Virginia’s Finest High School Drama Students Take the Stage at Radford University

The next Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro or Tom Hanks may have graced the stages of Radford University last weekend as hundreds of the commonwealth’s most promising high school actors and actresses attended the Virginia State Thespian Conference 2011.

Sponsored by Mainstage Productions, the theme of this year’s conference was “Life: IT’S a Masquerade.”

The conference included dozens of interactive workshops with a host of student-based performances, including one-man shows, scholarship auditions, and main stage productions featuring “Rumpelstiltskin” by Kellam High School, “Chicago” by Marshall High School, and “Tell-Tale Heart” by Colonial Heights High School.

student with stage light

Set design, lighting and costume exercises took center stage for high school drama students during the Tech Rodeo workshop held last weekend during the Virginia State Thespian Conference 2011.

Approximately 500 high school drama students experienced a snapshot of life at Radford University through their use of campus classrooms and performance spaces.

“The key thing, in my mind, is exposing them to what Radford has to offer by just being in our facilities,” said Carl Lefko, director of the Radford University School of Dance and Theatre.

Theatre faculty and students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts coordinated logistics for all programming sessions. Now an RU student, Sara Lewis fondly recalled her own experiences three years ago when she attended the Radford-hosted 2008 VSTC as a senior at First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach.

“That conference is actually the reason I chose to go to Radford for a degree in theatre,” said Lewis. “Now that I am on the other side of things, I understand how important it is to really help the kids get a feel for what things are like in our department. For me, it’s basically all about setting an example for them all so they can see how professional we are about our work, but we have fun while we do it.”

Citing balance as one of Radford’s biggest draws, Lewis now hopes to share her wealth of experiences with the next generation of budding high school thespians, including some from her high school alma mater.

“It was fun to hear about how things are going for them, and I also took the opportunity to sell Radford as a great choice for college,” said Lewis.

The university has had close ties with the VSTC since the 1980s, serving as the host facility several times over the past two decades. This association has helped RU further its ongoing development of the commonwealth’s performing arts students, according to Lefko.

“It’s such an important event for these kids to get outside of their environment and produce in a different place,” said Lefko. “Giving them the opportunity to get out and get with others who are like them outside of their high school, I think all of that is very, very important.”

Virginia Thespians is a division of The International Thespian Society and the national Educational Theatre Association.

Feb 10, 2011
Keith Hagarty