Bexley thespians have been winning the hearts of community members for a long time, but recent recognitions at the state level have several students and one staff member beaming.

Bexley thespians have been winning the hearts of community members for a long time, but recent recognitions at the state level have several students and one staff member beaming.

Six Bexley students performed in the Ohio Educational Theatre Association's Central Area musical, presented at the organization's state conference earlier this month in Sylvania.

It's the school's 10th year returning to the event.

As part of the conference, students put on plays; watch plays put on by other students from high schools all over the state; attend workshops on all theater subjects taught by professionals; enter into individual events competitions in such areas as monologue, musical theater, lighting design and costume construction; and network with other theater students.

About 1,500 students attend the state conference each year.

Sophomores Daisy James-Weidner and Grant Jackson, juniors William Bowman and Abram Blau, and seniors Ashley Hutchinson and Johnny Byrne auditioned for and were cast in the show in October.

But the big surprise came when Rebecca Rhinehart, theater program director at Bexley City Schools, was awarded the Ohio Theatre Educator of the Year award by OhEdTA.

The honor was announced at the association's state conference March 2 and 3.

Rhinehart, who has taught and produced theater in Bexley City Schools since 2006, is the first recipient of the award.

"It's an amazing honor and I feel truly blessed," said Rhinehart, who competed against other nominees from around Ohio.

"Becky has brought an incredible amount of energy to the theater arts program," said Bexley Superintendent Michael Johnson.

"She has grown the program and works hard to ensure that any student interested in participating in theater is included and meaningfully involved. I am very impressed with her organizational abilities and creativity."

She said this year's six students were particularly enthusiastic.

"They did very well," she said last week.

"Ashley Hutchinson earned the top scholarship given by the organization.

"Abram Blau was the Central Area State Thespian Officer this year, Bexley's first ever. In this position, he helped run the conference, was the figurehead of the organization ... planned and ran Central Area Conference, which was held at Bexley High School this year, led a group of students from all over Central Ohio, and attended board meetings," she explained.

Bowman was selected for the position next year.

In addition, the six Bexley students who auditioned for and were selected to be in the Central Ohio Area Show -- Lovewell Institute's musical about bullying, The Weight of Words -- may have the chance to take their talents even further.

"(The show) is a finalist to represent Ohio at the International Thespian Conference this year in June in Lincoln, Neb. We will know if it is going in a few weeks," said Rhinehart.

The OhEdTA is an official chapter of the Educational Theatre Association, the professional association for theater educators, with more than 4,600 members in the United States, Canada and overseas.

"It is an association of theater educators and schools whose focus is on maintaining a theater learning community where talent and art are shared, new skills are learned, and the whole of theater is explored," Rhinehart said.

In order to become an official Thespian, high school students must earn at least 15 Thespian points, and must participate in at least two theater productions. Points are given based on the amount of work and level of dedication the student has shown during participation in productions, YouTheatre Camps, and other theater activities.

This year, Bexley hosts both the Central Area Thespian Conference and the State Junior Thespian Conference.

Next on Rhinehart's agenda are Bexley High School's spring musical, Crazy for You in April, and the elementary YouTheatre production of The Beauty of the Dreaming Wood in May.