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A full theater experience

A group of East Ridge High School students experienced everything theater has to offer last month.

The cast of East Ridge's One Act play, "The Big Meal", traveled June 24-30 to Lincoln, Neb., for the International Thespian Festival -- an annual theater conference that features high school theater performances, workshops and classes, a student leadership program, auditions for college admission and thespian scholarships, music and theater writing programs and the National Individual Events Showcase (NIES) competition.

"It was awesome," said East Ridge One Act director Katie Carlson. "The week was so action packed. It had pretty much anything you could want."

A total of 3,300 students from across the world participated in this year's International Thespian Festival, including a total of 11 East Ridge students.

East Ridge students performed "The Big Meal" as part of the event's Chapter Select Showcase.

Showcasing 'The Big Meal'

East Ridge was invited to attend the international Thespian Festival since "The Big Meal" was chosen as the top one act play in Minnesota during the Minnesota Chapter Conference in February.

"The performance was so fun," said East Ridge sophomore Caroline Kieffer, who was part of the cast for "The Big Meal." "It was such an honor to perform."

"The Big Meal" follows the life of a husband and wife and their children. Every scene of the play revolves around a meal and a major life event.

Carlson said performing at the International Thespian Festival posed some interesting challenges for the play since some of the graduated seniors were unable to attendl.

"We had to re-cast the show," she said. "It was a different show than we performed in Minnesota, but it still went really well."

A thespian experience

In addition to performing, the East Ridge students were able to experience all that the International Thespian Festival had to offer.

During the four-day festival, students were not only able to watch many high school theater performances, they were also able to participate in a variety of theater workshops.

Carlson said the workshops included such topics as technical, directing, acting, makeup, dance, speaking with accents and even a Broadway-style exercise workout.

"The festival itself offered such variety," Carlson said. "A lot of students took risks and took different workshops that they wouldn't have normally taken."

For example, Kieffer participated in a workshop on "aging makeup."

"It taught you how to do your makeup to look like an old person," Kieffer said.

Carlson said the International Thespian Festival is a great opportunity for students because it exposes them to so many different aspects, and styles, of theater.

"The festival opened a lot of students' eyes to what type of theater is out there," she said. "It opened their eyes to a lot of different opportunities in theater."

Kieffer said she learned a lot.

"It was cool seeing all the different aspects of theater that I had really never seen before," she said. "It was fun seeing all the different things that go into making a good show."

Carlson said she enjoyed seeing all of the students' excitement, which is why she might arrange a trip to the International Thespian Festival again next year.

Kieffer said she would definitely be interested in participating again in the International Thespian Festival because it was a great experience.

"It was amazing," she said. "I learned a lot more about being confident in my performance. I'm so inspired and motivated now."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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