International Thespian Society

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International Thespian Society
Abbreviation ITS
Motto "Act well your part; there all the honor lies."
Formation 1929
Type NGO
Purpose Dramatical Arts
  • International
Official language
American English

The International Thespian Society (ITS) is an drama organization for high-school theatre students. It is a division of the Educational Theatre Association.[1] There is also a Jr. International Thespian Society (or Jr. ITS) for Middle School in grades 6-8. A few famous alumni include Tom Hanks, Val Kilmer, James Marsters, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Stephen Schwartz.[2] Festivals are held annually at the district, state and national levels. Each June the International Thespian Festival is held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.[3][4] [5] Membership currently stands at approximately 100,000 student members across 3,900 schools.


The International Thespian Society was founded in 1929 in Fairmont, West Virginia.[6] Originally named National Thespians, the society was founded by Dr. Paul Opp, Earnest Bavely and Harry Leaper. National Thespians was an honorary organization for high school theater students who earned membership through participation in their schools' theatre programs. The organization consisted of troupes, each linked to a school. The first troupe was formed by Dr. Earl Blank at Natrona County High School in Casper, Wyoming.

At the end of the 1928-1929 school year there were 71 troupes across 26 states. In October, 1929, the first issue of The High School Thespian, ”official organ of National Thespians” was published. The National Thespian headquarters was moved to Cincinnati during the year 1935. That same year, the society was renamed The National Thespian Dramatic Honor Society. The society held its first National High School Drama Conference and Play Production Festival in 1941 at Indiana University. It later became a bi-annual event.

In October 1944, the "High School Thespian" magazine was renamed Dramatics. In October 1945, The National Thespian Dramatic Honor Society was again renamed the National Thespian Society. In 1982, the bi-annual conference was renamed the Thespian Festival.

Student Member Induction and Promotion[edit]

The ITS inducts high school and middle school students active in theater each fall or spring, with members earning points towards a higher rank.[7] The International Thespian Society admits students who do work in all different aspects of theatre, such as build crew, stage crew, make up tech, costume designer, lighting tech, sound tech, actors, playwrights, directors, choreographers, vocal directors, stage managers, financial directors, marketing, and ushers. A system of "points" allows new students to be inducted. Students earn these points through work within their high school or middle school theatre programs. At the high school level, students can reach "Life" member status, and receive free admission to all high school productions for life.[8]

Student Leadership[edit]

At the high school level there are various officers possible, including President, Vice President, and so on.[9][10] There are also State and International student leaders elected annually by their respective student bodies. There are six international offices: a Chair/International Liaison, a Co-Chair who is in training to become next school year's Chair, and 4 at-large officers representing members from around the USA.[11] The International Thespian Officers are student members elected to represent the student membership. They suggest policy and service changes to the Educational Theatre Association Board, and take an active role in training, chapter conferences, and the annual International Thespian Festival. There are also State Thespian Officers elected to manage such events as State Thespian Festivals and local Junior Thespian Festivals.


  1. ^ "Thespian Awards « Cypress Ranch Theatre | The Backstage Pass". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  2. ^ "International Thespian Society - Cedarburg School District". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  3. ^ "Brent International School Manila | Recent Events". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  4. ^ "Professional Prompt Book for Audition". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  5. ^ Just a High School Play - E. Eugene Perry - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  6. ^ "Aliso Niguel Theatre Company - INTERNATIONAL THESPIAN SOCIETY". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  7. ^ "Volunteer Spotlight: Thespians". Broadway Cares. 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  8. ^ "Honor Organizations Chartered forNCS Drama Students - Nashville Christian School". 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  9. ^ "May/June 2013 | Mercy High School". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  10. ^ "Evergreen Valley High School: News Archive". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  11. ^ "Cache County School District". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 

External links[edit]