Students participate in All-State Show


The first opening notes of “Shrek: the Musical” rang through the auditorium at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. It took barely a measure before cheers erupted. All 979 seats were crammed with theater students from all over Illinois, excited to cheer on the actors, musicians, and technicians who had worked for months to create the engaging spectacle that was the 2023 All-State production of “Shrek.”

Five members of Green Room Theater Company participated in this prestigious Illinois All-State show, a performance featuring the best theater students from all over the state. For the 2022-23 season, “Shrek: the Musical” was the selected show. Sean McNicholas, Rory Dwyer, Addison Kamilis and Graham Gatewood worked on lighting and sets while Ron Bowden, the tech director here at North, oversaw every technical aspect of the show.

“We audition and interview the musicians and actors and technicians from across the state who come together over the course of six or seven months to rehearse and build the main show at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival,” Bowden said.

Once a month from August to December, students from all over Illinois spent a weekend at Downers Grove South High School working on “Shrek.” Actors learned scenes and songs; the pit band rehearsed their music, and each tech crew worked on their specific aspect of the show. Rory Dwyer and Graham Gatewood were on lighting crew while Sean McNicholas and Addison Kamilis helped build the show’s sets.

All-State weekends were long and rigorous with so much to accomplish in such a short amount of time.

“Normally we’d go up on Friday night and we would unload the truck that had held all of our set pieces,” said sophomore Addison Kamilis. “And then on Saturdays, we’d get there at 8:45 for check-ins. We’d work on finishing building sets, painting things, and some more scenic design aspects depending on what you were working on, and that was the majority of your day.”
Lighting crew was busy, too.

“There were 800 or so lighting cues. And we each got assigned a scene or two. We had to hang and install lights, as well as design,” Dwyer said.

“It was very intense, but it was a good kind of intense,” said senior Graham Gatewood.

After months of hard work, in mid-January, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana hosted the 2023 Illinois High School Theater Festival. Theater students from all over the state spent a weekend on campus seeing shows, participating in workshops, and auditioning for college programs. Every student got a ticket to the All-State performance of “Shrek.” The show performed six times at Theater Fest in the Tryon Festival Theater.

The costumes may have been completed, the sets built, and all the lights installed, but tech students still had a lot to do during the shows.

“I was on run crew during the performances, so I would be backstage moving on and off set pieces,” Kamilis said.

McNicholas was also on run crew. “My three jobs were to move a stump, move a hill–a lot–on and off stage the whole time,” he said. Sometimes, he moved a campfire as well.

“My job was managing the spotlight,” Dwyer said. “I would call cues that were written in my script for two other people who would actually operate the spotlight.”

One of those was Gatewood. “I was a spot operator, which I volunteered for because we don’t get to do that in the Black Box,” he said.

Bowden, McNicholas, Kamilis, and Dwyer all agreed that being a part of “Shrek” was a highlight of their year.

“I’m so glad I was lucky enough to be a part of All-State, and I grew to love ‘Shrek’ so much,” Dwyer said. “It was an amazing experience.”