NEW ALBANY — New Albany High School is one of eight theater programs across the country selected to perform at the Thespian International Festival.
NAHS Theater Arts has been selected to present Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” on the main stage at the festival, which runs June 20-24 in Bloomington.
The theater department presented the production in November at NAHS after the school was selected by Disney Theatricals and Music Theater International to pilot a new version of the musical.
NAHS Director of Theater Arts Amy Miller describes the Thespian International Festival as the “Super Bowl of high school drama.” NAHS is the only Indiana school selected to perform on the main stage this year, and it will be the first in-person event festival since 2019.
“It’s huge,” Miller said. “Shows across the country are judged on a rubric to come and be part of those main stage performances. It’s a huge honour.
Two years ago, the school was selected to present its production of “My Fair Lady” at the festival, but it was canceled due to COVID-19. Floyd Central High School was also selected to perform at the festival in 2020.
“A great group of kids are coming back who lost the opportunity in 2020, and it’s super special that they can finally enjoy it and be able to perform in front of 4,000 high school kids,” Miller said. “For most of them, the opportunity was canceled last time, and they are doubly excited to be back.”
NAHS Theater Arts continues an “outstanding high school theater legacy,” Miller said. “The program was first presented at the International Thespian Festival in 1990, and this summer’s production will be the 11th performance in the school’s history.”
“To be chosen at all is huge, and most schools are happy in their history to go there once or twice,” Miller said. “We have now been chosen twice in the past three years.”
The students put in long hours on “Beauty and the Beast,” whether performing on stage or working behind the scenes with the crew. It’s a big production with a lot of moving parts, Miller said,
“The kids want to be here doing this every day, and with the amount of special effects and everything they had to put into the production, they amaze me every day,” she said.
November’s performances of “Beauty and the Beast” were judged based on a rubric with numerous categories, including acting, direction, choreography, design and management.
When the students heard the news of being chosen for the festival, there was a lot of excitement, including “hugging, screaming and crying,” Miller said.
To prepare for the show, students will hold a number of pre-show rehearsals, including one rehearsal each month to keep the production fresh in students’ minds.
Before the students leave for the festival, they will have a few dress rehearsals and they will perform the show again to the NAHS audience in preparation.
Performing at the festival will involve bringing the entire show to Bloomington, including the entire cast and crew and “hopefully lots of adult volunteers,” Miller said.
At the International Thespian Festival, students not only perform, but also participate in a week of workshops, college tours, college auditions. They also have the opportunity to meet professionals in the field, according to Miller.
The experience is “life-changing for a student who is invested in the performing arts,” she said, and it allows her to improve her skills and meet new friends.
“It gives kids an experience outside of the four walls of school that will forever shape their skills whether they continue in theater or not,” Miller said. “They’ll meet people they’ll bond with for life. I still have friends I met at the Thespian Festival.”