Theatre student performs at international competition, pursues future career

One of the sounds theatre students live for is the sound of applause. Since her elementary school years, junior Josie Bettis has thrived off of the stage, the lights, and the applause. This summer, she made it to the International Thespians Festival (ITF) after qualifying at the Texas Thespians Festival. Though many people have made an impact on Josie’s theatrical career, her dad and intermediate school theatre director stand out the most. 

“My dad is really into singing and acting,” Josie said. “We’ve done community theatre together, and one person that really impacted me was Mr. Jacoby at Rayburn; he was my main influence to keep going in school theatre rather than just sticking with community theatres.”

Josie’s dad, Rodney Bettis, said that Josie inspired him to get interested in the theatre. When he “caught the theatre bug,” he in turn encouraged Josie to get involved in theatre.

“I think it is so important for people to try things,” Mr. Bettis said. “Try to build an amazing Halloween costume, try to play an instrument, try to write a book, a song, poetry, or a screenplay, try to engineer something that will make people’s lives better. You never know until you try and if you don’t like it, I promise you will take a lesson from trying that will serve you later in life.”

Josie is passionate about theatre and appreciates its positives and negatives.

“The hardest part of theatre is probably the time commitment,” Josie said. “Whenever I’m in a show, I don’t really get to do anything else besides the show, but our new directors are working on ways to reduce the rehearsal time. My favorite part of theatre is the people. Everyone is just so fun and interactive; everyone wants to be everyone’s friend, and theatre is just so much fun.”

Since her introduction to theatre many years ago, Josie has become a strong theatre student and has found a strength in her singing.

“What she has excelled at is her voice,” Mr. Bettis said. “She comes from a long line of people with a beautiful singing voice, but she has worked on it in a way that when you hear her, you recognise that you are hearing something special. She takes coaching, both vocally and in acting, really well and you can see and hear it on stage.”

According to theatre teacher Forrest Gamble, one thing Josie has struggled with is separating herself from her characters and not being too self-critical.

“Josie is a very empathic individual,” Gamble said. “She does really well connecting with other people, feeling what they feel, and seeing things through their point of view. I feel like that’s a strength and a struggle that she’s able to get inside the character very easily. Sometimes she starts to worry about things that maybe she doesn’t need to worry about; she’s very self-conscious about whether or not she’s doing well enough.”

Despite this struggle, Josie has grown and strengthened her theatre skills. 

“I feel like between last year and this year she has become a lot more confident,” Gamble said. “I feel like she’s gotten to the point of understanding and being able to utilize that empathy she feels to in a more constructive way. I think she can still be a little critical of herself sometimes, but I don’t feel like it’s nearly to the degree that it was last year.”

Mr. Bettis said that Josie has come alive through theatre and has made him proud.

“When she first started way back in Mr. Jacoby’s class at Sam Rayburn she was quiet, stuck to herself, and didn’t have much confidence in herself,” Mr. Bettis said. “Now, there is little doubt about where she wants to be and where she truly shines. I think one of my proudest moments is when I hear people talking about one of her performances and they have no idea that her father is sitting right in front of them.”

Josie was able to show off her improved skills at the International Thespians Festival (ITF) last summer. 

“ITF was the top theatre people from across the globe, all meeting together in Indiana,” Josie said. “There were workshops that you could go to hosted by professional theatre people. Then we would go and compete to see who could get a trophy, called thespys. It was really interesting being able to see everyone and how amazingly talented they are.”

Josie has received a lot of support from her family to get her where she needed to be for the festival.

“Theatre is a pretty time intensive endeavor,” Mr. Bettis said. “Not only are there almost daily rehearsals, but there are sets, costumes, and props to build and money to raise to get those things done. So her mom, brother, and I have driven her to and from rehearsals, built sets and props, purchased costumes and tickets to shows, promoted shows and performances online, and of course come to as many shows as possible and cheered, clapped, laughed, and cried the loudest.”

To make it to ITF, Josie first had to do well at the state level with her solo musical number.

“I went to the Texas Thespians Convention, and I prepared for probably two to three weeks,” Josie said. “Then I got a perfect score at the convention itself, and that’s what really boosted me to go on to Internationals and expect something awesome. I changed almost everything with my blocking, and it went a lot better.”

It was a big accomplishment for Josie to make it so far, and it was a proud moment for her and her family.

“It means so much to me that Josie accomplished this,” Mr. Bettis said. “There is little doubt that her entire family is very proud of the woman that she is becoming and of all of her accomplishments. We can’t wait to see what else she does with her amazing gifts.” 

This year, Josie will compete in the Texas festival in Houston for the chance to make it to ITF again.

“I’m hoping to get another perfect score at this upcoming competition,” Josie said. “If I advance this time, hopefully I’ll be able to work up to a higher score in the summer. And then hopefully I’ll be able to make it.”

Her teachers have high hopes for her and believe she can do great things again this year.

“We’re about to go to our national qualifying competition which is our Texas Thespians Festival,” Gamble said. “I would love to see her perform another perfect score, which I think she is absolutely capable of, and go to ITF. I would love to see her return to ITF over the next couple of years – she’s got two summers left – and receive a perfect superior score there at international level and be awarded an international solo musical situation.” 

Her dad believes she can do great things and supports her in any direction she chooses to go in.

“My goals for her are not all that important,” Mr. Bettis said. “Supporting her in her goals is much more important to me and her mom. I want her to chase after her goals with fervor, to continue to grow in her talents, to develop other talents as well, to always work hard for what she wants, to be a supportive person to others, and to represent her true self which reflects all of those who have supported her get to wherever she lands.”

Josie wants to pursue a career in theatre, and Gamble believes she could be successful and is happy to see his student sharing his passion for theatre.

“I think she would be great in the professional world, especially with musicals; she’s got a great voice and personality for that,” Gamble said. “I think it’s really awesome to see individuals that have experienced high school theatre go out and pursue it as a career because we always need people moving into those spots as artists to keep providing that entertainment, keep providing inspiration to future students. It’s always kind of a cool thing to see students move on and strive for the extracurricular that I’m passionate about as well.”

Josie’s other theatre teacher, Braedon Lawless, also thinks that Josie would be great in the theatre world.

“I think she’d do phenomenal in an acting career,” Lawless said. “I think she’d be absolutely incredible, and she can do anything she sets her mind to. When it comes to theatre, we need more shiny, happy people like her to be a part of it.”

With all her experiences in theatre class and competitions, Josie has advice for any aspiring theatre students.

“Theatre is really just working,” Josie said. “Practice and experience it, audition for all the shows that you can, and listen to the theatre teachers in class; they know what they’re talking about! I know it can be a little boring, but they know what they’re doing; they are teaching you things that will help you to grow and become a better actor.”

Josie has been looking at colleges in New York and Seattle to study theatre and hopes to make a career out of acting.

“I want to do theatre for my whole life,” Josie said. “That’s something I want to do going forward. And it really means a lot that I got a near perfect score at the international scale. Making it to ITF made me feel that I can actually do this, that this is actually something I’m able to do. And I’m fighting my way to get that perfect score.”