An introvert’s adventure: Michigan Thespian Festival 2016

Mac Mcdonald

On a slightly snowy Friday in early December, thousands of high school theatre kids from all over the state of Michigan flood into the Temple Theatre in Saginaw. Soph. Sydney Kloosterman is checking her snapchat and Jr. Elijah Kliphuis is talking to three new acquaintances from different schools. Sr. Sara Sawyer and Sr. Lucas Sharar are dancing in the aisle. This is the event thousands of high school theatre kids have been waiting all year for, the Michigan Thespian Festival. Thirteen students came to the festival from West Ottawa High School. Everyone in the theatre was talking to each other or singing along to the songs that were playing before the opening ceremony began, except me. I had not talked the whole morning. I’m not shy, and I don’t hate people. I’m an introvert, and I was in a theatre full of extroverts. From that moment, the 2016 Thespian festival was an interesting adventure and very far out of my comfort zone.


I have always been an introvert. In middle school, after I came home, I would spend maybe the rest of my day alone in my room watching Youtube videos. I have had similar behaviors in high school too. Last school year, before the choirs went to New York City, I was having anxiety about the trip for a whole month. In fact, I almost considered not going. A big city, lots of people, and a long schedule makes me feel really uncomfortable. On Wednesdays, during the rehearsal period of Crazy for You, there would usually be Drama Club before rehearsal. As a Drama Club Leader, it is my job to make the club a fun place. It takes a lot of energy, though. So in between Drama Club and rehearsal, I would have to take fifteen or twenty minutes to decompress because of how much energy I used.


A few months ago I decided “Hey, it might be a good idea to go to the Thespian Festival. It’s my senior year, might as well do something fun.” I am an actress, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be introverted. (It sounds kind of odd. An introverted actress? Weird.) As an introvert, I don’t hate people, people are just exhausting and I prefer to spend time alone. Usually, I tend to get a bit of anxiety before going to a big event or trip. I get even more anxiety if I’m going to a place I’ve never been before.

  At the festival, seniors have the option to audition for college scholarships, which I’ve chosen to do. I might as well do it. For my audition, I chose to sing the first 32 bars of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables and a portion of Val Clarke’s monologue from A Chorus Line. For three days before the festival, I had been working after school on my audition.

  Saginaw is three hours away. I brought my headphones in case I need to escape from reality and people for a bit. Headphones are a bit of a crutch for me. While coming home from State Solo and Ensemble last school year, I could not handle being around anyone after that long day. I had put on my headphones and listened to the soundtracks of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Newsies while I was staring at the night sky. I can put headphones on and be listening to absolutely nothing and people will leave me alone.

  Contrary to what I believed, the ride across the state was quite fun actually. I was really scared I was going to be in a car full of loud annoying people but it really wasn’t like that at all. I was in a car with Frosh. Max Gibson, Frosh. George Ilse, and the Director of Theatre Joe Huber. We sang along to songs from Rent and Hamilton and learned how shows are cast. We also talked about Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. It was actually a fun ride over, and I never had to plug in my headphones.

  I woke up on Friday morning to the sound of my friends’ alarms at 5:45 am. I didn’t talk for a whole morning. Not because I was on vocal rest, but more because I had no energy. When I went down to breakfast I sat by myself. Jr. Jayla VanMaurick invited me to sit with the rest of the girls but I declined. The night before I was informed I was signed up to do an individual event at the festival. It was probably a mistake that I was signed up to do an IE which is totally different from the college scholarship audition. During the summer at music camps I do participate in the solo contest, but usually, I have been preparing a song for a month or two. A spontaneous opportunity was quite out of my comfort zone. I could have backed out or risen to the challenge. Between choosing giving up or doing it, I did the IE. I sang the full song of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” and the rest of the West Ottawa students showed up. I thought that I was gonna have to do the whole thing myself with everyone off somewhere else, but it felt really special that I was able to share this song with my friends.


At the Thespian Festival, everyone has the opportunity to go to workshops where they can learn something new. I went to a workshop about Commedia Dell arte. It is an Italian Renaissance way of theatre where they would wear a mask and embody a character. Actually, it helped a lot with my acting. With the history of Commedia all of the characters are written around certain archetypes of people. They are called stock characters. Because I took the class, now I can do really good impressions of people. It was really fun and I made a new friend in the first workshop. His name was Brendan and he played the title role of the Phantom in his school production of The Phantom of the Opera.

  The next day at the festival, the first workshop I went to was a belting workshop. Mostly cause I want to have a nice, healthy, belting voice.) At the end of the workshop, a girl who was sitting in front of me said that I had an astounding voice. Something similar happened the day before when I was going through “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” in a stairwell. Two girls just stopped walking down the stairs and then started freaking out because they really wanted to hear a girl sing that song and do it well. While choosing another workshop I did something way outside my comfort zone; I went to a dance workshop. We were learning a dance to “Song of the King” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which is one of my favorite musicals. I’m not the best dancer. But in that class, I felt safe and judgment free. A guy named Gavin, who was in the workshop with me, said that he liked my faces while dancing. It made me smile.


The College Scholarship Audition wasn’t scary at all. My friend Sr. Mitch Frauenheim and I were the only ones from WO who were going to take a chance to do it. Huber signed Frauenheim and me in for our audition time and we were ushered into a practice room that had directors from other schools and their students. It kind of felt like the part in  The Hunger Games before Katniss goes into her individual assessment before the games. My heart was beating loud enough that I could hear it when I was outside the door. My adrenaline was high. It was time to show everything I know about musical theatre in two and a half minutes. In the audition room, there are all of these college scouts all taking notes on you. It’s kinda scary, but not really. I didn’t get called back to any colleges or immediate scholarships. I’m not upset about that. Though, when it comes to auditions you can either take it personally or say oh well and keep on trying. I’ve learned to just keep trying.

After the audition, Frauenheim went to a Bob Fosse dance workshop and I went to this show called Awkward Pause. It is a show of skits focusing in on relevant issues. There was a skit about the ACT, racism, and even suicide.  Everything in the show is written and directed by students. It was beautifully done.

To conclude Thespian Festival, everyone returns to the Temple Theatre to watch a showcase of acts from all around the state. Some acts were really enjoyable such as a boy doing a dance to “Rum-Tum Tugger” from Cats, a boy named Pan singing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables, a group performing “Rock Island” from The Music Man, and our own Jr. Tess Monahan singing “She Used to be Mine” from Waitress. During intermission at the showcase, they were playing all these songs and everyone was singing and dancing. Everything was really loud. So then I was stuck plugging my ears and closing my eyes until intermission was over. In any moment of the festival when I wanted to be left alone or have my headphones, intermission was it. Huber noticed that I couldn’t handle the boisterousness of everyone else so, he gave me permission to go recollect before the second half of the show.

Altogether, the Michigan Thespian Festival was okay for introverts. I didn’t have to stick with the same people the whole time and I could do what I wanted. There were some points during the festival where I couldn’t handle all the noise and had to find my own little corner. I learned that I’m much better at talking to people I don’t know than vice versa. It was very much a weekend of “Yes and…”.  Overall I had fun at the Michigan Thespian Festival. I never even had to use my headphones as a crutch. It was an interesting experience that I wouldn’t mind going to again.