Penn State Thespians

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The Penn State Thespians is a student-run theatrical organization that operates at the Pennsylvania State University. The main goal of the organization is "to present theatrical entertainment and to provide the students of the Pennsylvania State University with educational experience in all phases of dramatic production; and in doing, hereby enhance the cultural diversity of its members and the University."[citation needed]


The Penn State Thespians is the second oldest student-run organization on campus, after the Penn State Glee Club, and is the second oldest college theater organization in the country.[1][2] The first Thespians meeting was called to order on October 22, 1897 by the founders, Dr. Fred Lewis Pattee (author of Penn State’s “Alma Mater”) and Dr. John Leete. Dr. Pattee was the head of the Department of English, and Dr. Leete was a professor of Mathematics. Neither had roots in theater, yet they came together to form Thespians. This tradition continues today, as many of members are not actively pursuing degrees or careers in theater.

The first show performed by the organization was The Rivals, performed on February 14, 1898.

Famous alumni[edit]

A few notable alumni from the organization include:

  • Gene Kelly: Participated in three shows from 1929-1930 before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Julius J. Epstein: Wrote lyrics for Thespians and went on to write more than 30 screen plays, including “Casablanca.”
  • Oliver Smith (designer): Won Tony Awards for stage settings on Broadway productions of Brigadoon, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, and Hello Dolly.
  • Carrie Fishbein Robbins: Won a Tony Award for her costume design of Grease.
  • Jonathan Frakes: Played the role of Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Rick Lyon: Performed in and directed several shows in the late 1970s and early 80s. Best known for creating all the puppets and appearing in the original cast for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Avenue Q."


Some notable performances that the organization holds throughout the year include:

  • Main stage: Thespians do one main stage musical each semester. They are performed at Schwab Auditorium. The shows are completely student-run and -performed.
  • Children’s Shows: Each semester Thespians create a children’s show. Thespians choose a popular children's book and adapt it into play form. These shows are performed in downtown State College at Schlow Memorial Library. Thespian pledges are highly involved in these shows. Recent children shows include Eloise and The Lorax.
  • MasquerAIDS: Once a year, Thespians perform a MasquerAIDS fundraiser. All profits from the show go to benefit AIDS Resource, an AIDS Service Organization serving Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, Snyder, Union and Potter Counties.

Becoming a Future Member[edit]

To become a member of Thespians, one must first start out as a New Member. This is a two-semester process in which one must fulfill certain requirements. This includes helping out with the main stage shows through crew, set, costumes, creating a pledge project, asking members questions, and creating a skit. New Members also, have a "Big" to help them with their joining process.


External links[edit]