TAMPA – Experience in high school theater is a stepping stone for performers. If they are lucky, the footlights of stardom await.
That could well be the case for a number of King High School students who are members of the school’s Thespian Troupe 2217.
The group’s outstanding performances in the fall Florida State Thespians’ District 9 competitions earned them the distinction of being named a top five school among the 25 participating schools throughout Hillsborough County.
Out of its 10-member team of actors – a small number compared to the typical 20 to 25 people in most area high school troupes – five actors earned superior ratings, including seniors Melanie Sholl and Rennia Rodney, who were respectively named Best Female Lead in a Dramatic Role and All-Star Cast Member of the group’s one act play, “Just Girls Talking.”
Natalie Martinez, Ysis Pierson and Kelsey Oberbroeckling were the three other King High thespians to earn the sought-after superior rating.
The school’s overall ranking also qualifies the troupe to compete with its top five actors in the prestigious March 24-28 Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa. The event is billed as the world’s largest high school theater competition.
Ruth Kegel, a noted director and performer in multiple Masque Community Theatre productions in Temple Terrace, is the troupe leader. It’s a role she assumed two years ago when the group seemed to be on shaky ground in search of more structure and a positive identity.
“Ruth has really improved this thespian group,” Rennia said. “This whole experience has definitely helped me with my communication skills and enabled me to speak with confidence and poise.”
Rennia also said she’s proud to leave a troupe that has moved from the bottom to the top of the acting and credibility scale, a stance she believes the group can hold onto with Kegel at the helm.
Melanie, who has acted in several Masque productions and plans to pursue a career in theater, is also grateful to Kegel for bringing new life and enthusiasm into King’s thespian program.
“I think Ruth is such a great director,” Melanie said. “She’s worked so hard to get us where we are.”
Ysis, a junior who’s had an interest in acting for as long as she can remember and would like to also make it her career, has been in the King program since Kegel came on board. She credits Kegel for helping to make her better at her craft.
And so does Kelsey, a junior who has also performed in a couple of Masque plays under Kegel’s direction.
“When I found out Ruth was coming here I wanted to be in the troupe,” she said. “I’m very excited about the state competition and I’m ready to dive in. I especially like that it’s in Tampa.”
Kegel is thrilled with the amount of passion and hard work shown by her students, which also includes male actors Rudwan Soukieh, Matt Glicksberg, Adallas Smith and Christian Pena, who attends Jesuit High, a school without a thespian program.
“They all are great kids and because it’s an extracurricular activity it’s a balancing act because all the kids from King are in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program,” she said. “It’s safe to say King has made its mark.”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]