July 24, 2024

Full of chances to see high school thespians from across Illinois perform their best shows, as well as to participate in theater workshops, Maine West students traveled to the Illinois High School Theatre Festival — often called Theatrefest — at Illinois State University Jan. 11-13. Members from both Drama Club and Thespian Club were given the opportunity to go on this trip in order to learn more about their theatrical interests alongside professionals.

“I think it’s amazing that, over the course of the first semester of the school year, so many high schools from across the state of Illinois are putting on these amazing shows that we wouldn’t be able to see without Theatrefest. Many of them are phenomenal!” sophomore Logan Kulbersh said.
“Noises Off,” a production created by Maine South, won one of the positions at the festival. In order for a school to have their production selected, they would have to ask for a judge to come to their school and view their production.
“They [judges] try to be fair and equitable about picking shows that represent different programs because if you have a lot of resources then that makes a difference. They don’t just pick shows based on the quality, they also pick a production for geographical reasons. They want shows from Northern Illinois, Central Illinois, Southern Illinois; they want a show that represents a whole area. When we got the call that we were picked, we were thrilled,” said Carrie Saucer, Maine South teacher.
While students were there, they were able to participate in a workshop: a small class that was available for both students and teachers where they could learn specific skills from a professional. They got to work alongside a professional on a specific theater component in order to learn more about it, such as a costume-change workshop or a construction workshop.
“They end up with professionals that are from across the country, from major companies; some are even from different parts of the world. They come in to do these master class workshops. It would be like someone from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra coming in to work with the kids,” Drama teacher David Harmon said.
Students returned inspired by what they experience and excited to put that inspiration to work at West. “This was my first year going to Theatrefest and it was amazing! I got to spend time seeing other high schools perform, which was great, and everyone you meet is so talented. Going to Theatrefest is an amazing experience that I look forward for next year,” sophomore Caroline Barnett said.
The trip to the festival itself is a bonding experience of its own. “We travel with Maine East and Maine South, so we’re all on the same buses. It gives them [students] one of the few chances to get to know each other well and go down as a district and not a school,” Harmon said.

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