MO State Conference 2015 in KC

KC - Here We Come!

Time to "BRANCH OUT" Going to New Heights 
the theme of this year's conference

This year Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Conners (from Hixson Middle School) took an adventure to Kansas City, MO to the Downton Marriot Hotel and KC Convention Center to attend the 2015 MO State Thespian Conference.

We were so fortunate to take 24 students 
to the conference this year. 

The students must be initiated and have an ITS number from our state chapter in order to attend. This is an honor for the students and we are always encouraging kids to work on the shows after school, help out in the department and participate in the one act program to earn points. 

When the students have worked a certain number of hours in the department (excluding classtime) they are invited by the sponsors to join the Thespian troupe and some are asked to attend state.


This year the conference was moved to KC and we stayed at the Downtown Marriot Hotel. It was a wonderful place for us and they were a fabulous host to our kids and staff.

The hotel was beautiful and had lots of room for us to move around and spread out.


The rooms were nice and the kids had either four to a room or 3 to a room depending.

We had a Skywalk that took us from one tower of the Marriot to the other. We also used an underground tunnel to get from the hotels to the KC Convention Center.

The view was amazing and you can see the Convention Center to the right.


We left the St Louis in order to be at a convention center that has a theater space (The Music Hall) that can hold the entire student group at once. The previous year we couldn't fit into one theater all together...and that isn't as much fun.

The Lobby to the Music Hall was amazing and had a really neat mix of Greco-Roman features mixed with 1920's Art Deco influences. It was a beautiful and elegant theater for the kids to go and watch the main stage shows, the IE showcase and have their general assembly meetings during the conference.

We hope to get a show judged next year and we hope to get selected and have the opportunity to work on this wonderful stage. The stage is fully equipped and they allow the students to get a full immersion in the technical aspects of the space.  


We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to watch two other high school productions at State this year and the choices gave us musicals from two different eras of musical theater.

THURS night we saw a production of Roger and Hammerstein's Sound of Music. We have produced this show at WGHS recently, but it was nice to see a school tackle the show and not cut a single word from the script or note from the score. The show was a wonderful time capsule piece from the 50's. 

We were extremely worn out that night and the show was 3 hours long, so unfortunately some of our troupe just couldn't make it through the whole thing. Some us stayed and watched it all. It was interesting to experience what the audiences back on Broadway in the 50's got from this award-winning team of composer/lyricist/book writing theater icons. It is dated and some of it isn't relevant to modern audiences, but for the students to see the history of the piece in this production makes the effort worth every second.

FRIDAY night was saw a really neat production of Disney's Tarzan the musical. It is very close to the animated movie version with music by Elton John. The production was solid and the kids did a great job with the show. We loved it and the energy at the end of the show sent the audience to their late night activities full of excitement and a desire to socialize! 

The production was expansive and expensive. The cast was over 60 people and the crew had 20 or so more involved. They have a big school. They had great costumes and a great set. The lighting and sound suffered a bit in this space, but they worked through it and we enjoyed their efforts.    


The group of kids that attended to represent WG were amazing and really worked hard to prepare pieces for performance, technical, improv, and design competitions that STATE offers.

In the end it proved to be worth the effort. We were honored with lots of recognition for the work the kids put in and we also received top honors in several categories within our troupe.


Kate Arendes wrote a one act that she wrote and directed three semesters ago called the Woodlawn Redeption. Out of a the people who submitted their work to be picked for this honor, Kate's was the only one chosen and she was assigned to a director at conference and held auditions to find a cast. 

This is Webster's first "Page to Stage" selection 
in over ten years! 

Several members of the troupe attended the showing of the play.
Mr. Schaefer taking a selfie with the group of WG Thespians at the second run.

Kate was allowed to be involved in a large part of the process during casting, some rehearsals and during the performances for talk back sessions with the audience.

This is Kate (top center) with her original cast of WG actors and her conference cast as well. 

There was a great Q & A after each run. She talked to the audiences about the process and the fact that she had a great experience with the people involved. Kate wants to pursue writing and this proved to be a valuable part of her journey.


The WG Drama Department has classes that build a really great core for improv. The students who take Drama I get a introduction to improvisational acting and then Advanced Drama class takes that training a step further with a more in-depth look at the structure of the games and the foundations of building better teamwork in this type of acting. 

The students have been working very hard in class and the team we sent all have 7th Hour Advanced Drama class together. That always helps when building chemistry in a team.

