JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Over a thousand students and advisors took over Jonesboro Friday to honor and grow in the arts.
This is the first year for Northeast Arkansas to ever host the Arkansas State Thespian Festival.
Over 45 schools from across Arkansas were represented at Jonesboro High School Friday and Saturday.
The festival included over 160 workshops, competitions, college auditions, and speakers.
Leah Aldridge, state thespian president from Valley View High School, said one of the great things about theater is the inclusion.
"We are all so different in religion, diversity, beliefs and yet we all come together peacefully and work together in harmony to produce this artwork," Aldridge said.
The state festival also awards over a million dollars in scholarship offers to juniors and seniors.
"Theater is really important because it brings together more than just actors or singers," Aldridge said. "It has your technical crew, your costume designers, your actors, your producers, your directors, so we all come together and work as a team."
The skills taught at the state festival are ones Ari Hayaud-Din, international state thespian officer from Brookhaven College, believe transcend beyond school.
"It's not just about getting on stage," Hayaud-Din said. "It's so much more than that. It really teaches us communications skills. It teaches really how to be a better person, how to be a welcoming person, and a caring person."
Cassidy Favorite, state thespian officer from Lake Hamilton High School, says the arts allow students to find themselves.
"For teens who are trying to figure things out, it gives them a new perspective and it's really a great learning experience for anybody in any stage of life," Favorite said.
The theme of this year's festival is "I am ______. We AR thespians."
Students described this as a way for everyone to define themselves the way they want and open the eyes of others.
"It's also teaching us different things about life," Hayaud-Din. "Each show is a different way of reality, although we may not be experiencing, other people are."
One of the guest artists who spoke to students was Region 8's very own Mary Hollis Inboden who stars on ABC's the Real O'Neals.
Michelle Moss, Arkansas State Chapter Director for the Arkansas Educational Theatre Association, said students at this event will go on to be involved in local theater, statewide productions, as well as taking the stage in New York City and Los Angeles.
Beyond the learning opportunity, the festival also caused hotels to fill up in Jonesboro and Paragould.
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