The rave reception Durango High School drama students drew for their debut of the musical “Les Misérables” at home in November was no fluke.
The performers, so impressive in their roles in the challenging musical, became the first Western Slope troupe to appear on the big stage of the Colorado State Thespian Conference in Denver last Friday.
The recognition means the DHS actors, actresses, musicians, dancers and technicians behind the scenes were, along with counterparts from Chaparral High School, the best act in Colorado.
“Our students rocked,” drama teacher Kristin Winchester-White said.
The performance was all the more impressive because most of the school’s 32 mics were damaged in a minor car accident, Winchester-White said. They made do with eight face mics and two handheld ones.
Eleven “Les Mis” participants qualified for the national Thespian Festival 2015 competition scheduled to be held in Lincoln, Nebraska, in June.
“I hope that all of them will compete in the nationals,” Winchester-White said.
Accolades for the young performers came fast and furiously, Winchester-White said.
Two particularly well-received comments came from J.D. Madsen, assistant professor of scenic design at the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Blake Babbitt, director of performing arts admissions at the New York Film Academy.
Madsen said: “I have to say I was very interested and pleasantly impressed with their quality and comportment. I would love the opportunity to talk about your program and students as well as maybe arrange a chance to sit and talk with your design and tech-oriented students about their future interests and training.”
Babbitt said: “Your students were particularly excellent at University Auditions today. Excellent direction on your behalf.”
The 11 students who qualified for national competition were: Tilly Leeder, Nico Schiavone, Emma Buchanan, Elise Christiansen, Rebekah Hwang, Ana Koshevoy, Zeta Hay, Evatt Salinger, Will Barney, Sydney McMunn and Chelsea Harris.
“Last year, we had eight students qualify for nationals, which was unheard of,” Winchester-White said. “Now we have 11, which is even more astonishing.”
Individual top honors were not absent.
Christiansen was No. 1 in technical theater, winning a scholarship to the university of her choice; Salinger was runner-up for top male performer; and Buchanan, Christiansen, Hwang, Koshevoy, Leeder and Hay were the top group performers.
Winchester-White hasn’t thought about what she will do for an encore in 2015.
A lot of seniors are graduating, opening the way for underclassmen, she said.