in front of a group of my peers and had a clinic with a professional teaching artist. At the end of the clinic, I performed it again, and the teacher asked if he could film it to share with his colleagues. The video is still up on my social media, and it was an extremely encouraging moment for me as a performer. When we got back to school, I applied and was selected to be a director for our school’s Student-Directed One-Acts with an original piece titled Snowed In. I auditioned and casted the show, and it was incredibly inspiring to see all of the talent in my school’s theatre program from a directorial standpoint. In addition to Snowed In, I also got to participate in a script analysis of Macbeth for my director’s graduate school program through the University of Idaho. Two of my friends and I got to participate in annotation, discussion, active analysis, improvisation exercises, and more led by our director. This was submitted via video for her final exam, and was a super fun opportunity to be a nerd about theatre.

December kicked off with the Hamilton Theatre Competition, which my Company Theatre class had been preparing for since we closed Rules of Comedy. I placed first in Duet Musical, fourth in Monologues, and third in Costume Design. In the world of choir, we performed our annual holiday concert, which included selections from Handel’s Messiah. Our school’s chamber orchestra joined us for the aforementioned piece, and we got to perform it again at their concert later in the week. Our improv troupe performed our first solo show, and absolutely crushed it. My directorial debut, Snowed In, premiered in December as well. I was incredibly proud of everyone who worked on it with me, and am forever grateful of the role that that experience played in solidifying my goal of being a director. Company Theatre put on an improvised rendition of a holiday classic in The Nutcracker (Kind Of). By integrating improvisation into a well-known tale, we took our audience on an interactive journey through the Sugarplum Forest and beyond. In the last week of school, auditions were held for our spring musical, Anastasia. I auditioned and was cast as Vlad, which was just the beginning of a long process ahead. I also got to perform with an organization called Curtain Call, which holds a biannual cabaret to raise money for local youth theatre companies. That wrapped up the 2023 calendar year, but there was much more ahead of me.

In the new year, I performed in another cabaret, this time for my friend Lily Nelson’s Fine Arts Seal. We sang a piece from Alice By Heart that tied into her theme of moving between different stages of life. Now that she has graduated, Lily will be pursuing a BFA in musical theatre at Syracuse University. Later in January, I performed at the Eastern Arizona Festival of Theatre, earning a Superior rating in Duet Musical, Solo Musical, and Duo Acting, and an Excellent rating in Group Musical. I will be bringing my Solo Musical piece, “Time” from Tuck Everlasting, to the Thespy Awards at the International Thespian Festival at the University of Indiana this summer!

In February, I got a call from a local community theatre asking me to swing in for a cast member in their production of Footloose who had tested positive for COVID-19. Independently, I learned several musical numbers and memorized all of the character’s lines over the course of 48 hours before performing in the show for one night only. Keeping with the theme of short time frames, I wrote a piece for my school’s 24-Hour Play-Fest titled Who Needs a Valentine? Directed by Brielle Norlie over the course of a single day, I challenged the actors to put on a Southern period piece. The show was hilarious, and I was immensely proud of all involved. Also, Anastasia rehearsals continued.

Every year, our 7-12 choir program puts on a Broadway-themed choir concert, where each of the eight choirs performs a 15-20 minute medley of songs from a movie or musical in show choir style. This March, my group performed a Les Mis medley, where I played a student revolutionary. The music was challenging and the medley was extremely long, but it was fun to be able to study the world of musical theatre in an environment that does not traditionally focus on it. Anastasia went into tech and dress following this.

In April, I performed Anastasia. I specifically remember our Friday night show being the best performance I have ever given, and the whole experience holds a special place in my heart. Later in the month, our choir program went to Anaheim to perform at the Music in the Parks festival. We spent a day at the beach, a day at Disneyland, and a day at Knott’s Berry Farm. At Disney’s Imagination Campus, we got to learn from a voice actor and record two songs in an actual recording studio. We learned the Muppets theme and “Stampede” from the animated feature, The Lion King. I got to play Scar in the latter, and somehow shocked my choir friends with my ability to act out a character? At our festival, we brought home first place in Large School Mixed Concert Choir and Large School Jazz Choir at a national competition, which was incredible.

Wrapping up the school year in May, the Anastasia cast began rehearsing for the Arizona State University Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards, where each of the 25 participating schools gets to perform a number from their school musical on the Gammage stage. Since not everyone was in the number that we chose to perform, we had to adjust a lot of formations as well as polish the choreography and vocals. Our improv troupe had our last show of the year, which was also our captain Sydney Gepson’s Fine Arts Seal project. Our final choir concert and banquet were magnificent, and we also performed at the graduation ceremony. The final performance for Company Theatre was an original devised one-act titled The Eye, the Clock, and the Raven: Twisted Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I played the Murderer in the “Tell-Tale Heart” sequence as well as serving as Hair and Makeup Designer for the show. This piece was accompanied by three other one-acts performed by my school’s Theatre III, Junior Company, and Junior High Theatre Workshop classes. At the theatre banquet, I was inducted as an Honor Thespian through the International Thespian Society in recognition of over 600 hours of work in educational theatre. It was also announced that I would be serving as Vice President of my school’s drama club in the upcoming school year, an opportunity that I could not be more excited about. After the year was done, we still had the ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards performance to look forward to. We performed “Land of Yesterday” and although our company did not take home any awards, we still had a great time performing, networking, and learning from other schools. Just today, I began the process for my next project, Finding Nemo at Arizona Broadway Theatre. I will be assistant directing the show alongside one of my favorite directors that I have ever worked with, Stephen Hohendorf. Rehearsals begin June 3rd, and I cannot wait to meet these 33 young artists. Working with 7-12 year-olds is definitely going to be a challenge, but I am confident that we are going to be able to collaborate to make some amazing art, memories, and knowledge.

Going into senior year, I will also be navigating the college admissions process, which will undoubtedly present challenges of its own, but it is nothing I cannot handle. I am leaving this year feeling exceptionally blessed and grateful to have so many opportunities to explore my passions, and for the unrelenting support of my family, friends, and teachers. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!


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