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International spotlight finds East Ridge actors

East Ridge High School junior Katherine Spicuzza received a "superior" rating for her performance of "Gimme Gimme" from "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in the National Individual Events Showcase at the Minnesota Chapter Conference of the International Thespian Festival last month. Spicuzza will next compete this June in the International Thespian Festival.

East Ridge High School's theater department will be strongly represented this summer at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb.

Both East Ridge's one act play, "The Big Meal," and East Ridge junior Katherine Spicuzza will be participating in the International Thespian Festival this June. "The Big Meal" will be featured in the Chapter Select Showcase and Spicuzza will be competing in the National Individual Events Showcase (NIES).

Both "The Big Meal" and Spicuzza qualified for the International Thespian Festival by competing in the Minnesota Chapter Conference last month.

The conference not only included the one act and NIES competitions, it also included a variety of theater workshops.

"There's a ton of workshops for actors," East Ridge one act director Katie Carlson said, "and pretty much everything in between."

State's top one act

Even though the state's high school league has its own Minnesota One Act Festival, the Chapter Select Showcase is separate in that it is more exclusive.

In order to qualify for the showcase, a play must be selected at a chapter conference by an evaluation team.

Carlson said East Ridge competed against five other one acts at the Minnesota conference.

"We have the title of the Minnesota thespian festival champions," Carlson said, "which is exciting."

"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.

"The judges said they appreciated the style of our show," Carlson said. "They really liked the seriousness alongside the humor - they said it balanced well."

Carlson said students worked hard to perfect the show based on previous feedback.

"Anytime you are looking at something that is as subjective as art," she said. "You get some subjective feedback. But I talked to the kids to see what we could do to make our show better."

Carlson said students paid close attention to making the transitions smoother as the show "fast forwards."

"It's tricky for people to figure out right away," she said, "so we had to make sure those transitions are clear."

The entire cast and much of the crew will be attending the International Thespian Festival.

Give her more

This year was Spicuzza's second time competing in NIES.

She decided on "Gimme Gimme" from "Thoroughly Modern Millie" for her piece because she liked the range and the personality in it.

"'Gimme Gimme' was a song that I always liked to do and it has a good acting piece to it," she said. "I chose it because it's a little bit challenging but also because I knew the tune of it pretty well."

Even though being given a "superior" rating for her performance was a great experience, Spicuzza said the conference's clinics were her highlight.

"You get to work with professionals and you get to hear their stories and see what it's really like to go through a career in that area," she said.

Additionally, Spicuzza said she appreciated the critiques.

"I think it's really helpful and critical to personal growth," she said. "You're never going to grow if you don't get any feedback or criticism."

If Spicuzza should win at the International Thespian Festival, she will be awarded scholarship money.

The International Thespian Festival runs from June 24-29.

"We've never done this before," Carlson said. "It's fun to go to a place where we really don't know anything about it. We're just looking forward to having fun and if anything else happens above that, it is an added bonus."

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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