February 1, 2019
On January 3rd, Atholton High School’s Theater Department traveled down the road to Howard Community College to partake in the Howard County Theater Festival. Atholton later ventured to Towson University on January 11th and 12th for the annual Maryland Thespian Festival.
We joined eleven other Howard County high schools at Howard Community College (HCC) for a day full of theater workshops and performances from All County Improv (ACI), HCC students, and each participating high school.
The day started out with the ACI performing a few of their improv games. “We do warm up games and just pick things that are improv related,” said Atholton junior, Cameron Goodwin-Shoen, who has been a member of ACI for two years now. The ACI performance was jam packed with bursts of laughter, to arguing parents, to the best possible Steve Buscemi impression. “It’s hilarious,” said Brenna Lindberg, a senior at Atholton. “I always love watching ACI perform.”
Throughout the day, we took part in various theater-related workshops for both actors and tech members. Workshops ranged from Swashbuckling, DC Stage Coalition, Stage Makeup, Musical Theater Auditions, Acting For the Camera, to Blocking In Our Shadow. Swashbuckling and DC Stage Coalition were two of the favorites among students from Atholton and the other schools. When imagining Swashbuckling, I thought that it was very similar to Princess Bride. “We learned the basics of sword fighting on stage,” stated Lindberg. Dylan Hintz, a professional stuntman from DC Stage Coalition based in Rockville, Maryland, instructed a class that Lindberg described as learning the basics of combat fighting while performing either live or in front of a camera. Although the workshop was a fistful of fun, Lindberg and I both woke up the next day with a healthy dose of whiplash.
Atholton senior Brenna Lindberg and junior Erin Edwards practice their stage combat skills.
Lindberg was thrilled with the workshops she took this year. The senior remarked on how the instructors tailored their workshops to be suitable and applicable to high schoolers and their theater experience.
Atholton sophomore, Victor Dimitrov said “I like that we got to learn new information about how theater works overall. I learned a lot of details about what you should pay attention to when you’re in a play, part of the stage crew, what you should do.” Goodwin-Shoen added that he enjoyed the depth that each instructor went into with their workshops, thrilled that he was able to learn from professionals who specialized in theater.
After the workshops concluded, students were sent back to the auditorium for an encore from ACI and a few scenes from HCC’s upcoming show, Heathers the Musical. This is an annual tradition at the Howard County Theater Festival, a few of the actors from HCC perform a selection of scenes from the upcoming show in order to advertise the show to the students. “I thought it was good. When I went last year, the snippet that I saw was really good and when I went to the show, it was fantastic. So hopefully that will be the same thing this year,” said Lindberg.
To continue the festivities, our drama department traveled to Towson University on January 11th and 12th for the annual Maryland Thespian Festival. The festival is put on by the International Thespian Society to celebrate all things theater and to provide theater-related workshops to students and teachers across the state of Maryland. This was the first year that the festival was completely sold out.
The festival began with a brief opening ceremony with keynotes speakers Jodi Stevens, a Broadway actress, and Scott Bryce, a Broadway, television, and movie actor in the Stephens Hall. Students then dispersed throughout Towson’s Center for the Arts for all types of workshops, including Basics of Theater Directing & Blocking, Storytelling Without Words, Clowning, Mask Making, Intro to Puppetry, Acting for the Camera, Triple Threat Musical Theatre Workshop, Wigs, The Vulnerability Workshop, Sketch Comedy, Playwriting 101, Object Manipulation, Pratfalls and Face Plants, and many, many more.
(From left to right) Atholton junior Erin Edwards, senior Jack Pazulski, and senior Lev Axler put their craft skills to the test.
Pazulski and Edwards’ final products before painting the masks.
“I loved how interactive most of the workshops were and how they encouraged me to be comfortable with being the center of attention,” said Atholton senior, Carol Wang, who is the head of Atholton’s costumes, hair, and makeup department, and generally finds herself in the back of the costumes closet. “In Pratfalls and Face plants, I learned how to fall on stage safely and realistically. It was really cool, but I was so sore the next day. Clowning was surprisingly difficult. We learned about what it takes to be a clown and did exercises that put us in the mindset of being a clown.”
