Troy Howard Middle School will be the setting Saturday, April 30, for the first-ever Maine Student Acting Competition, a contest that organizer Jason Bannister hopes will provide middle school-level thespians a chance to shine.

Bannister, an English teacher and drama adviser at THMS, said the idea came to him in January, as the holiday winter vacation drew to an end.

When young actors reach high school, Bannister said they have the Maine One-Act Drama Competition to look forward to each year. That contest is in addition to the annual seasonal plays and musicals that high schools clubs typically stage.

“I wanted to do something this year that was just for middle-school kids,” said Bannister.

His idea grew from his acting experiences in high school in the Lewiston area, and in college. Bannister also enjoyed participating in debate competitions in high school. That interest continued when he attended college in southern Maine and Chicago, where he took part in speech tournaments.

In addition to a group of nine representing THMS, Bannister said there will be teams from five other area schools, including North Haven and Lincolnville. The actors will compete for individual and team titles in the following categories: solo acting (drama), solo acting (comedy), duo acting (drama), duo acting (comedy), solo musical and duo musical.

“It’s just the right size for the first year,” said Bannister, who hopes to see the competition grow.

Competitors, said Bannister, have shown the most interest in the solo musical category, in which 20 of the 36 competitors have entered. Shows such as “American Idol” may have spurred that particular interest, but Bannister said he wants to keep the competition focused on theater.

“They can do something from a Broadway musical, a Broadway play, a Disney movie, as long as it has some connection to theater,” he said.

Participants compete in two rounds of up to six events, and the top three competitors advance to the finals, which will be performed on stage.

The daylong event begins at 8 a.m. with team check-in. Competition kicks off with the solo contests at 9 a.m. Judges’ tallies for the final round will be announced 2:30-3 p.m., with finals for all events 3:15-4:15 p.m. An awards ceremony will close out the day at 4:45 p.m.

The open-to-the-public showdown will not include props or costumes; performers will be judged solely on acting or singing abilities.

The fee is $5 per entrant, per category, which Bannister said cover costs of trophies costs, food and organization.

“The whole point is just to get kids on stage, get them comfortable performing in front of people and enjoying the arts,” Bannister said.

For more information, contact Bannister at 338-3320, ext.118 or jbannister@rsu20.org.