The fledgling Maine Student Acting Competition has attracted more than double the number of middle school thespians than the inaugural event at Troy Howard Middle School last year.

“Last year we had five schools and about 30 kids competed,” said event organizer and THMS performing arts teacher Jason Bannister. “This year we’ll have almost 100 kids competing.”

From THMS alone, Bannister said 24 students plan to compete, compared to last year’s team of nine.

The 2012 MSAC has grown to include middle school actors from Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, Searsport Middle School, Camden-Rockport Middle School, Lincolnville Central School, Riley School in Rockport, North Haven Community School, Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield as well as Bangor-area middle schools.

And Bannister said he hopes that growth will continue to the point that the competition can no longer be held in one location — similar to the annual Maine Drama Festival, where high school actors from schools across Maine bring their best to the stage in a series of one act plays.

Higher interest is good news for middle school-aged actors, who Bannister said have little or no opportunity to showcase their skills in ways other than the annual plays and musicals that some middle school drama clubs present each year.

“There’s really nothing like this around in the country,” said Bannister, who is one of a handful of full-time middle school performing arts teachers in the state. “Middle school kids kind of get looked over; I think we’re breaking some new ground with this idea.”

Bannister said he learned a lot about how to improve the MSAC for this year after organizing it for the first time last year.

“With a new thing, it’s hard to get people to commit to it,” said Bannister.

For the 2011 contest, an advisor for one of the Bangor middle schools opted to attend the MSAC for the day, observing how performances for each category were executed and acting as a judge. After having seen how the MSAC works, Bannister said the Bangor advisor decided to send some of his students for the 2012 showdown.

Another thought Bannister had for the 2012 event was to include a few more judges, especially since the second year is shaping up to include many more young actors.

“That way no one gets winded,” said Bannister, adding that this year there will be a total of three rounds, where last year’s MSAC included one elimination round, followed by a final round to determine winners.

To polish the event a bit more, Bannister attended a similar contest for high school students at the University of Southern Maine, an event that is backed by a national high school performing arts society known as the Educational Theatre Association.

For those middle school drama advisors who may be wary of committing their students to something like the MSAC right after finishing up their annual spring musicals, for example, Bannister said what the actors choose to perform in each of the categories is completely up to them. If there’s a particular song a student liked to sing from the spring musical, they can bring it to the stage at the MSAC, even if that student did not have the lead role in their school’s performance.

One THMS actor will sing “Goodnight, My Someone” from the recent THMS production of “The Music Man.”

“In that case, she didn’t get the chance to play the part,” said Bannister. “But she will for this.”

Another THMS actor has chosen to compete in all six categories — solo acting (comedy and drama), duo acting (comedy and drama) and solo/duo musical performance. Bannister said if he makes it through all three rounds, the youth could end up performing 24 times in a single day, which Bannister said can be an exhausting, yet fulfilling, feat for a dedicated young actor.

“It’s totally optional. You put into it as much as you want,” said Bannister.

The most important aspects of MSAC, Bannister said, is to give student actors a chance to showcase their skills, obtain constructive feedback and most of all, build lasting bonds with youths from other schools who share their interests.

“I try not to have the kids focus too much on the competition element of it, but that’s also a big part of the real world, being judged and learning from it,” said Bannister. “I really want them to try and look at the feedback, and what kinds of things the judges comment on. That, and meeting kids from other schools who love acting, too.”

The MSAC will take place throughout the THMS building Saturday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.