Where young talent is concerned, Abilene is wealthy. This summer alone we have seen:

  • This Is You – a film written, directed, produced, cast, everything from start to finish by Rankin Dean, 21, with the help of friends such as Sammy Castillo Jr., 20
  • Fiddler on the Roof – a full-length musical in which half the cast was college aged or younger
  • Michael Fosha – a man to watch, having been cast in the upcoming productions of The Wedding Singer at Hardin-Simmons University, a one act play written by local playwright and journalist, Tim Chipp, an Internship singing at the Episcopal Church of Heavenly Rest, and his many dancing endeavors. Not to forget, his musical theatre intensive in NYC. (Summer has been no break for him.)
  • Guys and Dolls Jr. – by Abilene Young Performers
  • Annie Jr. – by the Center for Theatre Education
  • The Shakespeare Festival – performed The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing at Abilene Christian University, with the majority of their actors being college aged.
  • Now we add, “Spencer: Another New Musical,” a full length musical written by 18-year-old Jess Westman.

Westman graduated from Abilene High in May and has not wasted a moment preparing for his next endeavor, writing, directing, choreographing, and acting in his own musical.

Courtesy Jess Westman

Westman states that Spencer is the “sulking lullaby” of a teen who passionately talks to God about hitting puberty and while Spencer (the character) is key, Spencer (the musical) is largely about his relationships with those around him.

“What inspired me to write the show is this idea I’ve had for a while. The idea that God is hilarious. If you really think about it, the Dude has to be funny, He literally sees everything.” says Westman.

Courtesy Jess Westman

Though he acknowledges the concept of a boy pleading with God for puberty is a little “silly” the work he has put into making this musical a reality is nothing to laugh at. He wrote the play with actors he knew in mind and formed the characters to people he knew had talent.

Before “Spencer,” he had never composed music. He has played with adding chords to bits and was in productions throughout his high school career, but he took the challenge and taught himself to not only read bass cleft but to compose.

Having had the pleasure of working with Westman for an upcoming performance, a Night of One Acts, at Abilene Community Theater, I’ve seen first hand that he has an ability to interpret human interaction beyond his 18 years. Tyler Sparks was his theater teacher last semester at Abilene High and says, “Jess has a bright personality, fantastic energy, and no doubt a great future ahead of him.”

Courtesy Jess Westman

“The show has a guarantee of at least making the audience feel something,” says Westman, “Whether that’s joy, annoyance, pure laughter, or tears of pain, I’ll know as the creator that I did my job. I told the audience a story and made them feel a little different, and that counts for something.”

“Spencer: Another New Musical” will be performed on the main stage at Abilene Community Theatre on August 3rd-5th at 7pm and August 6th at 2pm.  The admission cost is $5.00.


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