Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival


Online Meeting, decorative imageVirtual Festival Information

Online - December 10-12, 2020

About 1,800 high school students gather each year at the Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival (WHSTF) -- held since 1930 -- for three days packed with workshops featuring trained professionals, one-act and individual event contest performances, showcase productions, and exhibitors from theatre vendors to collegiate programs. Prior registration is required. Middle level schools may enter the one-act contest, and/or attend the festival to view age-appropriate shows and participate in workshops.

COVID-19: The 2020 festival will be online. We're developing approaches and guidance for one-act best practices, and will have formal announcements forthcoming in mid- to late-August.

We welcome middle and high schools to participate in the Theatre Festival!








One-Act Contest

Schools wishing to participate in the one-act contest must be members of the WHSFA, and must begin their qualification process by entering the district level in mid-October, followed by the sectional level in late October/early November. One-act plays advancing to the State level are scheduled throughout the day Friday and Saturday, concurrent with workshops. All students attending the festival are welcome to watch. One-act performances are a great educational opportunity for students and their directors to receive constructive criticism from trained theatre professionals.

Middle level schools may attend a high school one-act festival in their area district, or may be adjudicated in-house, and/or may attend the State Festival (space permitting) as an exhibition attendee. At the State Festival, middle level schools may earn a Merit or Excellence award, and participating students will receive a ribbon representing the award their school earned.


Without restrictions of travel, we look forward to inviting a diverse array of practitioners to share their expertise, experience, and artistry with participants in this virtual setting. See the link to apply to present if you're interested.

Thespian Excellence Awards Contest

Thespian Individual EventsThespian Excellence Awards ("Thespys; " previously, Individual Events - IEs) will be held Friday of the festival (scheduled around one-acts students are performing in). Every student/group who participates performs their piece(s) or speaks on a tech portfolio and receives immediate oral feedback (and written feedback, available at the end of the contest) from two adjudicators with professional theatre background. Information and rubrics for each event are delineated document linked above. When registering in SpeechWire, teachers/directors must designate which IE(s) students are signing up for, name of piece(s), name(s) of partner/group (if applicable). ANY high school theatre student may participate in these events at the state level, but students must be inducted members of Thespians to advance to Nationals.

The schedule is posted in the "Schedule" section below.

Performance Events

  • monologue
  • duet acting
  • group acting
  • solo musical theatre
  • duet musical theatre
  • group musical theatre


Contact: withespians@gmail.com

Technical Events

  • costume construction
  • costume design
  • lighting design
  • scenic design
  • short film
  • sound design
  • stage management
  • theatre marketing
  • makeup

Tech Challenge (formerly Tech Olympics)

Tech ChallengeTech Challenge is a great way to test your technical skills in a fun and friendly competition with your peers. Actors, designers, directors, technicians, and theatre enthusiasts are invited to participate. Pre-registration for this contest is not necessary, but participants must be pre-registered with the festival.

Tech Challenge Guidelines

See the "Results" section below.

Tech Olympics at the WHSTF is generously facilitated and presented by ETC - Electronic Theatre Controls.

Examples of Events

  • Focus a Light (Individual)
  • Knot Tying (Individual)
  • Costume Quick Change (Pair)
  • Wire a Plug (Individual)
  • Cable Relay (Team of 4)
  • Sound Setup (Pair)

Auditions/Tech Presentations

New in 2020! High school 11th and 12 grade students interested in demonstrating their skills to several institutions at one time, and recruiters interested in accessing high school students from across Wisconsin will again have an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way. Only students seriously considering a career in theatre should apply; space is limited. Timeframe for auditions and information on applying will be posted in late summer.

General Information for Students

Eligibility is limited to students enrolled in the 11th or 12th grade the same school year in which the festival is held, who plan to enter college to study theatre. Juniors are strongly encouraged to apply. University-level theatre programs from across Wisconsin and the upper Midwest have been invited to attend. The goal is to give students an opportunity to audition/present for college representatives while refining and enriching their auditioning/presenting skills.

While we wish to give as many students this opportunity as possible, spaces are limited and the time for our college representatives to see talented students is at a premium. Please register ONLY if you are seriously considering a career in the theatre. The Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival reserves the right to limit the number of students a school may have based on overall numbers and available time slots.

Only students from schools registered for the festival may participate, and an employee or vetted volunteer adult from the school must complete that school registration. Students must also complete their own registration on this site, either with assistance or permission of their parents/guardians. A nonrefundable $10 fee must be paid by credit card or e-check at that time; we will NOT accept checks by mail, nor cash on arrival. Applications must be received by Noon, November 10, 2020. Late submissions will not be permitted.

