West Orange theater troupe earns invite to International Thespian Festival

High school group will perform bluegrass musical 'Bright Star'

By Bridgett Ellison - Anchor

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A group of Orange County theater students is preparing for a unique honor. The West Orange High School theater troupe is headed to a state competition in Tampa this week then in June, they'll be off to the International Thespian Festival.

WOHS is the first Florida school since 2006 to get an invitation. The troupe will be performing the musical "Bright Star" at the event hosted by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

"'Bright Star' is a full bluegrass musical. We're actually the first high school ever to get the chance to perform it after the Broadway tour," Matt Guernier, a WOHS theater student, said.

"Bright Star" was written and composed by comedian Steve Martin and singer/songwriter Edie Brickell. WOHS theater director Tara Whitman was instrumental in making the requests to get rights for her students to perform the musical this school year.

Although "Bright Star" is from the big stage, all the sweat equity to bring it to their stage belongs to the students at West Orange.

"They're extremely invested in they understand the pieces that go into a full production, what's involved in getting that job done no matter how much effort it's gonna take," Whitman said.

"One of the things WOHST prides itself in, actors are also technicians. So, in this entire process, the entire cast is also working on technical crews, so I'm on the lighting crew," Patrick Duchene, a theater student, said. 

With or without the festivals and recognition, the students said they do it for their love of theater.

"I love the transformative nature of it, being able to hop into someone else's skin, experience their situations other than mine," Guernier said. "To be able get another world experience, not only for my experience as actor, but as a human being."

The students are trying to raise $85,000 to cover expenses to travel to Nebraska for the upcoming festival in June. People who want to offer support can visit www.wohstheatre.com.

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