Out of The Woods and Off to Nationals

Students’ performance advances to the International Thespian Festival


Every year Texas Thespians–an organization that supports and facilitates high school theatre education across the state–hosts the Texas Thespian Festival at the Gaylord Texan Resort. Over 20 kids from Decatur attended, and 10 of them competed in acting events. While the two that performed a duet acting scene were just shy of making it to the next round, the remaining eight qualified for nationals with their group musical scene from “Into the Woods.” 

“Top-scoring students receive ‘superior’ ratings for various criteria laid out in the rubric, and those who score overall superiors qualify to move on to the final international round, which takes place annually as the culminating event of the International Thespian Festival,” stated the Thespys website.

Unlike UIL events, Thespian competitions–or Thespys–start at the state level, so the competition is much larger. However, the performances are “graded” individually and not compared to each group.

“I felt nervous before we performed, but comfortable that I wasn’t the only one, and that we were all in it together, there to support each other and to do the best we could,” said freshman Catherine Yurasek. “During the performance I was still nervous, but I just did what we had rehearsed many times before.” 

While the cast was familiar with the music–as they recently performed “Into the Woods Jr.” as Decatur’s fall musical–the group created and choreographed their new scene in only two weeks. However, when cast member Liz Lackey fell ill the week of competition, freshman Maggie Ballou took her place as Little Red Riding Hood.

“Joining group musical at the last minute was both an incredible and nerve-wracking experience,” said Ballou. “When first asked to join, I was so excited to get to work with such a talented group of people again and was honored to have been picked to fill in. However, I had two days to learn the choreography and was also under the pressure of not letting down my peers. Honestly, before competing I was freaking out internally, but after I felt so relieved and was able to just enjoy the whole experience.”

  Throughout the year students in the department perform plays and musicals, but Thespian Festival gives them a different experience of perfecting a short scene. The perfection they can achieve along with the competitive aspect creates a whole new environment for aspiring actors and theatre hobbyists alike.

“I would absolutely compete all over again. Performing is my greatest passion and being able to share it with a room of people who reciprocate that passion felt amazing! For those who want to compete, I would say to absolutely go for it,” said junior Rylie Wilson. “Take the leap, even if you fall, you will still learn how to improve.”

The experiences gained at Thespian Festival help students unlock their passions and grow beyond their departments at home. The festival hosts various theatre related classes, college auditions, scholarship opportunities and many full scale performances.

“This was my first year of going to and competing at Thespian Festival and it was such an incredible opportunity. I feel I grew in my abilities and mindset as a performer and was shown a more advanced level of skill,” Ballou said. “Competing tested my flexibility and determination as an actress, and the confidence I had in myself. Attending the diverse types of workshops was really helpful for working on specific skills I needed help with and it was also fun to be around people with as much a passion for theater as Troupe 6099.”

DHS has sent students to Thespian Festival for many years, but there is no record of Decatur qualifying for nationals in any event. 

“Competing to me means reputation mainly. Who would have thought that a small school like ours would be one to qualify! For years theatre at DHS was overlooked and hopefully what we’ve done just this semester will change many people’s perspectives, and they will look at our department as hard working and growing,” said senior Kalvin Atonio. “Hard work, determination and a strong mindset will take you far in the competition.”