Ben Southerland and Emma Phinney are two of only about 30 students who are headed to the Georgia Thespians All-State Show.
The two Dalton High seniors attended the Georgia Thespian Conference—a theater conference that offers workshops, performances, and scholarship information— last winter at Columbus State and auditioned for the all-state show.
Around 5, 000 high school students attended the conference and 200 auditioned for the show. Before they even auditioned, it was announced that only 30 people would make the final cast.
“There was already tension,” Ms. Phinney said, “but then you hear 30. That’s a very specific number, and everyone was so talented.”
The 200 participants were competing for roles for “In the Heights”—a musical about a neighborhood in New York City.
Ms. Phinney and Mr. Southerland said they had to keep singing and dancing as the group kept breaking down into smaller and smaller numbers until the final cast was chosen.
“We were nervous and couldn’t sleep,” Mr. Southerland said of the night before the cast list was posted.
Eighteen-year-old Ms. Phinney won the role of Camila Rosario and 17-year-old Mr. Southerland won a spot as a dancer.
In July, the two attended a boot camp at Baldwin High school in Milledgeville to rehearse the show. Ms. Phinney said they were so busy that they had absolutely no free time.
“I brought snacks, but I had no time to eat them,” said Mr. Southerland. “It was intense learning.”
The two will attend rehearsal at Baldwin High every two months until the final show is performed at the next Thespian Conference Feb. 6-8.
At that 2014 conference, they are also being screened for the international conference. Out of the 30 people in the cast, 10 will be chosen to attend the international level which will be held in Nebraska.
“We’ve gained a lot of confidence,” said Mr. Southerland. “We’re excited, but not that nervous anymore.”
One thing that both Ms. Phinney and Mr. Southerland pointed out about their experience was how at home they both felt with the other thespians.
“The window of acceptance is much bigger there,” Mr. Southerland said.
Ms. Phinney said they would all sit around and sing a song together or randomly start rapping and beat boxing to songs. They have also all gone through the same experiences and can talk to each other about happenings or share stories like what roles they’ve won in musicals back home.
“The support there was amazing,” Ms. Phinney said. “You don’t get to relate to kids like that all the time.”