PITTSBURG — Pittsburg High School Theatre students will hit the national stage again after winning at the state level.
PHS Theatre students spent Jan. 3-5 in Wichita at the Kansas Thespian Festival and 12 of the students qualified to perform at the national level.
At the festival, PHS completed in the One-Act Play category for the first time. The show, “Dog sees God,” was directed by junior McKenna Shaw and acted by eight students: Julian Archuleta, Franchesca Brownhanney, Hannah Casper, Griffin Cooper, Aidan Harries, Jazmin Havens, Maddy Shawn, and Dominic Stefanoni.
Having a student direct the show is not a requirement, PHS Theatre Director Greg Shaw said, but was something that the students were open to do.
Shaw said the students did a “tremendous job.” The show portrayed “Peanuts” characters as teenagers and it covered issues such as drug use, suicide, eating disorders, rebellion and sexual identity.
“This is heavy stuff and our kids handled it remarkably well,” he said.
The show was 100 percent student-led, Shaw said. The students created their own schedule, took time to memorize their scripts, rehearsed in the evenings after rehearsing “Aida” and held each other accountable, he said.
After competing against 15 to 20 one-acts from across the state, they received a first-place win which qualifies them to perform in the International Thespian Festival, held each June at the University of Lincoln-Nebraska. They came away with the top scoring act and three perfect scores from their judges.
In addition to the one-act play, sophomore Sarah Stebbins qualified to perform in the National Individual Event Showcase at the ITF by earning three “Superior” scores on her musical theatre vocal audition.
And, three students — Gabe Anderson, Emma NooNoo, and McKenna Shaw — were part of the cast of the Kansas All-State Show, “Bring It On,” which was chosen to be performed at the ITF. McKenna Shaw was in the lead female role, while Anderson was in the ensemble and NooNoo served on the technical crew.
PHS Theatre Director Greg Shaw was production manager for the show, and Jason Huffman, technical director at Memorial Auditorium who has been a frequent contributor to PHS shows, served as sound director.
This is the second year in a row that PHS has qualified in Individual Events and a performance at the ITF; last year, “Urinetown,” the musical, earned the right to perform at the ITF after having been chosen as a main stage production at State, Shaw said.
Fundraising efforts led by Friends of PHS Performing Arts raised money to send all 50 cast, crew, and band members to Lincoln to perform at the week-long festival, which attracts several thousand students from the 4,700 schools that have chapters of the International Thespian Society, a release said.

Shaw said fundraising efforts will begin soon to send the students to the national level, PHS’s next musical, “Footloose” will be among the first fundraising opportunities.
PHS also earned Gold Troupe recognition at the Kansas Thespian Festival. Shaw said the Gold Troupe is something they “strive for every year.” Being recognized means the students are doing “high level work” in many categories, which include the number of productions, being active in the community, philanthropy, student leadership and more.
“I’m very proud of them, again, just showing that the Pittsburg High School Theatre kids are performing at a very high level and can hold their own against any and all in the state,” Shaw said. “I”m proud where they are taking the program and how successful they have all been.”
Shaw was also named Teacher of the Year for Region 4, he said the award reflects PHS Theatre “as a whole.”
“It’s nice to get the feedback that says they are pleased with what we are doing,” he said. “That’s an award that really reflects on our entire program.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.