- Cleburne Independent School District
CHS Students Among Competing Performers at International Thespian Festival
Four students who have wowed the crowds with their performances in Cleburne High School theater arts productions will be showcasing and sharpening their talents at the International Thespian Festival taking place this week at Indiana University.
Damson Chola, Jr., Cooper Madison and Hunter Patrick were selected to perform at the “ultimate celebration of school theatre,” following November 2021 auditions at the Texas Thespians State Festival. Anthony Sullivan was also among the CHS students selected for national competition. He has since moved out of state but will be reuniting with his Cleburne teammates. Rounding out the Yellow Jacket delegation is CHS Theater Arts teacher Keli Price.
The Cleburne students will hit the ground running, with each scheduled for Thespy Awards preliminary auditions on Monday.
Chola and Sullivan will be among the national qualifiers competing in Musical Theatre-Duet. They will perform “Agony” from the musical “Into the Woods.”
Madison, the CHS Class of 2022 valedictorian, will be presenting a monologue from the play “Incendiary,” as a competitor in the Acting division.
Cleburne will also be represented among the musical theater soloists as national qualifier Hunter Patrick performs “Santa Fe,” from the Broadway hit “Newsies.”
Select top-scoring students in Monday’s competitions will be invited to perform in Friday’s ITF Thespy Awards Showcase, in which all winners achieving Superior scores will be recognized.
“This will be a week full of learning and complete theatre immersion,” Price said. “We will see six full-length musicals and attend a schedule of workshops that begin at 8 in the morning and end at midnight. This is a tremendous opportunity for these kids who are talented, and dedicated, members of our CHS theater arts program. I am so proud that four of our students are among a select few chosen to represent Texas as participants and competitors at the national level.”
Patrick says the opportunity to participate in the International Thespian Festival is an unexpected dream come true.
“When I went to the state festival, I didn’t anticipate anything,” she said. “It was my first year to attend and I hadn’t planned on competing. But I ended up among the competitors in the musical theatre soloist event and was chosen to advance to the national contest.”
“For me, this is a once in a lifetime moment,” Patrick said. “Going through the judging process has also given me some direction. I’ve been involved in acting since I was four, but to be told that vocal performance is my strength is great, because I wasn’t sure. It was wonderful to have that affirmed.”
She is also excited to attend the national festival with fellow thespians she holds in high esteem.
“I think four students from one high school chosen to advance to national theatre competition is eye-opening,” Patrick said. “DJ is one of the most talented people at CHS. He’s phenomenal. Even though he’s a year younger than me, he is someone I look up to—we all do. And we all love Cooper. She is extremely talented and smart. Her character development, her work backstage, her imagination—no one can match her. I’ve known Anthony almost my whole life. He is amazingly talented. This troupe is the best of the best.”
Patrick’s stage credits began in Cleburne community theatre, followed by middle school and high school productions. As a sophomore, she portrayed Uncle Fester in Addams Family Musical and has been a member of the UIL One-Act Play casts of “Jane Eyre” and “A Monster Calls.” Behind the scenes, she assisted with makeup and costumes in the 2021 CHS fine arts fall production of “Wizard of Oz” and in March, received All-Star Cast honors in District One-Act Play. Patrick is now preparing for the high school’s upcoming production of “Shrek” in which she has been cast as the Dragon.
In her four years of CHS theater, preceded by One-Act Play productions in middle school, Madison has taken on a wide range of characters—from a Russian immigrant, a fellow orphan with Jane Eyre and a member of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys--to her scene-stealing performances as the grandmother in "Addams Family Musical." In her final CHS musical production as a senior, Madison was cast as the Wicked Witch of the West in “Wizard of Oz.”
Chola is well on his way to becoming a theatrical triple threat as an accomplished singer and actor, who can play multiple musical instruments. As an eighth grader he received an invitation to join the CHS cast of “Hamilton” in a featured role. This year, the sophomore portrayed the Cowardly Lion in the “Wizard of Oz” and received District All-Star Cast Honors for his performance of the Tree Monster in Cleburne’s UIL One-Act Play “A Monster Calls.”
Sullivan also brings the potential of the triple threat factor with his singing and acting skills, which were featured in his role of the fiancée of Wednesday Addams in “Addams Family Musical.” In Cleburne’s 2021 “Wizard of Oz” production, Sullivan was cast as the Tin Man.