THE MICHIGAN CHAPTER of the Educational Theatre Association (META) held its 2019 Michigan Thespian Festival, also known as MiFest, December 13 and 14. The two-day event welcomed 1,679 Thespians, troupe directors, and chaperones to the TCF Center and Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Detroit.

The annual event takes its theme from a Broadway musical, with “You Matter to Me” from Waitress providing the inspiration this year. Michigan’s Student Thespian Officers (STOs) kicked off the opening ceremony dancing across the stage in aprons to a festival-related parody of Sara Bareilles’ “Opening Up.”

The Michigan STOS were eager to welcome Thespians to MiFest 2019.

The Michigan STOs eagerly welcomed Thespians to MiFest 2019. Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Roberts.

Delegates also enjoyed performances of the musical Curtains from Troupe 1000 of Warren Consolidated School of Performing Arts in Sterling Heights and the classic play 12 Angry Jurors from Troupe 5253 of University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods. Michigan STO Christina Jarad, a junior, was a member of the Jurors cast. “Getting to perform a show on the main stage this year was a dream come true,” she said. “My troupe and I performed 12 Angry Jurors, which, although set in 1954, has as impactful a message today as ever. We decided to take a more modern approach to this story through our casting. We had a racially diverse cast that represented all genders, making the story even more relatable to modern audiences.”

Individual event participation grew, with 615 entries in categories ranging from solo musical to short film. Plus, soon-to-be high school graduates got a leg up on their college planning. “Our college scholarship program saw 11 senior Thespians awarded Michigan Thespian scholarships and more than $25 million in scholarship money offered to Michigan Thespian seniors through the META college audition program,” said Chapter Director Anne-Marie Roberts.

The musical Waitress provided the theme for the 2019 Michigan Thespian Festival.
The musical Waitress provided the theme for the 2019 Michigan Thespian Festival. Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Roberts.

With all the Thespians received during MiFest, they also generously gave back. “The highlight of festival for me was our Minute to Give It during the closing ceremony,” said STO Hunter Stabile, a senior at Wylie E. Groves High School in Beverly Hills. “It is always disappointing to see festival end, but we were able to bring joy to the Music Hall when we announced that we raised $1,200 in 60 seconds! This year, Michigan Thespians teamed with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for AIDS-related causes across the country.”

Despite so many well-planned opportunities for Thespians at MiFest, it’s often spontaneous experiences that create the longest-lasting memories. “A highlight of the 2019 festival was when ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ started playing in the auditorium preceding the closing ceremony. Since it’s such a popular song in the theatre community, everyone immediately rose from their seats and began to sing and dance along,” said STO Casper Dickey, a junior at Divine Child High School in Dearborn. “I’ll never forget gazing out into the audience to see hundreds of theatre kids dancing and singing, illuminated by the flare of their cellphone flashlights. This beautiful festival moment perfectly captured how Michigan Thespians are truly such a passionate, fun, and loving community.”

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