‘The Trail to Oregon!’ travels to Champaign for Illinois High School Theater Fest


By Grace Berry, print managing editor
Senior Micki Smolenski knew that sometime during the day she would find out if Prospect’s production of “The Trail to Oregon!” had made the Illinois High School Theater Fest (IHSTF). Smolenski played one of the leads in the production. When she hadn’t heard news about the results, she assumed Prospect was not accepted.
Smolenski was sitting at Wheeling High School later that day watching their last production of the play “In the Heights” on Nov. 19. When the performance finished, director Stephen Colella came running up on stage, talking about their show.
He explained how he just found out their show made the IHSTF and that Prospect High School’s show “The Trail to Oregon!” had also been accepted.
“It was really cool. It was more exciting than how a lot of other people found out,” Smolenski said.
The cast and crew of “The Trail to Oregon!” performed at University of Illinois on Jan. 7 for the IHSTF.
Director Jeremy Morton has only directed two other plays that were accepted to the IHSTF. To be accepted into the event, two or three judges come to a production and look at how well the show relates to theme of festival, the accessibility of the show, if the show can be transported and moved, and the production value like the lighting, costumes and characters.
“There are so many different factors that help determine whether a show gets selected. … It’s incredibly difficult [to get a production in the festival], and it’s pretty amazing that we were selected,” Morton said.
He believes this show stood out because it’s so different. It’s an interactive show, and the show was created and altered for Prospect students by Prospect alumnus Jeff Blim.
Morton believes IHSTF is an incredible opportunity for students to be with others passionate about theater.
“It’s one of those experiences where we get to go and perform it in front of hundreds and thousands of theater enthusiasts who jumped to their feet before we were even done and ready for bows,” Morton said. “[The audience] was yelling and screaming and supporting the students and laughing.”
Smolenski was nervous performing in front of such a huge audience because the concert hall was much louder and larger than the Prospect stage. She thought the experience was amazing.
Morton was thrilled to watch his students perform onstage at IHSTF.
“This experience for our students should be once in a lifetime, and me watching them … it’s just [a feeling] of pure pride in our program and joy to see that commitment and passion to putting on a good show to represent Prospect,” Morton said.