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State High School Dramatists Take Act To Tampa

Matthew Balkum and Allegra Beachy are part of student leadership for the Florida Thespian Festival

Thousands of the most dramatic teenagers in Florida are in downtown Tampa this week for the annual state conference of the International Thespian Society.

For 25 years, the Florida Thespian Festival has given young performers the chance to get professional feedback, attend workshops with Broadway stars, and audition for college theater departments. 

But before anyone recites a monologue or sings a song, programs have been printed, contracts signed and kids such as Allegra Beachy from Steinbrenner High School in Lutz have been setting the stage.

“I’ve been making sure all the judges have what they need,” she said. “Also the choreographers and directors, because the actors couldn't do any of it without the backbone."

The students compete, not against each other but with themselves, each striving for a "superior" grade from the judges, the top on a five-point scale.  State student representative Matthew Balkum says Broadway pros will also be on hand to share tips of the trade.     

"It’s that exposure to the actual professional world of theater that otherwise these students might not have the opportunity to experience,” he said.

Balkum is a senior at Steinbrenner High School. He's also competing in this week's event which takes place at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts , The Tampa Convention Center and the Tampa Theatre. 

He says the most memorable time in his high school career was dancing on a table in six inch heels during a performance of the musical, "Rent. "

"And so I go sliding off of the table and luckily someone caught me and I didn't die,” he laughed. “You’ve got to have a hard backbone and thick skin in order to do theater."

Friday night Palm Harbor University High School performs “Sunday in the Park with George” at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

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