WOHS thespians win multiple awards at New Jersey State Thespian Festival

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Students in Wendy Mapes’ advanced theater class took home several awards from the state of New Jersey at the annual Thespian Festival Chapter Select Competition, held in December in Trenton.

The WOHS Thespian Society and Mapes’ class competed in a variety of theatrical events with other students from different parts of the state. Several WOHS students took home Superior medals, which means they have the opportunity to compete at Nationals in June. In addition to competing in various events, students also spent the weekend taking workshops in improvisation, hip hop, acting as a business, stage combat, yoga for actors, playwriting, juggling and more. 

Seniors Matt Schwartz and Ashley Morales and junior Jillian Russell directed a 45-minute performance of John Cariani’s play, “Almost, Maine,” which was part of the advanced theater curriculum. Students serve as directors, stage managers and actors. The performance garnered a second-place award for the troupe.

“The three led the advanced theater class to a real creative victory,” Mapes said.

Senior Clare Cunningham won first place for best lead actress, senior Rachel Favetta won first place for best supporting actress and Senior Khalil Louigene won first place for best supporting actor. Senior Ruth Donagher received a Governor’s Award in set design for the all-state play, “Girls Like That. “

Several other West Orange thespians were recognized: Julian Adams, Israel Soto Jr., Onye Bosco, Favetta and Amina Anekwe won Superior awards for contrasting monologue; Nyobi Boddy and Joe Florendo won Superior awards for solo musical; Maria Nalieth and Olivia Ridley won a Superior award for musical duet; and Schwartz, Justin Peters, Hailey Miller and Joe Nalieth won a Superior award for their drama short.

“The Thespian Festival is an amazing opportunity for young performers to test their theatrical skills with feedback and scores from professionals in the theater industry,” Mapes said. “The various events are challenging and competitive but are done in a spirit of joy and fellowship that fosters bonds not only between West Orange students but between like-minded theater students from all over the state. And, it’s a lot of fun.

“The group then performed the piece for an assembly at West Orange High School students before the holidays and will soon take their act on the road and perform for eighth-grade students at Roosevelt and Liberty middle schools,” Mapes concluded.

Photos Courtesy of Pete Ficuciello