The BHHS Theatre Department is thriving this year, with eight students collectively earning more than $1.8 million in scholarships, and theatre students participating and winning awards in multiple virtual festivals. The BHHS International Thespian Society (ITS) Troupe 8055 was awarded the Outstanding Theatre Troupe of the Year in the state of Michigan by the ITS Honor Society. BHHS also participated in the virtual Mid-Michigan Theatre Festival, resulting in multiple scholarship award winners. Every BHHS Thespian who competed in an individual event at the Virtual Theatre Festival earned an excellent or superior rating. And for the first time ever, BHHS theatre students participated in the MIFA One Act Competition and made it to the state level, winning 3rd and 4th place in our two shows’ respective categories. Congratulations to our many theatre students and their successes!
Toby Gittleman, Jack Hale, Alexa Klapp, Anna Partalis, Joey Rankin, Ella Sidder, Sophia Simoni, and Christophe Straub collectively earned over $1.8 million in scholarships for specific programs. Mary Bogrette, BHHS Theatre Director, explains the college scholarship process: “Students can only audition for one category. They can either choose design, stage management, acting, or musical theatre. Because of the virtual nature this year, more universities attended than usual. The students had to submit all their auditions in November, and the universities had much more time to look them all over. All eight of our students that participated in the scholarship auditions were awarded at least one scholarship from one particular school.” BHHS senior Alexa Klapp shares of the experience: “I’ve been trying to pursue a career in musical theatre and acting for most of my life. It was a bit nerve wracking, as all auditions are, but at the end of the day I just love performing and I honestly really enjoyed the process. I sang some songs, did some acting work, and had a lot of interviews that weekend. Now I’m committed to a school with a program that I absolutely love, so everything I did this audition season, including thespian festival, was 100% worth it.” Another scholarship winner, Jack Hale, notes, “I earned $197,500 in scholarships to various programs for stage management. As a senior it was a very strange experience to look back at all the work I'd done over the past three years and try to condense that into a five minute presentation that I knew was going to be viewed by some excellent programs.” And Ella Sidder shares, “The experience of going for a scholarship in our field was actually somewhat terrifying. It’s well-known that our field is incredibly difficult and competitive, so going up against so many other people from Michigan for scholarships was very nerve-racking. However, in the end, it was so rewarding.”
BHHS theatre department’s participation in the virtual Mid-Michigan Theatre Arts Festival also led to three scholarship award winners: Jack Hale, Joey Rankin, and Ella Sidder. Bogrette notes that, “for the Honorary Thespian Scholarships, I had to nominate them. I’m only allowed to nominate one technical student (Hale) and one acting student (Rankin) for the Thespian awards. These scholarships can be used at any university if the students major/minor in theatre or a related art form. And I can nominate anybody for the Tom Suda Spirit Scholarship. They only select one every year. Ella Sidder won that this year, and she can use it at any university regardless of her major/minor.”
The Mid-Michigan Theatre Arts Festival earned Best Actor Awards for Eddie Eichenhorn and Catherine Recknagle. And a Technical Merit award went to Joey Rankin for hair and make-up design. For this festival, BHHS recorded Imaginary Invalid, which is now streaming on bhhs.anywhereseat.com. Also at this festival, ITS officers Jack Hale, Cassie English, Anna Partalis, Joey Rankin, Catherine Recknagel, Megan DeFrancesco, Naomi Parr, and Beauman Hull led a virtual workshop.
All BHHS Thespians who competed in an individual event at the Virtual Theatre Festival earned an Excellent or Superior rating. For Duet Choreography, Ella Sidder and Ava Sidder won an Excellent rating. Rachel Berris, Alexis Forman, Alexa Klapp, Cameron Klein, Catherine Recknagel, Lindsey Rillema, Sydney Saywrayne, and Ella Sidder won Superior awards for Solo Musical Theatre. Cameron Klein and Rachel Berris won a Superior rating for Duet Musical Theatre. Carol Cochrane and Megan DeFrancesco, along with Jack Meyer and Andrew Zupancic, won Superior rankings for Duet Acting. Carli Camens won a Superior rating for Monologue. Beauman Hull won an Excellent ranking for Sound Design. And Cole Bewick, Emily Johnson, Estee Moss, and Naomi Parr all won Excellent rankings for Solo Singing.
