LAST MARCH, the Westerville North High School drama club took the words from their spring musical Newsies to heart. Onstage the troupe performed “The World Will Know,” a song that encourages listeners to fight injustice and fear against speaking out. Offstage, they put those words into action as they promoted and participated in the 2019 Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) Month program.

The annual TIOS program enables students and theatre educators to raise awareness about the impact and importance of theatre education for all students. Each year, students, educators, and Thespian troupes pledge to participate in the monthlong initiative and its weekly prompts.

Located just outside Columbus, Ohio, Westerville North has a booming theatre program. “We have more students involved in the arts than any other activity or sport roster in our school,” said Kimberly Mollohan, former Westerville North theatre director.

Knowing that there are students in Columbus with little or no access to theatre education makes TIOS Month more meaningful for Troupe 3156, third place winners of the 2019 TIOS Outstanding Impact Award.

“We have many underfunded schools in the general area,” said senior Patti Doud. “Participating in TIOS gives students a larger look at how art connects people and how art impacts people. It’s important for us to dive into the true meaning of TIOS, which is to educate others but also to educate ourselves on how we can help our community through theatre.”

Doud, the lead TIOS organizer, spent weeks planning several TIOS events for the entire month. “In order to raise the most awareness surrounding the importance of theatre education, our activities occurred often and in many different places,” she said.

TIOS information was promoted in school announcements that also shared TIOS facts; at Newsies, the spring musical; and in a series of theatre advocacy presentations. Students spoke to the Westerville Arts Council; the Westerville Public Library; with Eric Connelly, a legislative aide to Ohio Senator Tina Maharath; and via a massive school assembly that included a theatre question-and-answer session plus a small performance.

Thespians from Troupe 3156 visited with Legislative Aide Eric Connelly to promote Theatre in Our Schools Month in March 2019.
Patti Doud from Troupe 3156 visited Legislative Aide Eric Connelly to promote Theatre in Our Schools Month in March 2019. Photo by Susan Doud.

The troupe also visited Heritage Middle School, where they exposed students to a typical theatre class. Doud says the visit was one of her favorite TIOS Month activities.

“We led a lesson on accents, acting, and improv,” she said. “The other half of the meeting was devoted to educating the middle schoolers on what theatre in high school is like and how it can personally affect them.”

Aware of the impact TIOS Month advocacy can make in the community, Doud was surprised by what it taught her about herself. “The biggest thing I learned was how to communicate,” she said. “It helped me learn how to speak appropriately to people of all ages and how to organize large tasks.”

Mollohan was not surprised by what Doud learned from participating in TIOS Month because she believes theatre education has always been one of the best avenues to self-growth and discovery.

“Students who participate in theatre realize it’s important as it improves their self-confidence, social interaction to work as a team, public speaking, academics, time management, friendships, and more,” Mollohan said. “Theatre is everything! Theatre allows us to experience the highest highs and lowest lows as performers and audience members. Theatre makes us better humans.”

Visit the Theatre In Our Schools webpage to learn more about TIOS Month.

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