Does Being a Thespian Member Still Mean Anything?

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Before we dig in, let me just answer the title question. 

Short Answer: Yes.

Long Answer: It depends on what your school does with it. 

For many high school students all over the world, induction into the International Thespian Society is viewed as a crowning achievement. It certainly was for me. 

But after almost 90 years and multiple generational attitude shifts, does being a member of such an organization still matter the way it might've used to? Yes, but it all depends on how you and your school values it. 

For me, being inducted into the International Thespian Society(ITS) was one of the highlights of my high school experience. I was an athlete but not a great one. I was, by no measure, a decent student. But theatre was my home and that's where I spent the majority of my time. So following my sophomore year, when I was qualified to join this group, it made me feel appreciated, validated and excited to join a group that I had longed to be a part of. It was also something I could highlight on my college applications. 

I would imagine that's identical to the way many others feel when they are inducted. There's no shame in admitting that in society, recognition and validation are important. Also important is the sense of belonging and being a member of ITS can bring that as well. But that all depends on what the school does with their membership. 

Schools that don't do anything beyond just simply housing a troupe aren't likely going to make their student-members feel much pride in being apart of ITS. However, the schools that take advantage of the opportunities available, can make induction into ITS a life-altering experience. 

As both a student-member and now as a college administrator, I have traveled the country and attended various thespian conferences/festivals. These are fantastic events that offer workshops, performances, auditions and scholarship opportunities for students. While travel to such events may be expensive for schools, the experience is priceless. For students to spend multiple days among their peers only adds to the collaborative spirit that is theatre. I cannot wait to attend this year's International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, NE this summer.

Within the schools themselves, the thespian troupe can have a large impact on the community itself. Whether it's holding special performances to raise funds for various causes or requiring certain academic standards for membership, a school's troupe can enhance students' experiences and provide potentially greater collegiate opportunities. So I certainly hope that schools are using the resources and opportunities ITS provides. 

So if you don't feel your induction into ITS is a big deal, think again, it is. It means you've done some incredible things in theatre and that you've laid the groundwork for much more. 

Photo: Troupe 5480 at International Thespian Festival