WOHS theater to perform main stage in state thespian festival

West Orange thespians will be performing a musical and one-act play at the upcoming Florida State Thespian Festival this month.

  • By
  • | 12:30 p.m. March 4, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • News
  • Share

West Orange High’s theater students are no strangers to the main stage of the Florida State Thespian Festival, and they’ll be hitting that stage again later this month.

While most Orange County students will be on spring break, the West Orange High thespians will be hard at work performing their productions at the upcoming State Thespian Festival from March 18 to 21 in Tampa. The theater students will be performing their fall musical, “Curtains,” at the main stage, and they’ll be performing their one-act play, “Lilies on the Land,” at the festival, as well. West Orange is one of eight high school theater programs in the state invited to perform at the main stage of the festival.

“It’s a pretty massive deal (for us),” said Tara Whitman, the director of the West Orange High theater program. “We’re one of eight shows featured at the festival.”

West Orange High band students also will be joining the theater students to play the music for “Curtains” live during the main stage performance. It’s the first time the school band has joined the theater students at the Florida State Thespian Festival. On top of performing “Curtains” on the main stage at the festival, one of the production’s original writers, Rupert Holmes, will be in the audience. 

“The school band will be coming with us to play in the pit, so that’ll be a first-time experience for them in that professional house as well as for us to bring a whole band,” Whitman said. “Rupert Holmes, who is one of the writers of the show … rewrote a scene that we put in our version of the show. They are planning to replace it with our scene, so he’s going to be there to see it at state. … (The students) are going to basically meet a celebrity who’s coming to watch them, which is really cool.”

Katie Ennis played the role of Peggy in “Lilies on the Land,” which is a historical-narrative play that tells firsthand accounts of members of the Women’s Land Army in Britain.
Katie Ennis played the role of Peggy in “Lilies on the Land,” which is a historical-narrative play that tells firsthand accounts of members of the Women’s Land Army in Britain.

The West Orange theater department will be bringing all the costumes, props, equipment, set pieces and everything else they’ll need to put on the shows. Before they can take their shows on the road, they’ll need to raise about $85,000 to cover the related expenses for the trip. 

To help raise that money, the theater department has set up a fundraising website and also will present remounts of both shows for the community to see. The remount of “Curtains” is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 6 and 7 and 2:30 p.m. March 8. “Lilies on the Land” will be presented at 7 p.m. March 11. Both productions will be held at the auditorium at West Orange High, 1625 S. Beulah Road, Winter Garden.

Additionally, tickets for the “Curtains” remount are being sold in combination with Montverde Academy’s production of “The Glass Menagerie,” which also will be presented at the main stage of the Florida State Thespian Festival. Show-goers will be able to see both productions for the purchase of one ticket.

The last show West Orange High theater took to the main stage at the State Thespian Festival was its production of “Bright Star” in 2018. Senior Justin Seithel is a master electrician who works more on the technical side of the school’s theater productions. He was part of the team that worked on “Bright Star” in 2018, and he can’t wait to return to the festival to work on another main stage production. In fact, “Bright Star” was the first production he’s worked on in the three years he’s been involved in the theater program.

“I’m super excited,” Seithel said. “It’s always really cool, (and) it’s always really fun to work in a far larger space with a crowd that knows what you go through behind the stage and in front of the stage. It’s a really fun event.”

Sophomore Aakash Dookhie has been to the state festival before and even played a role in a one-act play — called “The Diviners” — that West Orange High theater brought to the festival last year; however, the upcoming performance will be the first time he’s been involved in a main stage musical production at the festival. 

“It’s overwhelming, but also knowing what the payoff will be is so exciting,” Dookhie said. “There’s so much work to it, but since I was able to go to the competition last year, seeing the productions and seeing the audience reactions and seeing the support that you have — because it’s all your fellow (theater) students — it’s going to be magical. … The ability for all of us to show what we do here to every (theater) student (at the festival), it’s absolutely insane.”