Theatre festival brings hundreds to PHS

PELHAM – Nearly 1,000 theatre students from across the state gathered at Pelham High School for the Alabama State Thespian Festival from Feb. 23-24.

PHS theatre teacher Melissa Bailey said this is the second year the school has hosted the event, which was started by the Alabama Educational Theatre Association. The association is a national group that advocates for theatre arts in schools and provides students and teachers with enriching and meaningful experiences in the performing arts.

In addition to nearly 1,000 students from 48 schools throughout the state, 75 guest artists taught workshops at the festival. Students participated in classes such as Intro to Circus, West African Djembe dance, scene design, Intro to Theatrical Clowning, stage combat, costume design, stage makeup and much more.

“It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work,” Bailey said. “We use both gyms, the choir room, 40 classrooms and the library. I have 180 theatre students and at some point they all helped me prepare to host this event. The parents are really involved, too. They’re helping with concessions.”

Students also participated in competitions for the best productions. With a time limit of 30 minutes, students performed group acting productions, monologues and several other categories. Bailey said there was a total of 21 categories.

Scholarship auditions were also held for students majoring in theatre arts in college and vendors were on hand selling stage makeup, scripts, music, merchandise and more. The Education Theatre Association offered in-state scholarship, but representatives from other colleges, in-state and out-of-state, also attended the festival to offer scholarship opportunities.

“Students love the festival because it’s a great opportunity to be exposed to so many difference shows, workshops and then there’s the social aspect of it too,” Bailey said. “They get to meet students from all over the state who are just like them. It’s really reassuring for them to meet like-minded peers.”

PHS junior and lighting director Louie Smith said he likes that tech aspect of theatre.

“Knowing how to work lights and sound equipment could come in handy in other areas of life, not just theatre,” he said.

PHS senior Jessie Todd, a sound technician, said she liked being able to help host the event.

“We like being able to help people and show our guests how to work our equipment,” Todd said. “It’s time-consuming, but it’s worth it.”

“It’s always great to be able to look back and know that we helped with this,” Smith added.

Todd and Smith said their favorite part about the festival was getting to meet new people.

“The people you meet through theatre are great people,” Todd said. “The people you meet are energetic and have larger-than-life personalities.”

The PHS culinary department provided food for the weekend. Bailey said they prepared an all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet and other popular food items, like hamburgers. Bailey said it took the effort of the whole PHS community to help pull the event off.

More photos are available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.