Belhaven Alumni Lead Award-Winning Play to 2024 International Thespian Festival

May 15, 2024 (Jackson, Miss.) - Belhaven University alumni Malaika Quarterman (’05) and Madison Upendo (’18) have co-directed an acclaimed play, selected to represent Mississippi at the 2024 International Thespian Festival. Their outstanding work with 20 talented thespians from Jackson Public Schools’ Wells APAC has garnered this honor, highlighting the state’s theatrical talent on an international stage.

This coveted recognition is annually bestowed upon one school in Mississippi whose production distinguishes itself among both private and public institutions from Tupelo to Gulfport. Wells APAC, which last achieved this honor in 2019, will make a celebrated return with their award-winning rendition of Alan Haehnel’s “Property Rites.”

Scheduled for June 23-28, 2024, in Bloomington, Indiana, the International Thespian Festival is a week-long celebration of theatrical excellence. It offers premium training with industry professionals, showcases student productions of Broadway caliber, and provides a platform for students to demonstrate their skills to college professors seeking promising young talent for their programs.

Quarterman and Upendo's production of “Property Rites,” an exploration of autonomy through the relationship between an art curator and his AI art piece, captivated judges at the Mississippi Thespian Conference in Meridian. Their dedicated students have invested months of hard work into bringing this story to life and are now fundraising to cover travel and expenses to Indiana University, with each team member needing $1,000 to attend the festival.

The community is invited to support Wells APAC’s journey to the festival. Contributions can be made via their GoFundMe page: APAC Theatre To ITF 2024.

“We remain optimistic despite the challenge of funding transportation,” said Upendo. “Our upcoming local performances of ‘Property Rites’ on May 17th and 18th, along with other scheduled productions and fundraisers throughout May, will contribute to our ongoing efforts.”

Quarterman added, “Any assistance, whether sharing our story or considering sponsorship and donations, will help our students experience this incredible opportunity. It’s a chance for them to receive advanced training, audition for college scholarships, and showcase the talent that hails from Jackson, MS, to other theatre troupes around the world.”

Support from the community is crucial to help these young artists from Wells APAC achieve their dream and proudly represent Mississippi on an international stage.