For the first time ever, BHHS participated in the Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association (MIFA) One Act Theatre Competition, and made it to the state level competition. BHHS students produced two shows, which took 3rd and 4th place in their respective categories. Student directors Anna Partalis and Toby Gittleman chose the shows, cut them each to 45 minutes, and cast the two shows out of Acting 3 (a BHHS theatre class) participants.
Winning 3rd place in the Humorous Division, Fox on the Fairway was student directed by Anna Partalis and managed by Sophia Simoni. Awards went to BHHS students Anna Partalis (Superior Award for Playbill); Alexa Klapp, Nick Viselli, Cole Bewick, Cassie English, Jaden Cohen, and Max Fenster (Excellent in Ensemble Acting); Cole Bewick, Nick Viselli and Jaden Cohen (Superior in Acting); Cassie English (Excellent in Acting); and Anna Partalis (Superior in Costuming).
Winning 4th place in the Serious Division, This is Our Youth was student-directed by Toby Gittleman, with support from Assistant Director Cassie English. BHHS students Toby Gittleman, Cassie English, Eddie Eichenhorn, Wade Lockwood, and Ella Sidder won the Innovation In Theatre Award, which was voted on by the other schools at the competition. Awards for this production were earned by Toby Gittleman (Superior in Program Design); Eddie Eichenhorn, Wade Lockwood, and Ella Sidder (Superior in Acting Ensemble); Toby Gittleman (Superior in Directing); Toby Gittleman, Cassie English, Eddie Eichenhorn, Wade Lockwood, and Ella Sidder (Excellence in utilizing Zoom Techniques); and Toby Gittleman and Cassie English (Excellent in Costuming).
Being involved with the theatre department is its own reward in so many ways, regardless of the official accolades won. Jack Hale shares a powerful memory: “One of my best memories comes from my first day in theatre productions during my sophomore year. I was new to the district and knew next to no one. After school that day, we were holding auditions for the production of Rodger and Hamerstein's Cinderella, and in an effort to spice up auditions our technical director wanted to build a facade for the music director's piano. Specifically, he wanted to build a tiki bar facade. That was the first project I worked on at BHHS, and it was some of the most fun I've had. It was what launched me into my love for the theatre arts at BHHS.” Alexa Klapp notes, “The friendships I have made here are like no other. Huge shout out to Anna Partalis, Joey Rankin, Megan Defrancesco, and Cassie English for being my rocks this year. I’ll miss this community when I leave in the fall.” Ella Sidder reflects, “Being involved in theatre at BHHS has given me a family. I grew through high school with these people and I couldn’t have asked for a better after-school activity and now, hopefully, future career. I’ve loved every show and I truly wouldn’t change a thing about my experience.” And Christophe Straub, who won scholarships for technical directing, shares, “My favorite part is a tad bit cliched, but theatre gave me an avenue to succeed and meet like-minded individuals who respected me for who I was. Scot Cleaveland and Mary Bogrette were two incredible influences on my life, and I am eternally grateful for the experiences they gave me. Such wonderful people can be found in our theatre!!!”
All of the theatre festivals and scholarship opportunities noted are in addition to the regularly scheduled BHHS Theatre Productions developed by and for the BHHS community. The musical Pirates of Penzance was produced in the fall and winter, and was streamed throughout March on bhhs.anywhereseat.com. Currently, the BHHS Theatre Department is producing Into the Woods, with tickets going on sale to the general public on May 1. This show will be performed in the BHHS Legacy Courtyard on May 13-15, and tickets will be on sale at bhhs.ludus.com. Join the BHHS community for this spectacular event, and see the magic of the BHHS theatre department come alive at our safe, outdoor venue at the BHHS Legacy Courtyard!