NAHS My Fair Lady Play-1.jpg (copy)

Sophomore Piper Prince, performing as Mrs. Hopkins, moves across the stage as the orchestra begins her musical number during a dress rehearsal in November for New Albany's pilot student edition of "My Fair Lady." 

FLOYD COUNTY – Sets will have to be broken down and rebuilt, after being transported via semis.

Students will need to rehearse, perfecting every detail.

The hours will add up, but to take center stage at the International Thespian Festival, it isn’t for the novice.

“It’s the Super Bowl of high school theater,” said New Albany High School theater director Amy Miller.

Performing in the theater “Super Bowl,” chosen as the best in the United States and Canada are seven schools – including NAHS and Floyd Central High School, according to the Educational Theatre Association, home of the International Thespian Society that hosts the festival.

Miller has been on that elusive stage six times as a performer, starting in elementary when she was in a high school production. She has not yet gotten to take a musical she has directed.

Now, in her sixth year as director, that is changing.

Miller’s students will be taking the musical, "My Fair Lady, School Edition," a new show that only three chosen high schools piloted this school year. The school hasn’t taken a show to the main stage since 2014.

“The range of emotions,” Miller said, pausing while describing the moment when she told her students the news. “There was this massive cheer, crying, hugging, running around. This is a massive endeavor to do what they did. To see all that work paid off, they were so excited.”

Indiana is the only state to send more than one school to the festival this year. FCHS theater director Robbie Steiner isn’t new to the main stage. Steiner, who is in his eighth year directing, will be taking his school’s show "Guys and Dolls," which will be his third show he’s directed to be chosen.

Steiner said he was hopeful the musical would be chosen and prepared for such.

“It’s something we have to plan in advance. We have to make sure it’s a show that we can manage to take on the road and will showcase our students and what they do best,” Steiner said. “One of our strengths is the old school traditional musical and that’s what ‘Guys and Dolls’ is … We think it’s very important to expose our students to the history of musical theater and this is one of those classic shows that is at the core of the music theater cannon.”

The two schools have the home state advantage too – the festival this summer will be at Indiana University, in Bloomington.

Steiner said the festival was in Bloomington in the 1950s, but outgrew that home and moved to Ball State University and later to a school in Nebraska.

“It’s returning to its original home, which is kind of exciting,” Steiner said. “It’s a lot more convenient for us.”

Moving one mile or a thousand, both directors said the same prep work will have to be done to make sure stage sets don’t get damaged during the transport.

“This is truly a community effort to move the show,” Miller said. “It takes more than just me and my small staff and the kids.”

Though the festival is open to the public, seats are limited and often filled with theater students and fans from around the world, so Miller and Steiner are adding more local performances for people to see the musicals again or for the first time, before they take the main stage in June.

The community can see NAHS take their own stage on June 18 and 19. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6 for students. Miller said she expects those performances to sell out, so she encourages people to reserve their tickets in advance. For more information, go to newalbanytheatrearts.org.

FCHS will perform on their own stage on June 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at floydcentraltheatre.org and range from $6-$20. Steiner said he expects both nights to sell out.

The 57th International Thespian Festival is June 22-27. Schools that will be performing in addition to NAHS and FCHS are Denver School of the Arts, from Colorado, Marcus High School, from Texas, Urbana High School, from Illinois, Orange County School of the Arts, from California, and Northwest School of the Arts, from North Carolina. For more information on the festival, go to schooltheatre.org.

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I cover education and government for the News and Tribune.

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