Friday, May 02, 2008

Florida State Thespian Festival 2008

The largest theater festival in the country is happing on the TBPAC campus this week and it has made me nostalgic. The Florida State Thespian festival attracts over 7,000 students to Tampa with events at TBPAC and the Convention Center. For four days Thespians experience workshops, performances, adjudications and a collective feeling of “we’re not alone.”

I can remember looking forward to Thespian Festival when I was a teenager. I am a Fort Myers High School graduate (District 6, Troupe #334) and participated in Thespian State from 1990 – 1993 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. It was truly the best four days of the year.

I was a drama nerd. A proud drama nerd! High school yearbook photos captured me behind light booths, up on scaffolding building sets, on stage performing, and my senior portrait depicts me proudly wearing the drama masks around my neck. I can’t say I didn’t fit in, I had friends and I think I was well-liked, I just never felt as “accepted” in my day-to-day high school life as I did at Thespian State Festival. Where all the drama nerds come to play.

As the week has gone by, I have isolated several “kinds” of Thespians. I have listed them in no particular order and they are universal archetypes, as apparent today as they were almost two decades ago (apologies to my fellow FMHS Thespians, I have named names. If you have a vanity Google alert on yourself you’re in for a surprise):
  • Skinny jeans that have been written on with sharpie (our jeans had zippers on the ankles and a question mark on our butt)
  • Leggings with a skirt (I can assure you personally the same look was worn at Thespian Festival 15 years ago)
  • A boy(ish) individual wearing an ascot or scarf (Rhett Jonke, I think you wore an ascot to opening ceremony)
  • Lots of couples who act as though if they stop holding hands they will be unable to breathe properly (I was that girl and Jeff Willis was that boy)
  • Two girls singing “Popular” from Wicked on a street corner (in my day it was “Movie in My Mind” from Miss Saigon – you go Jessica Luallen!)
  • A girl with black eye liner sobbing hysterically (Natasha Palumbo, what’s wrong?)
  • Loitering (and hopeful) thespians standing outside of the HUB with a nonchalant look in their eye (I was there and whether or not I scored booze is not relevant to this post)
  • A group of smokers with the defiant “I’m 18” look on their face (bad habit kids, don’t start, you’ll hate yourself 16 years later)
  • Impromptu stage combat in an inappropriate place (I think I still have a scar from rug burn in Carol Morsani Hall, thanks Brett Williams)
  • Old skool goth kids (we get older, they stay the same freaky, right Eric Autry?)
  • The really pretty cheerleader who is obviously slumming it with the drama nerds (Hey, at least its a few days out of school, right Tonya Campbell?)
  • Any ironic t-shirt – extra points if they celebrate someone’s Bat Mitzvah (Jenean Klein is the coolest!)
  • Anyone participating in a “death off” – just die dramatically for no reason (subversive in your hometown mall, competitive sport at Thespian State, winner – Charlie Berfield)
  • Lost chaperones (sorry, somebody’s mom, we forgot to tell you where to meet)
  • Teacher caught chain smoking by the river (Mrs. Autry we knew you couldn’t hide from us forever!)
  • Anyone writing on a napkin their Troupe # to put under the table glass at the Stage Door CafĂ© across the street (I can’t find mine anymore)
  • Thespian jackets (I still have mine – well actually my mom has it)
  • A group of 5 or more in matching T-shirts (My favorite this year? “I said THESpian!”)
  • Someone staring at a wall and talking to it (in high school we’re crazy, here we’re just running lines)
  • Overuse of the term “Super-superior” (yes, yes Randy Habovsky you always super-superior)
Times may change, but Drama Nerds have timelessness about them. I have enjoyed seeing my zeitgeists all over campus this week and will be sad to see them go tomorrow. Troupe #334 will be performing a one-act in the Ferguson tomorrow morning. I may just have to drag out of bed and go support my “Green Wave.” I am sure I will look at them and wonder: What will they become? What will they be inspired to do because they were here? What memories will they take with them?

For myself, I have embarked on a life in the arts. A theater degree from the University of Florida, a half-decade long adventure in Los Angeles, a career with The Second City and now a life at the very facility were many of my dreams began. I still have my Super-Superior ribbons, my programs from each year and a zippo I bought (in the lobby of the now Howard Johnsons nee Holiday Inn) with the comedy/tragedy masks engraved on them. Don’t smoke kids, seriously, it’s not cool.

Good luck Thespians, break legs, keep your drama in the theater and remember, no matter what you do in life – All the world’s a stage.

A wistful Kari G.



David J. said...

You forgot the whole neo-hippie look. Little round glasses, a Dylan/Hendrix/Beatles/Lennon/Janis shirt, a bandana - somewhere, and tatty jeans/hippie skirt and likely no shoes.

Every year that look perseveres. I started here in 1989 with Thespians, and never thought I'd somehow still be in the building every year. I saw one this morning as I was walking in.

And oh, btw, I resemble several of those comments. I'm not ashamed (though not quite proud) to have paid off local various 'gentleman of dubious residence' to procure potent potables here and there in my Festival days.

Flying Squirrel said...

Oh dear. That was me. I had a John Lennon shirt actually, although I did wear shoes. If you call purple suede desert boots - shoes. That was probably sophomore year. Junior year was 20's chic with a flapper bob and vintage clothes. Then senior year was a full embrace of "grunge" with flannel shirts, ripped jeans and docs. Ah identity, you are so illusive!

Max said...

I'm out a pair of moccasins, a 1982 Penn State t-shirt, some deodorant and a pair of shorts, but it was the best week of my life.

David J. said...

I hear you, Max. I still have all of my Festival photos nearby, and that was 16 years ago now.

God I'm old.

At least my teachers that I still see here every year are older. :)

Anonymous said...

My name is Elliott and I was at Florida Thespians in 2008 for Troupe 334 and I took home a SUPER SUPERIOR!!

Alex said...

I would be with the troupe that wore the "I said THESPian" shirts.

Troupe 6172 baby

Karly said...

This was very amusing,
and very true..

Actually Alex, our shirts say "No! I said THESPIAN!"

The "I said THESpian" people ripped us off

but still, troupe 6172 ftw!

Randy Habovsky said...

Hey Elliot, my name is Randy Habovsky and from one super-superior to another--GREAT JOB!

Alas, I was there with Ms. Kari G. at that festival. Wish I'd taken the time to enjoy it more. Spend most of the time stressing about the auditions for the schools and scholarships (of which I took home 2 of the 7 thank you very much). But now, still a performer, listening to Ms. G recount it as if it was yesterday, I cannot say as I remember it as vividly or fondly as she. And for that I deeply regret. Advice to all yous young'ens: enjoy this time in your life and don't stress about auditions n stuff. Save the stress for later in life when you're actually a struggling entertainer.