Students at McPherson High School are no strangers to performing for thousands.

The school’s theater department has received four invitations over the past seven years to perform at the 2018 Kansas State Thespian Festival. This year, they are one of four state honor shows selected to perform at Century II in Wichita during the conference this January.

“One of the greatest experiences I can provide a student is to give them an opportunity to stand on the Century II stage and perform in front of 2,500 people. It is such a thrill for the actors and techies that lasts a lifetime,” said Greg McGlynn, theater teacher at McPherson High School. “We have one of the highest success rates in the state. Since we started the repertory class — which provides extra class time to do scene work, research and workshops — and having great support from our stagecraft class, we seem to have found a formula that works. We’ve been really blessed.”

The department will present the comedy “Moon Over Buffalo” as part of the conference Jan. 4-6 in Wichita, which was originally performed in McPherson in November.

Of course, bringing this production to the conference will be expensive.

“The Kansas Thespian Society is part of the International Thespian Society, which is not governed by the Kansas State High School Activity Association. So, this means registration costs are required for the state festival,” McGlynn said.

The department pays $500 to be adjudicated and entered into the festival show competition, then each student has to pay a $150 registration fee. In addition, the team needs to rent a Uhaul truck for three days to transport the two-story set, as well as pay for a two-night hotel stay over the festival. The final cost will be in the neighborhood of $4,000 to 4,500.

To alleviate these costs, the department will perform an encore of “Moon Over Buffalo” at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. Ticket costs are by donation.

Schools vying to be one of the four schools chosen to perform at the state festival compete against all classifications, 4A to 6A.

“When we present our show to judges, it’s basically our substate — you get one shot to prove a high quality of production value to the judges. Even if there’s only 40 people in the audience, you still give the best show possible and hope adjudicators will recognize our efforts.

Our mission statement: is to Expose, Entertain, Excite and Educate our audiences about the Theatre Arts with hopes of an invitation to continue that mission at the State Festival (is a HUGE honor for our program and the students). And at Festival we will continue that pursuit with a bid to try and receive a National invite to the International Festival this summer (15 schools across the nation are invited).

If students do well at the state festival, they’ll have a chance to perform at the International Thespian Conference, held for five days in Lincoln, Nebraska this year.

“Schools from across the nation, Canada, Mexico, England and Dubai attend. Students get an opportunity to see, work and meet with professionals in the theater arts from coast to coast,” McGlynn said. “We have never had a show invited but have come close — within three points — of receiving an invite. If we should ever achieve that level, fundraising starts all over again,” McGlynn laughed.

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.