Student sets stage for theater life

HRHS senior takes top score at thespian conference

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Barb Dignan has had theater students accomplish some pretty special things.

Add Highlands Ranch High School senior Julia Bye to that list.

Earlier this month, Bye received the top score out of 1,600 students competing in individual monologue at the 2012 Colorado State Thespian Conference in Denver, making the senior the third actor from the school under Dignan’s guidance in six years to advance to the National Individual Events Showcase.

Bye, who received perfect scores for her two 60-second monologues, will participate at the showcase event this June at the University of Nebraska.

“With God as my witness, you are going to see this girl in film,” said Dignan, who has two other former students she had a “hunch” about who are already making their ways in Los Angeles and on Broadway.

“There are a lot of things I’m not good at,” Dignan added. “I can’t do more on the computer than get on and read my mail. I am not technical at all. But in another life I would’ve been a casting director. … Sometimes I see it early in a student. With Julia, I saw it the day we met her freshman year.”

The judges at Colorado’s top high school thespian competition no doubt shared Dignan’s latest hunch, as Bye wowed them with a pair of contrasting monologues. Bye pulled off excerpts from Lindsay Price’s comedic “Skid Marks: A Play About Driving” and from August Wilson’s emotionally challenging “Fences,” where Bye acted out the part of a character who just found out her husband of 18 years was leaving her for a woman he had been having an affair with and impregnated.

The victory, which could be compared to a state championship in athletics, has instilled a huge boost of confidence in Bye, who plans to spend her last semester of high school reading auditions for different collegiate theater programs.

“This kind of reaffirmed for me that I am going in the right direction,” she said. “I’ve always liked performing, and went to acting camps when I was a little kid, but I didn’t start acting in shows until my freshman year when I was in August Wilson’s ‘Gem of the Ocean.’”

Since then she has acted in numerous plays at the school, but it was during a trip to Broadway with the rest of her theater company to see “Godspell” last summer that she realized she couldn’t see herself ever doing anything else.

“I was literally crying for two hours after the show,” she said. “I was crying, and smiling, and eating pie at the same time. None of my friends knew what was wrong with me, but I just realized this is all I could do forever.”

Other noteworthy perfomances

Bye was not the only HRHS student to leave lasting impressions at this year’s state conference. Five other seniors received callbacks from attending universities, including Brandon Nives, who tallied 19 callbacks and was accepted to the University of Northern Colorado’s esteemed theater program on the spot. Melanie Schultz also received 19 callbacks for scholarship and admissions auditions; Andrew Shopes received 12; Nico Kuklin, four; and Lauren Ammer, two.

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