The most interesting workshops that I attended at Towson University were The Vulnerability Workshop and Clowning. In both workshops, I was pushed out of my comfort zone. The first half of The Vulnerability Workshop was what the instructor called “physical vulnerability” where we had to dance along to music for about 40 minutes. No one was supposed to be watching anyone, everyone was dancing to their own beat along with the songs. I took away from this workshop that I get very uncomfortable dancing around others. Even my friends who were in the workshops noticed how uncomfortable I was and made sure I was doing alright after the workshop, which was the first workshop I attended at the festival. In the second half of the workshop, we learned about “emotional vulnerability”, which was a guided meditation where we shared something that we needed to admit to ourselves afterwards. The emotional portion of the workshop was something I was actually comfortable with, even though I did not have anything to share to the group.
Clowning came up as a close second behind The Vulnerability Workshop for the most uncomfortable situations I was put in that weekend. The Clowning workshop was not all red noses and goofy smiles. The instructor wanted to teach us that it was okay to stand in front of an audience and not do anything. This exercise featured us doing just that: standing in front of the rest of the group and solely staring at each person for a few seconds before moving on to the next person. During this exercise, it felt impossible not to giggle, even though there was nothing funny happening. I took away from this excercise that I get rather uncomfortable around silence and therefore filled the silence with muffled giggles that I was trying with every muscle in my body to stop from escaping my mouth.
Atholton junior Erin Edwards, sophomore Sophia Leshchyshyn, senior Sammy Speigel, as well as Maryvale Preparatory School junior Olivia Magaletta perform their new puppetry skills.
Atholton senior Lev Axler participated in multiple workshops that would assist him in his role for Shrek in Atholton’s production of Shrek the Musical this coming March. “I learned a lot of things that can apply to different characters, as well as general useful acting skills,” said Axler. He primarily worked on different accents that he could use on stage, such as the Scottish accent Shrek uses or the Spanish accent Axler’s previous character, Gomez Addams in our production of Addams Family last year. Axler also participated in Mask Making with me and Atholton senior Jack Pazulski where he said they were able to create a mask out of plaster that can be used on and off the stage. This workshop was also an opportunity for us to make new friends and talk to other students about their theater departments outside of Howard County.
The first night concluded with the Trash Costumes contest, a competition to see which school could build the best costume out of recyclables, a tradition held annually at the Maryland Thespian Festival. Teams were comprised of three designers/builders and one model. Atholton’s 2019 team included me, senior Heather Friedman, and senior Carol Wang as designers/builders and Axler as the designated model.
“It was exciting and intense when we had to dive in to get the trash,” said Friedman. Wang described the experience as “absolute anarchy,” and later explained, “I was really nervous beforehand, but once the timer started, … there was no time for fear. It was so much fun.”
Atholton’s trash costumes team ended up winning the qualifiers for the final round with their Rockin’ Rainbow design. However, the team fell short in the final with their Red is for Passion dress but were still in good spirits and congratulating the other teams afterwards.
Due to weather and road conditions becoming a growing concern across the state, many schools were told that they needed to go home early during the second and final day of the festival, making the festival conclude after dinner on Saturday night. The awards and closing ceremonies were cancelled and awards were announced via the Guidebook app, an application that was utilized throughout the festival for announcements and schedules. Even though the festival concluded earlier than expected, our drama department along with Long Reach High School’s were still thrilled enough to belt out to our favorite soundtracks from various musicals on the bus ride home.
The festivals were a smash hit, allowing students the opportunity to display their skills while also trying new activities outside of their comfort zones. Wang found her final festival to be a great success, concluding, “Overall, it was a great learning experience in that I had the opportunity to briefly try stuff I never would have done as part of the costumes and makeup department at Atholton, such as clowning or… falling.”