We learned several of the games in class and they also met a couple times on their own to learn several more. They also practiced a bit in workshops at conference and in some of the time waiting outside the judging room.

The WGHS improv team (from left to right) 
Miles Umbaugh, Goldie Raznick, Lily Newsham, Aerin Johnson, and Annelise Kerr-Grant

They did great playing the games and were very funny! They had good time, and now know how to prep for the following year. The team had some nice chemistry and really learned to listen to other on stage and to use some good tricks. The headbands looked good and gave them a sense of unity. 


The Tech Team worked very hard on preparing for all of their events, and in the end only played a few of them at State. Jonah Schnell was the captain and he held regular practice session at school before we left to get their times on the events down to what was in the state archives as best score. It proved to be worth the effort. They WON BEST OVER-ALL SCORE!!!

This gives them an invite to nationals and an opportunity to compete again as a team!!! 

The Team had some great chemistry and the students that decided to work on this event shared an equal enthusiasm to attempt a win. Jonah's schedule was tough and he held them accountable for their individual activities in the competition. 

They came up with a uniform for the team and they used the WG colors to get everyone's attention.

(from the left)
Jacob Noce, Alex White, Maddy Toskin, 
and Jonah Schnell (Team Captain)

This is a wonderful opportunity for the techies to shine at conference and to offer a way to showcase the different sides of tech theater. Sometimes we can forget that without the technicians the actors would be on a bare stage, in the dark, holding nothing, and standing there naked. Techies bring theater to life!

Here are the events they played and 
WG Tech Team placed in all four of them!


          We are very proud of their hard work and break legs at Nationals in June 2015


We are allowed to send students to compete in IEs (Individual Events) at State and they are judged in a room on several factors. The judges are usually theater educators from other schools and they are given a certain time slot and time limit for their piece. It is done like the standard speech events at a speech and debate tournament and the rooms allow other students to watch.

It is modeled to emulate the process a performer would face in an audition, and it gives the student the opportunity to pick interesting material and push themselves as artists.    

We are only allowed to send one student for each category. (We sent students to each event except duo musical.)


Goldie worked very hard preparing her two selections. In the end she was given enough high scores in the competition that she was given an accomplished rating and an invite to nationals to perform her two pieces again.

She performed a cutting from Oleanna by David Mamet and Pteradactyls by Nicky Silver. They were both extremely challenging and diverse pieces. Goldie did a great job and we wish her well at nationals in June 2015!!!

                                                 Watch her performance right here!



Justin and Emily also worked hard getting their piece ready and they too received high enough scores to advance to nationals. They took a cutting from the opening scene from Rumors and really made it work well for this event. Their chemistry on stage is great and the scene was really tight.

The received an invite on friday night to perform in front of the whole conference audience at the final IE shwcase on Sat afternoon. This is such cool opportunity for a high school student to perform on a very large stage, in front of a very large house, and for some really loud applause:)

This will be Emily's second time at nationals for an IE and Justin's first time out. The work they have already put in has paid off and we wish them well on their next level of competition.

                         They did great! 

                                   Watch their initial IE performance right here:



We also competed in the Group Acting category with a wonderfully dramatic and darkly funny piece from Tracy Lett's August: Osage County. 

The actors involved were Lily Newsham, Annalise Kerr-Grant, Allison O'Brien, Jake Schutt, Miles Umbaugh, Jacob Noce, and Micah Wilson.

                                          Watch their initial IE performance right here:


They worked hard right before conference to get the scene memorized, blocked, and polished. It turned out well and they did great. The actors developed some great moments in the scene and the energy was all there. The judges had some comments and their scores were a bit shy to move on to the next level, but we learned a lot and the kids had fun performing the cutting. 

for working hard and getting in front of the judges!


Our team for this category came from our Spring Musical from last Spring. The three performed a piece from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It is a very tough song called the "I Love You Song".

They hadn't sang it in awhile and so they started rehearsing right before conference to get the notes back and to find their timing with the track they were going to be using at State. We also had to coach the piece a bit to find some new staging, the staging from our production just didn't work in the context of the cutting and without props and costumes. 

The performers were Sarah Addison, Erin Stanton and Robbie Morefield

They did a great job with the song and the judges liked their sound. They got hit with marks against them because the story was a bit confusing for some of the judges (who didn't know the show)and the song just doesn't have much else they can do to sell the story anymore than we did.

