By DCPA Education with Windrem Smith
Let’s celebrate theatre education in Colorado! High School Theatre in Colorado supports the state’s fifth largest economic industry: the creative sector. Nothing demonstrates this support more than the yearly gathering of hundreds of middle and high school theatre students and their teachers in Denver at the Colorado State Thespian Conference.
The Colorado State Thespians are affiliated with The International Thespian Society and the Educational Theatre Association. The International Thespian Society is a non-profit, tax-exempt honorary organization for middle and high school theatre students. This teacher-led society is committed to the advancement of educational theatre and, to this end, publishes Dramatics Magazine, sponsors thespian festivals and theatre workshops, produces educational materials, and provides college scholarship opportunities for students.
The 57th Colorado State Thespian Conference (ThesCon) was held from December 2-4, 2021 filling the Colorado Convention Center’s halls and rooms with all-things theatre. Having been held virtually the year prior, the conference was a welcomed opportunity for learning, creating, and watching theatre in person. DCPA Education and Community Engagement has partnered with the convention for over 25 years. Under the leadership and guidance of DCPA District Liaison, Samuel Wood, DCPA staff facilitated 36 workshops, six tours, and served as production adjudicators engaging over 1,500 students in DCPA programming.
Who better to share the power of attending ThesCon than a high school student? Windrem Smith, at Fossil Ridge High School has been active in DCPA Education and Community Engagement programming for much of his high school career, so we invited him to share his experience, presented as a travelogue, of the conference below.
My First-Time Experience at ThesCon
My head popped off the pillow on Thursday, December 2. I was heading to ThesCon for the first time and excitement rolled through me like waves. I caught the bus at my high school, and my friends and I made the one-hour trip from Fort Collins to Denver. When we got to Denver, we hopped off the bus and organized ourselves at our hotel. We were then allowed to explore Denver on our own for lunch. After lunch, we attended our first classes. I attended two sessions: World of Viewpoints: Innovative Approach taught by DCPA Teaching Artist, Allison Watrous and Masks: The Power of Movement taught by DCPA Teaching Artist, Rachel Kae Taylor. I then watched some Individual Events (IEs), which featured students giving rehearsed performances in singing and/or acting. I wasn’t doing an IE, but it was amazing watching others perform. That night my high school group had dinner and then went to the Opening Ceremony. The organizers greeted all the Thespians to ThesCon, and the play Freaky Friday was performed by Grandview High School. It was awesome! The next day, I attended some more outstanding classes: Swing Dance 2, Hand to Hand Stage Combat, 1920’s Flapper Charleston, and Mime and Illusion. After dinner, my friends and I explored Denver’s 16th Street Mall. We walked to Larimar Square, stopped in a few shops, and had some delicious ice cream. We walked back to ThesCon at the Convention Center to see the play Clue performed by Skyview Academy. The next morning was the final day. I wistfully soaked up the last sessions. First, I attended the Improv Showcase, which included spectacular performances by troupes from three high schools including my own. I then tried my hand at salsa dancing in the Salsa and Latin Dance for Stage session. The Closing Ceremony was bitter-sweet. The best of the Individual Events re-performed on the main stage for all the attendees. The organizers then wished us farewell, and we packed up and headed home.
It is important for actors to improve through education, and ThesCon offers an inspiring opportunity to learn. It is a place for actors from all over the state of Colorado to come together to work on their craft, to meet others who share the same interest, to watch incredible performances, and to make new friends. ThesCon was especially exciting this year after a year of Zoom events and isolation. ThesCon reminds all of Colorado’s high school actors that they are members of a kind, talented, and exciting state-wide community.