TRENTON, NJ — Students in West Orange High School (WOHS) teacher Wendy Mapes’ advanced theatre class recently took home several state awards from annual Thespian Festival Chapter Select Competition held at Robbinsville High School in Trenton, including various individual awards such as “Best Supporting Actor” as well as awards for groups and duos.

Members of both Mapes’ class and the WOHS Thespian Society competed in a variety of theatrical events with other students from different parts of the state.

As part of the WOHS Advanced Theatre curriculum, seniors Matt Schwartz and Ashley Morales and junior Jillian Russell directed, stage-managed and acted in a 45-minute performance of John Cariani's play, "Almost, Maine," which garnered a second-place trophy in the state for the troupe.

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"The three led the Advanced Theatre class to a real creative victory," said Mapes.

Additionally, senior Clare Cunningham won first place for best lead actress; senior Rachel Favetta won first place for best supporting actress; and senior Khalil Louigene won first place for best supporting actor. Senior Ruth Donagher received a "Governor's Award" in set design for the all-state play, "Girls Like That." 

The following WOHS students also earned “Superior” medals, which means that they will have the opportunity to compete at the national competition in June:

  • Julian Adams, Israel Soto, Jr., Onye Bosco, Rachel Favetta and Amina Anekwe — Superior Contrasting Monologue;
  • Nyobi Boddy and Joe Florendo — Superior Solo Musical;
  • Maria Nalieth and Olivia Ridley — Superior Musical Duet; and 
  • Matt Schwartz, Justin Peters, Hailey Miller, Joe Nalieth — WOHS Drama Superior Short.

"The Thespian Festival is an amazing opportunity for young performers to test their theatrical skills with feedback and scores from professionals in the theatre industry," said Mapes. "The various events are challenging and competitive but are done in a spirit of joy and fellowship that fosters bonds not only between West Orange students, but between like-minded theatre students from all over the state. And, it’s a lot of fun."

In addition to competing in various events, participating students also spent the weekend taking workshops in improvisation, hip-hop dance, acting as a business, stage combat, yoga for actors, playwriting, juggling and more.  

Prior to the holidays, the group performed at an assembly for WOHS students and also has plans to perform for eighth-grade students at Roosevelt and Liberty Middle Schools.