They sounded great and the piece turned out great!

                                              Watch there IE performance right here:



We also had Hannah Leatherbarrow bring a piece to state and it was entirely new to us. We hadn't worked on it in class or in production. We selected the piece before winter break and she got very familiar with it before we blocked it and coached it the week prior to leaving for competition.

She performed a song from Sweeney Todd called "The Worst Pies in London", and it is extremely difficult and was a huge stretch for her.

Hannah is a work horse and she brought a lot to the piece by putting in a lot time memorizing and running the very intricate blocking. The song goes very fast and the words come equally fast. We used a track online and it didn't give a lot of breathing room, but she made it work and the song turned out great. 

                                           Watch her IE performance right here!



This is the second year we participated in the design events. two students worked on design boards and brought presentations for the judges.


Jonah Schnell designed the lights for Ten Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse by Don Zolidis. He spent a lot of time on this project and used the production to build confidence and to help create a unique look to the show. 

Jonah put together a display board and practiced his interview many times before he went in front of the judges and he did very well. 


Kate Arendes also competed in design, but she entered the event for scene design and created an original design for our Fall play Rumors. This was a great project for her and she rocked it out in the end. (and it was really up against the time limit to get done).

All of her work paid off and she was selected to go to nationals.

Kate presented well and the judges liked her effort to create a design that used 
the vision of the director to inspire her own individual choices. 

Here she is with her design board and her model. Kate is in Tech Theater class and excels in drawing and drafting scenic designs. Her work in class in what inspired her to tackle this event.


We are so pleased with Jonah Schnell's work in the department. He is only a junior this year and has already put in more time than any other thespian in the troupe. 

The 2015-2016 State Officers 
(Jonah is on the far right)

Jonah spent quite a bit of time working at the auction table.
Their efforts paid off! 
They made around $2000 

Jonah is a WG Troupe 191 officer and is now a State Thespian Officer as well. This conference had him meeting and working with the current officers to learn the ropes for conference, and then at the end of the awards ceremony on Sat. Jonah was formally handed the reigns as a member of the STO team! 

                                                          CONGRATS to our MVP!!!

Here he is on stage after being given his official sash as a State Officer (STO)

The Conference Center

We are so luck to have such a dedicated MO Thespian Board and they really put in a lot of work to make this event happen for us. The Building we used for the conference was awesome. It took us all day Thurs to figure it out, but once we got out selves acquainted with the layout of the space it was a piece of cake navigating the weekend. 

The various rooms we used for all of the great workshops, the improv competition, the page to stage, the other one acts, and the Friday night dance (which was Glow themed and had a great DJ)

The Friday night dance was a huge success - as always!!

Lots of rooms they used had space for physical movement and they had to hold a lot of people

The Workshops

The students attended several sections of workshop per day depending on what else they had going on, and each workshop was taught by a professional in that field. All sorts of workshops that included lighting, make-up, acting, auditioning, dancing, improv, set design, costumes, shakespeare, and a host of others. 

Liz, Maddy and Jake getting ready to hit another workshop!

This is the the coolest thing at conference 
and the students took full advantage of these great learning opportunities! 

Loren Kahrhoff at a swing dance workshop

We had Broadway performers and producers that gave workshops and the kids got a chance to speak and work with some big names in theater. 

Sarah Addison taking selfies with Mr. Schaefer's phone

The troupe after Tarzan!


We bought into the meal plan this year and it really savs us time in the end. The food was fine and the hotel staff was extremely friendly. We had several different meals that included: pasta with meatballs, chicken, nachos, salads, soups, and sandwiches. They had water and ice tea and the lines moved fast. 

Next year we'll probably do the plan again...even though it is a little expensive for what you get...
it is less work on our part. 

In Conclusion

We had such a great time working on the IE pieces this year and we are excited to see some of them again. The students really worked hard and we like that!

WG Drama would like to thank Mr. Schaefer for his time in getting the kids to KC for the three day trip, Mr. Conners for being our second sponsor for the trip, and Mrs. Romanowski for putting a lot of time into registration and the paperwork to get the students logged in, paid for and figuring out all of the transportation issues. 

Special Thanks to Aerin Johnson for taking some great pics of our troupe!

Finally, we had a good time on the bus building a bond with our new sister troupe at Lindberg HS and with their sponsor and ITS board member Jessica Laney. We hope to share more adventure with them in the future. 



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