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Thescon provides ‘players’ with a chance to gain state recognition

The Georgia theater community was abuzz from Feb. 9 through 11, when thespians from all across the state gathered for the annual Georgia Thespian Conference, or ‘Thescon,’ as it is popularly known.

“Thescon is where 3,500 theater kids from all over Georgia gather in Columbus,” said sophomore and two-time Thescon attendee Caroline Oelkers. “We get to see shows, go to workshops, and generally just have a sense of community and a fun time.”
Thespians attend Thescon in Columbus for many reasons.

“For one, it’s to experience the comradery of other people with a similar passion,” said sophomore Lucas Hard,  “and also to learn about their craft.”

Throughout the duration of the convention, attendees could visit workshops.

“We went to workshops throughout the day,” said junior Sloan Krakovksy. “My favorites were yoga and a hip-hop class a group of us participated in.”

Other workshops focused on developing thespians’ theater skills.

“There are workshops on things like how to audition,” said Westminster Players founder Eric Brannen. “You bring a song, and they’ll work you through how to make that song work in an audition. Or you bring a scene, and they’ll tell you how to audition with that scene, or a dance, or stage combat, or Shakespeare. Whatever you’re interested in, you get the best in the country.”

Thescon never settles for anything but the best, making sure that the finest experts are able to attend.

“Eighty-five different artists who are the best in their fields came in to teach our high school kids,” said Brannen, “so that when they apply to college, or audition for a show, they’re that much better.”

In addition to participating in workshops, thespians bring their own acts to get critiqued by professional actors.

“Laura Kelecki, Will Kommor, and I performed ‘Sad and Glad,’ the scene from Almost Maine we showed at school,” said Krakovsky. “We were awarded a superior and two excellents.”

A select group from The Producers, which was staged earlier this year at school, also performed “I Want to be a Producer” and received two superiors and an excellent.

Junior Kevin Qian performed “I’m Not That Smart,” from The 25th Putnam County Annual Spelling Bee, and was awarded three superiors, the highest scores possible.

An International Conference is also held where performers from all over the world can congregate and practice their art.

“It’s not just in the United States; we’re in Norway, Japan, and Australia when we have our International Convention,” said Brannen. “It has spread all over the world. To me, I think it’s just going to get bigger and bigger.”

The International Convention also provides a chance for the performers of selected dramas from the lower-level conventions. This year’s trip to Thescon featured the performance of the Georgia All State play, Elton John’s Aida, starring Westminster’s own James Franch as Zoser, the play’s villain.

“It’s about the Egyptians versus the Nubians in a war, and the love between the soon-to-be Egyptian pharaoh and the Nubian princess,” said Oelkers. “James played the villain, the Egyptian captain’s father who tries to set him up with the Egyptian princess instead of the Nubian one, who he really loves.”

James Franch was the only Westminster student to perform in the play that featured actors from all over Georgia.

“Four hundred eighty students throughout the whole state auditioned for [Aida] and [Franch] got one of the two leads,” said Brannen. “I think it says a lot about our program.”

The emphasis on the performing arts at Westminster and the strong theater community on campus helps to ensure success in the real world as well.

“In the past ten years,” Brannen said, “our graduates have gone on to win six Emmys, a Grammy, and a Tony.”

The community at Thescon is inviting to all the participants.

“You just have a general sense that you have a common interest with everybody at the conference,” said Oelkers. “We played improv games and just invited anybody who was walking by to come join. It’s really like a family, where you just make friends with total strangers.”

The family-like atmosphere provides the environment where thespians from across Georgia can simply be around one another and relate to each another.

“The community is great,” said freshman and first-time Thescon attendee Sam Lauten. “You can see it at Thescon and at Westminster. It’s probably one of my favorite things to have such a great friend base through Thescon.”

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