Duet ’til the end

West High seniors place second at the Iowa Thespian Festival in a duet event


Published with permission from Americus Geest

On Nov. 9, 24 students attended the Iowan Thespian Festival, and two seniors, Lily Hancock and Xavier Thomas, placed second place in duet acting. This is the first time in years that West has placed at the festival.

Zack Misner, Managing Editor

On Nov. 9, 24 students from West’s drama department departed from the campus in the early hours of the morning for the three-hour drive to reach the UNI campus. This campus is home to the Iowa Thespian Festival.

This festival is an annual event where drama troupes from all around the state of Iowa come to watch performances from other schools, audition for scholarships, attend workshops, and compete in individual events.

The event of duet acting is where two attendees from West High achieved second place. This was the first time in four years that West has placed in an event at the festival.

“Since I have came to high school I have never seen someone place from West, so it was really cool to get second place because Xavier and I have entered ourselves in the duet acting event all four years now, and we have done a scene together every year,” senior Lily Hancock said. “We finally did place and I was just ecstatic because it couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Essentially, the duo of seniors Lily Hancock and Xavier Thomas made history during their high school careers. Being the first West thespians to place in any individual event in four comes with quite the emotional high.

“I was like ‘FINALLY!’ All the years of trying to at least get someone from West on that list was the goal. I would do anything to at least place,” Thomas said. “ I was so happy, I felt completed and with Lily being my acting partner it only made the accomplishment even greater.”

Hancock and Thomas have been acting partners for all four years and have grown throughout their time together both as friends and actors. iJAG specialist Cynthia Safford has served as an aid for the students throughout their time here at West, and has imbued them with her knowledge, and love of theatre.

“The biggest thing I do is to remind them that should be fun, so when we talk about characters and relationships, I have them do this exercise where we push everything to a level where they just feel silly and that causes them to feel very comfortable with each other,” Safford said. “If you just push yourself really far, then they experience teamwork and learn about emotions and all of that fun stuff.”

Through Safford’s aid and their growth as friends and actors, Hancock and Thomas have made their mark on West theatre history. But the main questions is what exactly has changed from last year to this year which allowed them to place so high?

“I think our vibe was different. We definitely had a stronger bond this year. I know we have gone every year, but this year we took the balcony scene from our “Romeo and Juliet” play. We had been working on it for months already, and so I think that the preparation was a huge boost because we had a lot more time to prepare and practice,” Hancock said. “Also just being in the play together this year brought us closer. So I believe that the scene came more naturally to us this year than the scenes we’ve done in the past.”  

Hancock focused more on their bond and how it has gotten better throughout the years, and because of that, they were able to place second in their event this year. Thomas, however, focused more on their experience.

“In the past we really didn’t use our acting abilities. The monologues and stuff we performed we believed were good, but they didn’t hit as hard as we wanted to,” Thomas said. “Anderson’s script shows a lot of emotion along with comedy, which made it work really well for us.”

Thomas and Hancock have spent the last four years as acting partners, and Safford has especially enjoyed watching them blossom into who they are now.

“They share the same sense of humor and relaxation with each other. They seem to be friends, which helps them feel comfortable together on stage, so I think one of the biggest things is that since they haven’t been successful these past years they’ve been able to hold each other up, and hold each other accountable in order to work through things,” Safford said.