School is out for most Durango High School students and staff, except for a notable group of high achievers. For 15 members of Troupe 1096, the DHS drama program, and program director Ben Mattson, the highlight of the year comes later this month with a trip to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska., a national-level competition for drama students that will run June 20-25.
Troupe 1096 deserves accolades for both technical design and performances, and an extra round of applause goes to Mattson, who had some big shoes to fill when he took charge of the program for the 2015-16 school year. And not just one pair, but two. Former directors Kristen Winchester-White and Walker White left an award-winning program a year ago to pursue other challenges, leaving some students and their parents wondering if the program might struggle this season. Thanks to Mattson, and to his driven students, this year’s group had another outstanding season.
Mattson says all credit goes to his charges, adding that for all the hours the students put in on weekends and evening rehearsals, they perform as well in the classroom as they do in the DHS theater.
The troupe is already planning for next year. A fall production of the ambitious musical “Beauty and the Beast” will be followed by the mystery “Drop Dead.” Students designing the first show will begin preliminary work this summer, and the entire group will meet for the first set-building of the new season before classes resume in August.
But first, there is the trip to Lincoln for a week of performances, competitions and workshops. Durango’s 15 includes many who would like to continue to hone their skills in college. This trip offers a chance to do so.
The students face another challenge in raising money for the trip. “This group has earned the support of the entire community,” Mattson said, and he is correct. Donations for Troupe 1096 can be sent to Durango High School, 2390 Main Ave., 81303.
“They deserve it,” Mattson said. “These kids have done a great job of helping put Durango on the map.”