Taking on Thescon


Faith Carter

Jenna Woelfel, Abbie Kohler, Kylie Christensen, and Sam Cole walk the streets of Kansas City between workshops. They participated in fun theatre-based activities with fellow thespians across the state.

Nothing compares to the sound of 2,000 excited “theatre kids” in the same room. Comparatively, nothing compares to the amount of passion, love and support shared by a room of 2,000 inspired young thespians. 

The Francis Howell Central Spotlight Players of Honor Troupe 5743 recently attended the Missouri State Thespian Conference, synonymously known as Thescon. At this year’s “Roaring 2020’s” themed conference, many of the troupe’s thespians stood out in their achievements. 

The students departed after school on Wednesday Jan. 8, and traveled four hours to Kansas City where the conference was held. Wednesday night, the improv intensive officers junior Taylor Krieg, and seniors Josiah Haan and Isaiah Henry hosted improv games, while the rest of the troupe participated in various other pre-conference evening activities.

The next morning, the conference officially began with the opening ceremony as nearly 2,000 thespians from across the state filed into the Kansas City Music Hall. Troupe 5743 got to see their very own sophomore Rachel Vrazel up in lights on the main stage as a junior leader of this year’s conference. She will be serving as a State Thespian Officer at next year’s conference in St. Louis. 

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, thespians participated in various workshops from circus skills to blood and gore prop creation to mastering “Hamilton” choreography. Every second of the day is filled with theatre-related activities. Senior Alexis Akerman attended her first Thescon this year, and it was an experience that truly exceeded expectations. 

“I’ve never felt more connected with a group of people, than when we were at state,” Akerman explained. 

For the students that represent Francis Howell Central at the State Thespian Conference, theatre is more than just an extra-curricular and a resume builder. Theatre is their family. And that sense of community expands to the conference. It is a beautiful environment of people who support each other and share the same passions. 

“My favorite part of Thescon is getting to spend four days with my favorite people,” Henry said. 

In addition to this packed schedule of theatre education and fun, many students perform in individual and group events. At this year’s conference, Josiah Haan and Isaiah Henry ranked superior in their duet performance of Together Again from “Young Frankenstein.” Catherine Analla and Sammi Riese did a duet monologue, Taylor Krieg performed two individual monologues, and Rachel Vrazel performed a solo piece, all earning an excellent ranking. 

“It feels great to have other people recognize and affirm all of your hard work,” Henry remembered. 

Four tech focused thespians from our troupe including senior Lilly Klohr, and juniors Maragaret Wilkerson, Anyha Dorris and Abby Crowder participated in a scenic design tech challenge where they were given two hours to build a diorama for “She Kills Monsters.” They achieved the highest ranking, a superior, along with only one other school in the entire competition. For Wilkerson, who has already finished applying to college, this win is not overly significant on paper, but the well-earned recognition was appreciated nonetheless. 

“It feels really good for my little heart,” Wilkerson said. 

The State Thespian Conference provides a great opportunity for seniors to showcase their abilities on and off stage. Isaiah Henry and Catherine Analla participated in performance scholarship auditions. Henry was offered scholarships for 19 out 25 gender eligible colleges and Analla was awarded 12 out of 26. Josiah Haan presented an impressive display of his technical accomplishments in theatre and earned one of three tech scholarships given out in the entirety of the weekend. 

Francis Howell Central’s improv intensive team, made up of Josaiah Haan, Isaiah Henry, Taylor Krieg, Mary Wachtel, and Bobby Pordea, also got an opportunity to show off their amazing abilities in competition against other schools improv teams in a series of fun improvisation themed games. They participated in three rounds of play; opener where the player is fed an opening line and builds upon it with the opposing team, sportscaster where an activity, in this instance, toothbrushing, is given and the group must build a scene of sport competition around it, and a series of good exits where each player must gradually find an entertaining excuse to leave the scene. 

“It’s one thing knowing how talented your friends are and telling them that, but it’s just so amazing to watch other people appreciate them and see them get rewarded for all the hard work I know they’ve put into it,” Akerman said. 

The days of Thescon are full of workshops with competitive performances in between and at the end of each day a main stage show is put on for the entire conference. The first night was the All-State show. Senior Sam Cole worked alongside some of the most talented Missouri Thespians to bring the show, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” to life through his character, Pablo Gonsalez. 

“It’s the most powerful show I’ve ever seen. I’ve never had a show impact me as much as it did. I couldn’t talk for like thirty minutes after watching it,” Akerman said. 

This show, however, sparked much controversy as it had mature themes including but not limited to; domestic abuse, ptsd, and rape. Many audience members felt as though they were not sufficiently warned for this possibly triggering content. Nonetheless, the show was unarguably amazing.

“It dealt with a lot of really serious themes, and it was hard for some people to watch, but it was really engaging and I thought it was great,” Wilkerson elaborated. Henry shared similar opinions. 

Typically students depart after the third and final show of the weekend and return from the conference Saturday night, however, a winter storm approached and the troupe was snowed in. Fortunately, roads were safe the next day and they arrived home midday on sunday. 

All-in-all, this year’s Missouri State Thespian Conference lived up to its reputation of being one of the best weekends of the year for The Spotlight Players. 

“I’ve never felt a group of people so strongly together. There’s so many people passionate about the same things that you are and it’s insane to feel so supported and accepted,” Akerman described.