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RCHS theatre program has 34 national qualifiers

The Rock Canyon High School theatre program has grown from one National Qualifier in 2013 to a record 34 individual qualifications this year. 80108 thespians in the program include Lucy Meisel, Kaelyn New, Logan McDonnell, Briana Zappavigna, Brittlyn Stibley, Lily Schmoker, Valerie Thomas, Carson Carnes, Sophia Badia, Cameron Warlow, Tim Merkle and Olivia Critchley.

By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of Cindy Baker

“This is my ‘swan song’ attending Nationals and I’m just so proud of what we accomplished in the last seven years!” said Cindy Baker, Rock Canyon High School’s (RCHS) theatre director, who has taken the program from one National Qualifier in 2013 to a record 34 individual qualifications to Nationals this year.

To qualify for Nationals requires an overall score of “superior” from the two judges at the state level. Students are ranked according to four levels in categories such as professionalism, tactics, risks, discovery, relationships, vocal technique, movement and focus. Many students in the program qualified twice.

Over the past seven years, the program has had many impressive accomplishments; they attended the state conference, had 75 students invited to Nationals, and one winning improv team. Not just actors have excelled; four students were chosen to run various tech theatre jobs at national premiere performances sponsored by the International Thespian Society, having won in specific technical skills categories and in the Tech Olympics.

The program was the only selected one-act to represent Colorado at the 2014 and 2015 National Conferences and the only Colorado school to place in the individual tech challenge events at the 2018 National Conference. Baker added, “We were honored to present “The Women of Lockerbie” on the main stage in front of 5,000 people at Nationals in 2016 (see related story May 2016) and were one of just eight high school improv troupes to be selected to the Denver Improv Festival in both 2017 and 2018.”

Baker called going to Nationals this summer her “swan song” because the event is being moved to Indiana, and she said she “needs to step back and evaluate the added expense and not leave the practice of going as a burden to whomever my replacement will be in a few years. They can make a fresh decision without pressure.” Baker has been teaching at RCHS since 2005 and has been teaching theatre since 1986.

Valerie Thomas, a senior at RCHS and an 80108 resident who has qualified for nationals twice, when she was a junior, and now as a senior said, “Nationals is really fun and is held at the University of Nebraska over the summer. We used all of their classrooms and even slept in the dorms. It lasts a week and apart from performing, we go to shows put on by other high schools in the country and go to sessions put on by teachers, actors, singers, and choreographers from around the country. I also did college auditions there and found the schools I am applying to from that event. Overall, it’s extremely exciting to be in a place of fellow performers who think the same as you and learn from people with your interests.”

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