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Penn theatre students excel in state competition

Students representing Penn High School’s Theatre Department excelled at the Indiana State Thespian Conference competition in Vincennes. The students competed under the direction of Penn Theatre Instructor Courtney Qualls.

DeCarla Thompson earned a superior ranking and a chance to compete at the national conference for her Solo Musical.

“DeCarla's confidence and soulful voice led her to a superior ranking in her solo, "I Know Where I've Been," from “Hairspray,” Qualls said. “DeCarla is a techie who is in her third year in the tech class at Penn and decided this was the year she wanted to break into the other side of theatre.

“(DeCarla) entered the beginning class this year having no acting experience but she is a quick study. She performed for the first time at the talent show, where she won and for only the second time here at state. DeCarla is a theatre powerhouse with a wide knowledge of tech and a growing knowledge of acting and performing.” 

Hannah Keeler earned an excellence rating in Solo Musical, and Matt Magaldi earned an excellence rating in Monologue.

“Hannah is a strong comedic performer,” Qualls said. “Performing "I Hate Men," from “Kiss Me Kate,” Hannah used her comedic abilities and outgoing fun personality to bring to life a snarky, strong female character frustrated with the male gender. 

“Matt's strongest attribute is his adaptability and coachability” Qualls said. “Just an hour before his performance, he realized he had read a rule wrong and needed to make adjustments. He took a six-minute performance and trimmed it down to two minutes and 57 seconds (three seconds under the time limit), rehearsed and put on a performance that only missed being classified as superior by one point.”

Ashley Talcott placed third out of 94 students in props placement out.

“While focusing most of her time at Penn in lighting, Ashley is a diligent and hard worker and competed in multiple categories in the (competition). Steady and cool, she packed up one props table and set up a second all in one minute and six seconds. Less than one second separated second and third place.” 

Billie Bennett, who will be auditioning at Julliard next month, was recognized as a distinguished senior. Bennett also competed in the monologue event, where she nearly earned a superior ranking.

“Billie epitomizes a theatre professional,” Qualls said. “Not only does she sing, dance and act, she is a leader, a motivator, and an educator. Billie has been involved with most everything involving theatre in her four years at Penn High School, including plays, musicals, playwriting, directing, theatre club activities, fundraising opportunities and too many more to list out.

“She is a diligent student taking a full schedule of advanced placement and AP classes while maintaining high grades. Her incredible talent is an added bonus to the wonderful person she is inside and out.”

 The following students also competed in different events throughout the weekend: 

Christian Bentley competed in Scenic Design and the Tech Olympics as part of our school team. 

Hannah Keeler, DeCarla Thompson, and Olivia Taylor rounded out the four person team from Penn for Tech Olympics.