The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


Reaching for the Blue Star

Northwest’s Thespian Troupe 888 prepares to compete for the Blue Star Awards
Ashley Broils
Senior Ellison Bonge sings Feb. 14 in the Auditorium. Bonge Played Alice Beineke, the mother of Lucas, Wednesday’s love interest in ‘The Addams Family’ musical. “When I thought about a mom character, my first thought was boring, but Alice was a whole other level,” Bonge said. “Getting to act crazy, screaming and crawling on tables was so much fun and I feel in love with Alice.” Photo by Ashley Broils

In the Greg Parker Auditorium, togas, tutus and a spectral prom queen crowd the stage, singing scales as stage lights flicker. It’s the last dress rehearsal before opening night of the Addams Family musical, and actors clad in ghostly garb laugh and stretch as they prepare. 

This year, Northwest’s Thespian Troupe 888 applied for the Blue Star Awards. It is an award program modeled after Broadway’s Tony Awards and is hosted by Starlight Theatre. They recognize high school musical theatres in the greater Kansas City area.

“I heard about a lot of other schools ,” senior Rose Cox said. Cox was the stage manager for Troupe 888’s musical, The Addams Family. “I looked more into it over the summer and saw that there were a lot of good opportunities for the students, even if your show doesn’t get nominated.”

Cox helped convince theatre teacher and director Shawnasea Holst to sign up for the Blue Star Awards. Becoming a Blue Star school gives students multiple scholarship opportunities and allows their hard work in musical theatre to be recognized. To be eligible, Troupe 888 had to alter some of their usual procedures.

“It’s supposed to be a student award program for their achievements,” Holst said. “The minimum requirement is 75%.”

Instead of renting costumes or having adult assistance, much of the work was done by students to reach the 75% mark. 

“That’s the big thing,” Holst said. “It’s supposed to be as student-done as humanly possible. The adults are there to facilitate, the adults are there to make sure that no one is getting hurt. Supervising, facilitating, advising, but I’m not supposed to be up on the ladder fixing the lights myself. I’m not supposed to sew the costume myself.”

Troupe 888’s scenic designer — who designs the layouts of sets to be sure they are safe and functional — is an adult, so they have to compensate for the fact by building sets largely by themselves.

“We’ve been paying a lot of attention to the craftsmanship of our props and our set design,” said sophomore assistant stage manager Axel Delaney. “In general, I think we went a bit more extravagant than we would have if we weren’t going for the Blue Star.”

In addition, budgeting was something theatre director Holst had to keep track of. 

“Normally, when I’m working with my budget, I know what my overall total is,” Holst said. “I’m trying to spend less than five thousand dollars for the entire show. For this, it’s wanting to know departments. How much money did I spend on lighting? How much money did I spend on costumes?”

When competing for Blue Star Awards, schools fall into different categories based on their production budgets. Based on budgeting information, they will be placed into a category that allows them to compete against other thespian troupes with similar budgets. 

Starlight Theatre sends two Blue Star Award winners to compete in the Jimmy Awards, a national high school musical theatre awards competition that takes place in New York City over the summer. Junior Luke Dent hopes to win a chance to compete nationally. Dent qualified for the Jimmy Awards because of his leading role as Gomez Addams in the Addams Family musical. 

“For the opportunity to go to New York, possibly work with Juilliard instructors and people on Broadway touring, that would all be a great experience,” Dent said. 

Even if Thespian Troupe 888 isn’t recognised by the Blue Star Awards, they still receive feedback from the adjudicators — theatre professionals, performing artists, designers and theatre arts educators — who came to watch their musical. 

The thought of feedback and chance to win awards has motivated Troupe 888 to strive for excellence. 

“Before we even auditioned, before we even pulled up the script, and said, ‘If we’re going to put in for a Blue Star, let’s give it our best effort,’” Holst said. “We set that expectation on day one that we wanted everyone to bring their best side.”

“Let’s get some real good feedback, let’s know where we can grow, let’s actually be a contender. Maybe Shawnee Mission Northwest wins a Blue Star, maybe we get a nomination, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m up against, but I’m going to give it my best effort.”

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About the Contributor
Ashley Broils, Assistant Newspaper Photo Editor
Hi, my name is Ashley Broils and I am an Assistant Newspaper Photo Editor. I am a junior and this is my third year of photojournalism. My job is to help the newspaper photo editors with checking captions of photos and picking photos for the newspaper. When taking photos, I really enjoy being close to the action. I have two brothers, Justin and Alex, who are both in middle school. I also have a dog named Anna who is one year old and loves to play fetch with me. My favorite destination is Puerto Rico. I vacationed there this summer.

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