Earlier this month, 17 Chamblee theater students joined thousands of other aspiring actors and theater technicians during the 2018 Georgia Thespian Conference. Taking place annually on the Columbus State University campus, this event is an opportunity for students to both perform in front of judges, take classes from professionals, and attend other showcases.
“Basically, Thescon is an annual three day convention for thespian troupes in Georgia,” said sophomore Sidney Johnson. “It’s an opportunity for the student officers that run your theater or drama department to go see shows, take classes, and meet other people who share the same interest in theater.”
Johnson explains that, to qualify for Thescon, students need to be members of Chamblee’s thespian troupe.
“If they want to be in the thespian troupe, they have to do something directly related to the school musical to get thespian points,” she said. “With thespian points, they’d have the opportunity to become a member and attend Thescon.”
As a first time participant, Thescon was not at all what Johnson expected.
“This was my first year,” she said. “I was really nervous because I had a feeling that the classes were going to be kind of hard and that there were going to be lots of talented people there, but it ended up being fine. The classes were fun and the shows were really cool.”
Junior Natalia Carlson, a second time attendee, noted the absence of drama teacher Linda Lirette , who was on maternity leave this year.
“I went to Thescon last year as well,” said Carlson. “I didn’t really interact with Mrs. Lirette last year but it was strange going without a teacher that we all have. The biggest difference was with preparation. We worked on individual events in class last year.”
For the evaluation part of the conference, many Chamblee students had the opportunity to present a prepared performance, known as an individual event or “IE.”
“Our school can send four performance individual events and one tech individual event, but we don’t all have to perform,” said senior Julia Hufford. “I didn’t have one but those who represented Chamblee did really well and I was really proud of them!”
Carlson was the lone participant in the tech IE.
“I did a tech IE for Guys and Dolls lighting design,” she said. “My presentation went well and I got an excellent. It was my first time doing a tech IE so I didn’t really know what to expect. I would say that now I am better prepared for next year. “
The other part of the three day weekend consisted of taking classes and watching shows. Johnson describes how the classes were chosen beforehand.
“They basically had an app where you could go and choose the classes you wanted to take,” she said. “I took a dance class from a former Rockette which was really fun. It was probably my favorite class. She was a really good teacher and she didn’t make me feel stupid for not knowing how to dance.”
Hufford also attended the Rockette class and enjoyed it equally.
“My favorite class was the ‘Bevel, Kick and Guide Like a Rockette’ class,” she said. “I love to dance but I am by no means a dancer. This was the first class I took all weekend and I was really worried everyone would be too hardcore. But that was not the case at all!”
She notes that the class was more of a relaxed environment than what she had expected.
“The instructor just wanted us to enjoy ourselves,” she said. “We learned how to do the pinwheel which is where the rockettes walk in two big circles. We had so much fun and I could actually keep up!”
Carlson attended a more technical class, and noted that it helped her improve in her field.
“I took a lighting design class on Saturday that I really enjoyed,” she said. “I learned a lot of new information that will be helpful for the next show. I think that if I wanted to be on stage again the acting classes would be really helpful. Every class gives a lot of information.”
Johnson felt that Thescon was a good chance to bond with other thespians. Some of her favorite memories of the convention were the performances she watched with friends.
“We watched a lot of shows there, but since they jam so much into the entire weekend, you can’t see the full show,” she said. “They kind of have to be condensed into an hour long performance. So there were a lot of shows where we didn’t really know what was happening because the plot was just really hurried. We watched one–I think it was about the French Revolution or something–but none of us knew what was happening the entire time. It was hilarious.”
Although Thescon was a unique and immersive experience, it is not the only chance for Chamblee students to get involved with acting. For those who missed out, there are still other opportunities closer to home.
“Chamblee Onstage classes usually opens up for people who aren’t taking her classes to sign up and do a song or a dance or something,” said Johnson. “If people want to get involved with the spring showcase then they can reach out to Ms. Lirette and ask.”