Maggie Tyner has participated in theater since she was four years old, and her dedication to the arts led her to being selected as one of five student thespian officers for the Kansas chapter of the International Thespian Society at the statewide conference on Jan. 7.


"It's an honors society for actors and actresses who have shown that they are very dedicated to not only their drama program, but to the arts in general," Tyner said.


Currently a junior at Newton High School, she talked with former student thespian officers who said the year-long appointment was an excellent opportunity to learn, network and lead in the arts.


"It was a way for me to not only meet new people, but to meet people who share the same passion as I did, to meet other people and see their visions and how their troupe works and how they see the arts," Tyner said. "I am beyond excited to get to know my fellow STOs and learn even more about what they do with their troupes and see what I can bring back to my own troupe."


As a student thespian officer, she will have a major role in planning the workshops and activities for next year's state thespian conference. The event drew in nearly 2,000 people this year.


"This year was the biggest conferences that they've had in a really long time. It's held at Century II up in Wichita each year," Tyner said. "It was high schoolers from everywhere. It was insane, but it was so much fun. I'm glad that so many people got to go this year."


"The opportunity to help plan the conference — it's the biggest thing that thespians do," said Michael Parker, who teaches theater at Newton High School. "To have somebody representing us at that level at the conference, it makes it that much more special and more fun for us and more meaningful."


Along with planning for next year's Kansas Thespian Conference, Tyner will take part in other drama-related activities.


"I will be attending leadership workshops. I'll have the chance to run for international thespian officer," Tyner said. "And I get to be able to attend the national festival in Nebraska at the end of June."


To raise funds for that trip, she plans to make and sell cupcakes.


"Any extra money that I get, I will be donating to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS," Tyner said. "I'd love to have more support from Newton as a whole and get our names out there and get more and more support, more than we already have, because we already have so much support."


Tyner is a second-generation member of Kansas Thespian Troupe #47 — her father was also a member of the organization.


"We're the second oldest troupe west of the Mississippi and next year is our 90th anniversary," Tyner noted.


"I think that it's going to help her be able to help our troupe to build because it's going to get people excited," Parker said. "It can give us an opportunity to assist her, so it just brings us all up a level and it really helps us build our troupe. That's one of the things Maggie's very big about."


Though Newton High School may not have the resources dedicated to the arts that bigger high schools do, its students are showing a love for the stage.


"We're on the smaller side, but the passion that I've seen all these people have for the arts department is astounding," Tyner said.


The junior plans to study musical theater in college and is looking at several schools in other states.


"I wanted to make memories in Kansas my senior year to take with me and take on this giant leadership (role) for something that I am so passionate about," Tyner said. "I would love to leave the troupe just thriving."