The Show Goes On for State High Thespians


Thespians members line up excitedly waiting to start rehearsal for the spring musical “Hello, Dolly!”. Photo by Karl Helmerich.

Bryson Christopher, Staff Writer

On Mar. 30, State High Thespians will debut their first production “Hello, Dolly!” with a new director. The musical will be the first after the retirement of Director Jill Campbell, who held the role for over 30 years. “Seussical”, performed in the Spring of 2022, was her final show before she left State High. Director Erik Clayton has taken on the spring musical and the role of Thespians advisor.

Under Jill Campbell, Thespians centered on student involvement and responsibility. One crew member of three years, Bella Gallo, appreciates the student-run nature of the club. “Thespians is built on so many traditions,” Gallo said.

After Campbell’s retirement at the end of 2022, the role of director for the 22-23 fall musical was filled by Lauren McKee, a State High Thespians and Penn State acting alumni. Though she only directed a single play, she made a lasting positive impact on the program. Current Thespians president Avery Jones thought she made many steps forward in her semester at State High. “She brought a really nice, new perspective,” Jones said. “She made it a lot more collaborative.”

However, McKee could only direct a single show with Thespians, as she moved to London for a theater job following the production. “I definitely admired her courage to step in and do things in a way that was going to be a little different,” Jones remarked.

When the spring musical started production, the role of Thespians leader fell to Erik Clayton, the choral director at State High.

Along with a new director comes a new style of show; previous productions, such as “Seussical” and “Honk!” are known for their quirky and unique styles. “Hello, Dolly!” is a Golden Age musical, a term used to describe productions that played on Broadway between 1940 and 1964. “I just love golden age musicals,” Clayton described, “and it was to also do something different. When Ifirst came here, we did several of those golden age musicals, and when I was in high school here we did Hello, Dolly.”

A large priority of Clayton for the upcoming production is growing staff assistance, student involvement and collaboration. “This idea of training students has been a really wonderful development to get more students involved,” he remarked. 

Having four rehearsals a week, Thespians may come off as daunting to some students. This is another stigma Clayton plans to break. Reflecting on previous years Clayton said that “there was a reputation in the past that if you participate in Thespians, you have no life, and I’ve been trying to break that.”

The number of Thespians has grown this year as well – rising from thirty-seven last year to fifty-four currently, and Clayton hopes that number will only continue to grow. “We have a policy of not cutting anybody who auditions,” he emphasized.

Though the changing of advisors may alter the clubs, Clayton hopes to continue his involvement with the program. “For certain I’ll continue doing vocals and pit orchestra,” he noted. 

With the great deal of change taking place within the program, Thespians is not going anywhere. And, it will continue to offer unique musical opportunities for State High students for years to come.