HHS’s Thespian Troupe #10385 Attends Their First NJ State Thespian Festival, Wins Big


Carol Singer

HHS’s Thespian Troupe poses together at their first Thespian Festival.

Charlotte Bruchey, Staff Writer

Within their first year of being chartered, HHS Theater’s Thespian Troupe attended the New Jersey State Thespian Festival over the weekend of Jan. 7th and 8th. Thespians overran Robbinsville High School as the host school offered a space for these outstanding students to be their true theater selves. A total of 41 schools attended the competition which amassed 850 students. 

The festival offered a wide range of opportunities for students to expand their theater knowledge. They could attend workshops offered by experts, each of which was around 45 minutes long. College professors and professionals taught classes like “From the Script to the Design,” and “Introduction to Puppeteering.” Students were also allowed to sit in on other students’ competitions and learn more about their peers. Competitions ranged from technical skills to performance skills, with students competing in categories such as light rigging and knot tying or contrasting monologues. HHS alum Andrew Pirozzi was Saturday’s keynote speaker and ran multiple workshops throughout the day. He ran a discussion titled “The Leap to the Professional Side,” and a Movement Workshop to teach choreography from the hit musical “Hamilton.”

Hillsborough’s own Samantha Soybel serves as a State Officer for New Jersey Thespians. The festival was her time to shine, and she described it as “a highly rewarding experience with a highly supportive environment where hard work really does pay off.” 

In addition to Soybel, Danielle Biondi served as a Festival Ambassador this weekend. After going through a rigorous round of interviews, Biondi had the privilege of working with the important guests of the festival. 

“Seeing the behind-the-scenes effort needed to execute this state-wide theater event gave me the opportunity to demonstrate a higher level of gratitude towards my own theater program. I met a lot of professionals in the entertainment industry, many who have worked for university or even Broadway theater productions, and it was empowering to remember that they all started off as high schoolers like me,” she said. 

To round out our crew of leaders, Hillsborough’s Theater Director Nicole Malone serves on the Adult Board. 

“It’s an honor sitting on the NJ Thespian Board of Directors. It was amazing to see students take advantage of all the festival had to offer. However, to be honest, the highlight was serving as the advisor for our incredible Hillsborough Troupe,” Malone commented. “I am incredibly proud that, as a new troupe and one that is self-funded, our program was so widely recognized at the state-wide festival. Now, the bigger task at hand: figuring out logistics and funding for the international competition.”

Being festival first-timers didn’t stop Hillsborough’s Thespians from showing up and showing out. They had winners across various categories, including essay contests, service awards, and performances. 

Winners include:

  1. Dani Biondi- Best Thespian Award
  2. Dani Biondi- DemocracyWorks Arts Advocacy Essay Contest Winner
  3. Amy McLaughlin- Outstanding Service Award

International Qualifiers (achieved a ranking of Superior in their category):

  1. Mai An Le- Contrasting Monologues
  2. Gabriella Albanese- Musical Solo
  3. Isabella DiStasio- Musical Solo
  4. Samantha Soybel- Musical Solo
  5. Elizabeth Beder and Samantha Soybel- Musical Duet (was one of four featured Showcase performances at the closing ceremony)

Hillsborough Thespians acknowledge that none of their success would have been possible without Malone’s advocacy for them and the program. In her first two years as director, she chartered an honor society and brought Hillsborough’s name to the New Jersey theater world. Elizabeth Beder, the troupe’s president, commends Malone’s effort towards the cause.

“None of this would’ve been possible without her. The effort and dedication she shows towards us is incredible and we love her so much,” Beder acknowledged.