The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

OPRF students shine at theater fest

The All-State show performed at theater fest “She Kills Monsters” (Mia Wetzler)

Some 4,000 students from 160 schools across the state converged at Illinois State University in January for the 48th Annual Illinois High School Theatre Festival. Among them were 37 students from Oak Park and River Forest HighSchool–four of whom were chosen to participate in the All-State Production.

Started in 1976, the festival is both the largest and oldest non-competitive high school theater festival in the world. According to its website, the festival’s mission when established was “to create a state-wide festival event where students and teachers of theater could share theatrical endeavors as well as learn more about the art.”

This year’s festival ran from Jan. 11 to 13. Many productions took place there, including the 2024 All-State Production, “She Kills Monsters,” which included four OPRF students. Lauren Gullo, Robert Johnson, Saffron Kim and Mia Wetzler were all chosen to be part of the production through an interview process that required an application for students who wanted to be in the crew and an audition for students who wanted to be in the cast. Wetzler was selected to be in the cast and in the crew, Gullo worked on props and puppetry, Johnson worked on sound, and Kim worked on hair and makeup.

“She Kills Monsters” is a play about a woman, Agnes Evans, who, after losing her sister, Tilly, in a car crash, tries to get to know her better through playing a Dungeons and Dragons module that Tilly had written. Throughout the play, Agnes experiences the real world and the imaginary game world where she learns more about her sister than she ever anticipated.

Gullo said part of the reason she wanted to be involved in “She Kills Monsters” was because of the queer representation. “I never see representation of queer women in theater,” said Gullo, “[It is] only in small shows that my friends put on. But … to see it at such a large scale like this [was] so great for me.”

Wetzler, who played Tilly in the play, also praised the queer representation in the show and what it meant to her as a queer actress to play the role. “It was nice to have the All-State show be me playing a lesbian woman…I love her personality and her big energy. That was really fun to
do there,” explained Wetzler.

The Festival’s theme of “We Shine Brighter Together” influenced participants’ experience as well. Theatre Department Chair Michelle Bayer said the theme emphasized the collaboration that takes place in theater. She described how in theater “we’re not individual stars, we’re constellations. And so together a constellation is obviously much more than just a single star.”

Teamwork and new connections were prominent at the Festival. OPRF students were able to work with students from high schools across Illinois at work-shops in areas like Acting & Auditions, Technical Theater and many more.

Wetzler highlighted the importance of collaboration in the All-State Production. “We had people from all over Illinois working on the different parts of the show. We had people on props, people in the cast, people on the directing team, and we didn’t know each other, but we were able to get really close through making art together and work together to make a really good finished product,” she said.

Along with all the fun of the All-State Production, there was also lots of hard work put into the show. Production weekends happened every month from August to December and everyone involved in the play was at the Festival for the entire week in January.

Overall, the Illinois High School Theatre Festival offered an opportunity for students to see shows, participate in workshops, and meet people who are also passionate about theater.

Bayer celebrated the Festival, calling it “the only place, in the state of Illinois, that you can have 4,000 theater kids all together in one space.” She hoped that all students who went to the Festival realized they were “part of this larger community of people.”

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