Best in the state takes the stage

Courtesy photo
RILEY NEVIN, a junior at Coal City High School, was recognized by the Unit 1 Board of Education for his participation in the Illinois High School Theatre Festival’s All-State Production of Aida. Nevin (left) appeared in the lead male role of Radames. The festival was attended by 6,000 Illinois high school drama students and the All-State Production was viewed by 10,000 audience members. When appearing before the board on Feb. 4, Nevin was joined by his high school theatre director, Jack Micetich (right).

Ann Gill

Riley Nevin ran from the stage and jumped into the arms of his high school theatre director, and as he raised his fist in victory, those around him knew right away that he’d landed the role.
A junior at Coal City High School, Nevin was one of 300 students from across the state to audition for a spot in the Illinois High School Theatre Festival’s 2020 All-State Production of Aida.
After the initial audition, he received a call back and not only did he land a spot in the cast, he landed the lead male role playing Radames.
“I hope everyone understands what an incredible accomplishment this was. We have the best in the state right in front of us and that’s pretty cool,” said Unit 1 Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg, who joined the Board of Education in commending Nevin for his outstanding performance and representation of this school and community.
In the months leading up to the All-State Production, Nevin spent five holiday weekends working with the rest of the All-State cast, as a group they put in over 250 hours of rehearsal time.
In January, Nevin took the stage inside the Braden Auditorium on the Illinois State University campus performing four shows over two days to a crowd of more than 10,000 people—6,000 of them being high school students taking part in the three-day theatre festival.
“I will say this, Riley blew me and others in the crowd away. He made Coal City very proud,” said high school principal Chris Spencer.
Jack Micetich, Nevin’s high school theatre director, said he was approached by many at the festival touting not only the talent of his student, but Nevin’s attributes as a leader among his fellow cast members.
“I think its important for us and our program being represented in that way,” Micetich said.
And, the producer, director and show liaison also had wonderful things to say about Nevin.
“If theatre is a sport...then Riley Nevin is the All-State Captain, for Riley is the epitome of the best of all those qualities. On and off the theatre field, he led this team mates—the cast of Aida, to new heights,” stated Suzanne Aldridge, the production’s downstate liaison.
Bugg used a similar analogy, “to try to maybe put it in some other terms in athletics for example where there are eight classes of football with 8A being the biggest schools in the state, this is like being the quarterback of the 8A football team. Riley is the best in the state, that’s what this means it’s a big deal and we are extremely proud of that,” Bugg said.
The Illinois Theatre Festival is the largest high school theatre festival in the country, and Coal City had 30 students in attendance.
Throughout the weekend, students had opportunities to attend a variety of workshops from set design and lighting to improv and character development.
“While the peak was going to the show and seeing Riley on stage, those two days our students were there were spent in some pretty intensive workshops learning new things and getting better. Its a wonderful opportunity to take 30 drama kids down to do some professional development and it was super beneficial,” Micetich said.
He notes the experience also has others in the school theatre program interested in auditioning for the 2021 All-State show.
“From this experience we also have pit musicians planning to audition. That is one unique thing about this is the show is built completely by students so every pit musician and crew member is a student. I hope we can continue to have Coal City represented,” Micetich said.
Nevin plans to audition once again this spring.
His participation in the production has led to some unforeseen opportunities including a $10,000 scholarship to the New York Conservatory for the Performing Arts.
As part of the All-State cast students are provided an opportunity to audition for various collegiate theatre programs. As a junior Nevin deferred the opportunity in order to focus his attention on the show.
The scholarship came based solely on his performance in the show.
“That speaks to the work he was doing down there,” Micetich said.
Additionally, his participation opened some doors and he’s landed his first professional show and will play Henry in the Beverly Arts Center’s production of Next to Normal in April.
While Nevin didn’t have much to say at the meeting, he did acknowledge his appreciation to the board and administration for its support.
Bugg also took a moment to commend Micetich.
“I want to thank you for giving our students these opportunities. The doors you are opening for these kids we’re seeing right here with a $10,000 scholarship and a professional offer. I am just really proud of you, Riley and you, Jack and I can’t wait to see what’s next,” Bugg said.
Next up for both is the theatre department’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Nevin in the title role as Quasimodo.