Ahead of the festival, a schedule will be shared with students auditioning/presenting. A warm-up session will take place earlier in the festival to help prepare student actors. To help make the process as user-friendly as possible, we will discuss audition/presentation information during this meeting.


  • We will format your resume data (you will not be able to upload your own PDF or Word doc). View a sample résumé to see how your information will be formatted: ACTOR | TECHNICIAN
  • You may submit your initial entry prior to the deadline, and may update it as necessary.
Audition/Presentation Requirements
  • Auditions must not exceed two minutes, including introductions and transitions. Auditions will be timed.  Students should prepare…
    • A single monologue, or
    • Two short contrasting monologues, or
    • A short monologue and 16 bars of a song. An accompanist will be provided. Please bring appropriately marked sheet music in your key.
  • Presentations will be scheduled simultaneously with the performance auditions.  Presentations are for any student wishing to pursue technical theatre, technical design (costume, sound, set, lighting, etc.), directing, or stage management.  Students will…
    • Display their work (i.e. portfolios, pictures, displays) to a rotating group of 6-8 college/university representatives
    • Give a 5-7 minute presentation at each group
    • Answer questions from the college/university representatives
  • All student auditionees/presenters must be registered with their school (except All-State cast and crew members) for the Festival.
  • Each auditionee/presenter must pay a non-refundable $20 audition/presentation fee.  This will be collected when filling out the online college auditions registration form.
  • NOTE REGARDING CALLBACKS: Students must use their own email during registration, NOT the sponsor's email.  After auditions and presentations, students will receive emails regarding colleges and universities who wish to speak to them further.  It is the student’s responsibility to visit each college representative on the exhibit floor.
Information for College/University Recruiters
  • All colleges and universities intending to participate in the audition process must book an exhibit booth (please note when registering for an exhibit if you wish to participate in auditions and/or presentations).
  • Only TWO designated organizational representatives (one for audition and one for presentation) may attend the college/university auditions and presentation sessions.
  • Please be aware that each college/university attending the auditions and presentations will be emailed an electronic file of student résumés. No paper résumés will be handed out, though students are encouraged to bring copies for callbacks.*
  • Please bring your own laptop, smartphone, tablet, or other technology to use for Auditions and Presentations.
  • NOTE REGARDING CALLBACKS: Students will be emailed a list of those colleges wishing to see them. It is the student's responsibility to visit college representatives who wish to see them on the exhibit floor.


Due to COVID-19, we will work with schools to obtain permission to stream shows during the festival. Please contact the state office if you're interested in doing so.


A full schedule will be released in mid- to late-October, as the scope and scale of the online festival becomes more apparent. Generally speaking, registration will occur Thursday evening, with programming throughout the day Friday and Saturday, from 8am to 6pm.


Base registration fees are shown in the first row; add-ons/family time block passes are in the second row. Registration for all schools opens November 11 with registration finalized/due by noon Thursday, December 3, 2020. While we are assessing the fee structure, please bear in mind it may actually be more expensive to produce a virtual festival: the safe and secure online platform is considerably more expensive than any facilities fees we pay; we still compensate some workshop leaders for their professional time, and all one-act awards must be shipped.

Safety, Security, Equity & Inclusion


Safety & Security

Online safety and security are a top priority for the festival. We have worked with experts experienced with online events for young people to ensure the safest experience possible for all, and will be asking all participants (inclusive of adult facilitators) to uphold stringest standards for safety, including a reporting mechandism for issues.


Harassment & Discrimination Policy

The Wisconsin High School Forensic Association is committed to fostering safe and supportive learning environments for all student participants and adults at our interscholastic events. This requires mutual respect on the part of all people present. Accordingly, WHSFA prohibits all forms of harassment and discrimination by and to any person, whether written or oral, based on race, color, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by any applicable federal, state, or local law. Individuals found to have violated this policy will be subject to a full range of sanctions, up to and including removal from the festival premises.


Complaints/Equity Officer

 If you have a concern about how people are treating you that you want to make known to the WHSFA and, if appropriate, legal authorities, or you have witnessed behavior inconsistent with the Harassment and Discrimination Policy, please report to the festival information area, and request to meet with an equity officer. You will be asked to complete a form sharing your information and describing the violation. You will then discuss the grievance informally and on a verbal basis with an equity officer, who shall in turn, investigate the complaint. Whenever possible, connect with an equity officer directly first.

2019 Sponsors

Mainstage Signature Sponsor

Recital Hall/Thespian Events Sponsor

Studio Theatre Sponsor

Tech Challenge Sponsor

Lanyard Sponsor

Director Hospitality/Showcase Support


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rotation of sites is being assessed and will be announced as soon as it is determined.