The Nebraska Cornhuskers' 2010 football season doesn't begin until September. By then, the 2,500 students visiting the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this week for the Thespian Festival will be back at their schools throughout the United States getting ready for their own Fall events.
But while the Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Games, USA Roller Sports Speed Skating National Championships and Cornhusker State Games are waiting in the wings for their own big events in Lincoln, The Educational Theatre Association is center stage. This summer is the 16th annual Thespian Festival in Lincoln, where students are learning about teamwork, discipline and social skills. It's everything they'll need to put together a winning season -- and a better life. Where else do you prepare for living civilly and collaboratively in a community?
This year, the 2,000,000th U.S. thespian will be part of the Lincoln festivities, looking to hit homeruns like Tom Hanks, score touchdowns like Madonna and make points like actors Goldie Hawn, John Goodman, Tom Cruise, Sean Hayes, Dick Van Dyke and the many others who got "hooked" on a high school stage through the years.
Rather than tackling dummies at a football combine, these students will be vocalizing the music and lyrics to How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (on Broadway next year with Harry Potter's own lead thespian, Daniel Radcliffe), Pippin, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Urinetown, Working and others. Instead of Vince Lombardi's backfield moves, they'll be speaking and singing the creations of Pulitzer Prize winners and dreaming -- not of scoreboards but of theatre marquees -- and showbiz glory.
The Thespians will also be learning how to tie perfect knots, sew last-minute buttons on costumes, paint sets, harmonize early in the morning, hang heavy lights and simply act like they're succeeding in life without really trying... and they probably will. That's because if you love what you do, you're bound to do it well.
Those of us who work with schools and music teachers know how hard our students work and it's gratifying to see them rewarded with an opportunity to showcase their talent, dedication, innovation and hard work at an event as important as the Thespian Festival.
Thanks to Glee, High School Musical and Camp Rock, their efforts and stories are more appreciated and (perhaps) more important than ever before.
Kudos to our teachers. They galvanize the students and keep it all together... tough but nurturing. Theatre kids know how to "break a leg" without getting hurt. What could be better to insure America's future?