CLARKSBURG—The Performing Arts Conservatory at Notre Dame High School won several group and individual championships at the 2021 West Virginia State Thespian Festival. The program’s 20 students brought home a total of 28 awards and acknowledgements highlighted by 12 invitations to perform and compete at this summer’s virtual International Thespian Festival. The high school Thespian troupe’s original play Shakespeare’s MixTape was chosen as the West Virginia Chapter Select One-Act, an honor given to only one production each year. The show will now represent the state in the Chapter Select Showcase at the International Thespian Festival. From the cast of Shakespeare’s MixTape, Ajai Woofter and Maryn Seamon were named to the All-Festival Cast, and from the entire field of one-acts, Ashton Nardella was selected as an Outstanding Supporting Actor; and McKenzie Fittro and Ben Long were selected as the Outstanding Actors. The high school one-act, which finished one point shy of a perfect score, was also awarded a special judges’ commendation for Best Ensemble. This was the same award the troupe won earlier in the month of March at the virtual Southeastern Theatre Conference. “This is the second time in five years our high school one-act has been chosen as the Chapter Select production for West Virginia,” said Jason A Young, PAC at NDHS Director. “Our 2017 production of Future, Here and this year’s production of Shakespeare’s MixTape had one major thing in common: Both plays were original works partially created by the students.” Thanks to a generous grant from the West Virginia Division of Arts Culture and History, the PAC at NDHS was able to enlist the services of Guest Artist Jim Warren to assist the Thespians in the creation of this year’s one-act. Warren, the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The American Globe Center in Stratford, Connecticut, spent half of the fall semester in Clarksburg with the high school Thespians as they created their collage of Shakespeare scenes woven together through music and movement. “All of the work that we did with the students was the same kind of work I would do with professional actors,” Warren said. “I think that every actor comes into a play with their own amount of experience, but they come with their own bag of tricks. They come with their own strengths and weaknesses, and as a director, it is for us to figure out where they are and to take the steps to the next level.” The results of this year’s festival signifies that the six-year-old performing arts program at Notre Dame has certainly reached a new level of achievement. In addition to the success of the high school Thespians’ one-act, the students also won nine championships in individual performance events: Monologue – Hannah Gowarty Duo Acting – Mary Korn & Ashton Nardella Duo Acting – Zach Davis & Karen Riley Group Acting – Hannah Gowarty, Stephanie Santilli, Mary Korn, Gracie Nardella, Karen Riley, and Kelsey Riley Solo Musical Theatre – Nicole Schumacher Solo Musical Theatre – Maryn Seamon Duet Musical Theatre – Ben Long &Ajai Woofter Duet Musical Theatre – McKenzie Fittro & Mary Claire Palmer Group Musical Theatre – McKenzie Fittro, Ben Long, Nicole Schumacher, Maryn Seamon, and Mary Claire Palmer From those nine championship entries, Gowarty’s monologue, both duo scenes, the group acting scene, both musical theatre solos, and the group musical theatre scene are advancing to compete at the virtual International Thespian Festival. “In previous years we may have had as many as three individual event winners,” said Young. “This year we had a champion in every category and will be represented in almost every category at the International Thespian Festival. I think we are still trying to wrap our head around that incredible feat.” The high school Thespians also received six first or second place finishes in the state festival’s Technical Theatre Expo: 1st Place Costume Design – Gracie Nardella 1st Place Fantasy Make-Up – Nicole Schumacher 1st Place Puppetry (Marionette) – Mary Korn 2nd Place Puppetry (Marionette) – Maryn Seamon 2nd Place Puppetry (Experimental) – Mary Claire Palmer 1st Place Publicity/Marketing (Novice) – Stephanie Santilli From those six award-winning entries, Nardella’s Costume Design and Schumacher’s Fantasy Make-Up Design will be advancing to the virtual International Thespian Festival for adjudication. “This is the first year our high school Thespians have ever entered technical theatre projects,” said Young. “We normally aren’t able to provide that type of opportunity for our students. But this year we enlisted the help of some teaching artists as mentors who guided the Thespians as they created their individual projects.” Thanks to all of the top finishes in the Technical Theatre Expo, NDHS was named the Outstanding Technical Theatre School at this year’s state festival. The program’s successes did not stop with the high school Thespians. The PAC at NDHS houses one of the only middle school Thespian troupes in West Virginia. The middle school Thespians submitted a one-act play and four individual events to this year’s state festival. From the cast of the middle school one-act Androcles and the Lion Jack Santee and Cameron Bruce were named to the All-Festival Cast. The production also earned a special judges’ commendation for Physical Creativity. Duo Scenes from Bruce and Andrew Cochran and Caroline Lewis and Audrey Kosydar also won state championships. “We are incredibly blessed with wonderful students, teachers, parents, and a supportive administration,” said Young. “To create this amount of work during a pandemic is outstanding. To create work that is of as high a quality as these performances and projects were, is truly astonishing.”