Drama students shine at Nebraska Thespian Festival


Every January, theatre students from high schools all around Nebraska attend the Nebraska Thespian Festival, a celebration of their mutual passions for theatre and the performing arts. The past few years, the festival has been held at the Holland Center and Double Tree Hotel, just a few blocks away from Central High School. Drama teacher Scott Mead takes about 20 to 30 students who are a part of the CHS Thespian Troupe #7833 to the festival to participate in competitions, watch shows, meet with colleges and universities and interact with other high school thespians. 

Competitions at the festival are split into four different categories: individual performance events, individual technical events, tech challenges and improvisation challenges. Each category highlights a different aspect of theatre. Performance events include individual and group songs and scenes from plays and musicals. Tech events highlight a different area of technical theatre work, with students putting together information about any technical work they have accomplished in the previous semester. Central High’s Tech Team tends to do very well in the tech challenge and this year was no different, with them snagging the first-place award overall. Senior and team captain Holden Fershée won first place in the Hang-a-Light challenge as well. “Tech challenge…includes multiple aspects of technical theatre,” Fershée explained. “Students compete against other schools in challenges including Sew a Button, Fold a Drop, Costume Quick Change, Prop Shift, Sound System Set-up, and Hang-a-Light.” 

Two Central juniors received superior ratings for their individual events. Jillian Bertino received a superior for her event in the category of Solo Musical Theatre. Jaden Cheloha received the award for his event in the Short Film category. Bertino performed “Holding to the Ground” from William Finn and James Lapines’ “Falsettos”. Bertino said that she chose this song because the actress who plays Trina, the character who sings the song during the show was played by Stephanie J. Block during the 2017 revival of “Falsettos”. “Block has been my role model since I was about thirteen,” Bertino said, “and I picked this song not only because she sang it, but because it highlighted my strengths as a vocalist as well.” Cheloha’s film, titled “A New Tune”, was the only short film to receive a callback during the festival. After completing the storyboard process, he spent the week before submissions were due filming the various interior and exterior shots. “I am very proud of my film, and plan on competing again next year.” Cheloha said.  

Central’s Improv Team was co-captained by junior Toby Rischling and senior Pretzel Urwin. The group of six students compete in multiple rounds of improvisation games against other schools as well. “The improv team was selected from our Drama 5-6 class, after we had been doing improv in class for the first semester,” Rischling said. “It was great to see and meet so many talented people from across Nebraska…The first night of ITS [International Thespian Society] was the first round of improv.” While Central’s improv team did not move on from the first round, Rischling stated that there were no hard feelings, emphasizing how well other schools did. “It was very friendly competition,” he said. 

Besides competitions, some high schools performed productions from their first semesters in the Holland Center Concert Hall. Papillion-La Vista High School performed “Little Shop of Horrors”, Lincoln Southeast High School performed “39 Steps”, Westside High School performed “Dirt”, and Brownell Talbot performed “Terezin: Children of the Holocaust”. 

Overall, Troupe #7833 was awarded the Gold Troupe Honor Award, the highest distinction given at the festival. Honor Troupe Awards are given at three different levels, bronze, silver, and gold, to recognize the hard work each thespian troupe in the district has accomplished. Each troupe is assessed on the work done during the current school year, including projects to boost the troupe’s positive image, productions completed, and continued education experiences. The dedication and passion Central’s theatre students have for the area was put on full display during the three-day event, making it a successful year for Central High School at the Nebraska Thespian Festival.