Avondale High School Theater Students Celebrate MIFA Success – Director receives Outstanding Michigan Theater Teacher of the Year Award
The Avondale High School Theatre Company scored big at the 2017 Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association (MIFA) State Theatre Festival Finals held at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, Michigan. Making history at the festival this year by taking two separate productions in two separate categories and competing in two separate divisions, the group scored two second place wins in the competition that includes schools from all around the State of Michigan.
The MIFA runs a month-long, three-tiered state-wide festival which culminates in a two-day extravaganza, this year featuring 14 productions in the “Main Stage” or large production category and 14 shows in the “Studio” or small show category. Six schools had both of their main stage and studio shows qualify for the state finals (Holland, Woodhaven, Saginaw Heritage, Chesaning, Bay City John Glenn, and Avondale), but only Avondale had the challenge of competing in two separate divisions based on school enrollment numbers when compared to the other state finalists. Avondale’s Main Stage production of the slapstick spoof, Silent Laughter, competed in Division II, while their student-directed one-act A Thousand Cranes got bumped up to Division I. This is the first time in MIFA history that a school was competing in two divisions at the same festival.
Avondale’s very successful weekend opened on Friday with A Thousand Cranes winning the hearts of the audience, a standing ovation, and rave reviews from the festival’s adjudication panel. The momentum carried the troupe into Saturday’s Main Stage competition with Silent Laughter opening the day’s festivities with another standing ovation, endless raucous laughs from the house, and another five-star critique from the judges.
When the dust settled after two very exciting days of excellent high school theatre, Avondale walked away with a boatload of student awards. In the “Studio” category, the ATC’s A Thousand Cranes took second place in Division I bested only by Holland’s Agnes of God. What made this award extra special was that the production was completely student-directed and student-designed, the only award-winning production to be student-led. A Thousand Cranes scored Excellent Awards for its costume design and execution and the lobby display by Julia Gavulic, Noah Swart, and Rachel Jones. Winning Superior Honors, the highest individual recognition MIFA bestows, were actors Bella Javier, Jack Youngs, and Amarae’ Robinson for their individual performances; the entire seven member cast for their ensemble work (Bella Javier, Jack Youngs, Rachel Jones, Nick Christy, Amarae’ Robinson, Hannah Bahorski, and Elena Blatt); Zoe Williams for her sound design; Julia Gavulic for her lighting; Noah Swart for his percussion performance and program design; and the student-directing team of Josh Miller and Nathan Clifton. When the awards were finished, every single member of the 12-student company walked away with honors.
In “Main Stage” category, the ATC’s hysterical production of Silent Laughter, which featured the talents of 54 students onstage and in the wings, also took second place, but this time in Division II, placing behind only Holland Christian’s phenomenal Lend Me a Tenor, the overall highest placing production of the entire 28-show festival. Silent Laughter scored Excellent awards for Brendan Hart’s performance as Billy; Geoffrey Steward’s sound mixing; and the “Dialog Card” team (responsible for the rapid fire silent movie dialog cards that carry the show’s unspoken language) of Deven Queen, Seven Garrison, Ethan Sanglang, Meher Yeda, Patrick Kelley, and Tess Chargo. Winning Superior Honors were Meghan Gwilt for her performance as Ruth; the vocal orchestra of Maggie Youngs, Mackenzie Tillison, Shelby Porter, Rebecca Piepszak, McKayla Major, and Lauren Andrus; the program design by Lila Letica and Lauren McGhee; and the Lobby Display from Huy Tran, Miranda Miller, and Ramya Anbarasu.
To cap off the awards celebration, Avondale’s director and teacher, Mr. Edmond Guay, won the Bob Koger Outstanding Michigan Theatre Teacher of the Year Award. The award, named after the St Johns High School director extraordinaire who founded the MIFA Festival 49 years ago and who retired from teaching in 1999, goes to one teacher/director every year who is nominated by peers and students, and selected by the MIFA Theatre Committee. Koger was present to bestow the award to Guay. This honor makes the third time Guay has won the Michigan Theatre Teacher of the Year Award, the first teacher ever to do so in the history of MIFA. Previously, Guay won the honor in 1990 and in 2008, before the award was named after Koger.
This year’s MIFA Festival adds another feather to Avondale’s hat which has seen 18 productions in three decades qualify for the state finals, winning their Class or Division State Title in 1989, 1993, 1994, 1997, and 2013. It also caps off Guay’s MIFA career. After 35 years of teaching, the final thirty with Avondale, Mr. Guay plans to retire at the end of year.