For high-school actors, being invited to the International Thespian Society's Festival '93 at Ball State University is like a football team being invited to play in the Rose Bowl.
For five days in June, 30 students from Woodinville High School as well as a handful from Inglemoor and Bothell high schools will be in Muncie, Ind., to put on the Noel Coward drawing-room comedy "Hay Fever" before other drama students and staffers from around the world. If an actor is outstanding, a full college scholarship could be offered.
"This is like football recruiting," says Hjalmer Anderson, head of the Woodinville High drama department. ". . . We've gotten over $1 million in scholarship money over the years."
Besides staging the Coward piece, the students will get to do two-minute auditions before theater faculty from around the country. One student who has been through the audition, Chad Afanador, says he has some passages from Shakespeare and Sam Shepard ready.
But the colleges can ask for something else. "Some of the colleges make you sing," Afanador says.
"And some of us can't sing," adds another student, Cara Grey. "Some colleges have half-hour auditions. You have to sing and dance and translate a Chinese opera."
Just getting invited to the festival isn't easy, although Anderson has managed to do it four times in the past six years. Woodinville is the only high school in the state to send a complete ensemble - actors, stage hands and scenery - to Ball State for the festival. When Woodinville won an invitation in 1988, it was the first time since 1929 that Washington state had a representative at the festival.
Theater in high school "doesn't have a strong history in this state," says Anderson, who offers a three-year program at Woodinville.
It's not cheap to go to the festival. The students have to fly the judges there, and that includes room and board as well as airline tickets.
If selected, the school then has to raise the money to fly the whole class as well as chaperones to Indiana (about $30,000 for Woodinville), and to ship the complete stage set across the country by truck.
There are three stages at the university, and the students don't know on which they'll perform their play. But they do know they get to perform the whole 90-minute play and that they'll have three hours to put up the scenery, which was designed by student stage manager Steve Bisnett.
The set, a large living room with a staircase, is designed to fit any stage and is light enough to move around easily.
Coward's 1925 comedy was chosen for this year's entry, the Woodinville players say, because it offered a challenge. It relies mainly on dialogue to carry it, says Anderson. "There's not a lot of action."
In the past, they've submitted heavier fare for the festival - "Look Homeward, Angel" and "Death of a Salesman."
What will happen if the Woodinville 30 aren't able to raise the $30,000?
"Then we won't go," Anderson says.
But, he adds, the players all knew there would be costs involved before they signed on, and they're willing to come up with their own money if necessary.
-------------------- FESTIVAL FUND-RAISER --------------------
-- Woodinville High School will present the play "Hay Fever" Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The price of the $10 ticket will go toward sending 30 students to the International Thespian Society's Festival '93 at Ball State University in Indiana. Call 489-6751 for tickets.