JOHN BUSH is the rare Thespian whose love of performing began with a concerted effort to avoid personal attention. Initially, Bush found himself drawn to ventriloquism watching his grandfather’s old VHS tapes of Howdy Doody shows. However, he was content to let his puppet hog his portion of the spotlight. Then he found Gainesville High School’s stage. An active member of Thespian Troupe 2445 all four years, Bush names as his most memorable projects student-directing Moon over Buffalo and playing the roles of Radames in Aida, Don Baker in Butterflies Are Free, and Davey Jacobs in Newsies. Beyond Troupe 2445, he served on the Georgia Thespians board as a State Thespian Officer and capped his high school career as a 2018-19 International Thespian Officer.

Bush earned the title Mr. GHS — contestants are judged on talent, interviews, and formal wear — at the school’s annual theatre department fundraiser in 2018. A fan of Star Wars, Neil Simon, and Stanley Kubrick, he enjoys writing and playing music when he’s not acting. “Since I turned 12, you couldn’t find me in a 24-hour period where a guitar wasn’t present. As far as the Beatles and Bob Dylan go, I’m practically a historian,” Bush said. “That music filled my childhood, and I thought I would move on a long time ago. But I’m still kicking back to a copy of Rubber Soul to this day.”

John Bush advocating for theatre education at the National Arts Action Summit.

John Bush advocating for theatre education at the National Arts Action Summit. Photo courtesy of John Bush.

What was your introduction to theatre?
Theatre began for me with ventriloquism in third grade. The idea of performing with the attention on the puppet allowed me to express myself and develop characterization. It is amazing and hilarious to think that all of these amazing experiences started with Howdy Doody, but it somehow suits me.

What was your favorite high school theatre experience? 
During my junior year, I had the opportunity to student-direct Moon over Buffalo by Ken Ludwig. This project combined all my favorite parts of theatre — a great script, cast, and a leadership opportunity. What made this my favorite high school experience is the impact of the play on the cast and crew. For the first time, I felt like I contributed to the bonding of our troupe in a major way.

What prompted you to become an International Thespian Officer?
Theatre provides so much more than performing. Educational theatre provides communication and collaborative skills essential for all employers, regardless of your field. In essence, my prompt for running for an ITO position was the positive effects the Educational Theatre Association and International Thespian Society have had on my life.

My favorite experience as an ITO has been teaching my personal workshop, “Avenue U.” There, students learn ventriloquism and, hopefully, a little about themselves as well. After my second run of “Avenue U” in Arizona, someone caught me in the hallway to tell me they wanted to become a ventriloquist because of my presentation. That was one of those “whoa” moments for me.

What are your plans after graduation?
After high school, I will attend the University of Georgia in Athens, where I will double major in theatre and political science. My fellow troupe members laugh and say, “Sort of what you do now?” Yes! The ITO position has opened so many doorways for me, including politics. Our trip to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the arts specifically inspired me to pursue this field through a theatrical lens.

What advice would you give other students beginning their Thespian journeys?
The ultimate part of being a Thespian isn’t performing or executing technical cues. The truth is that being a Thespian means you are part of a society of people who support each other. Through my travels, I have found that we each are unique yet so unified in our love for theatre. To newly inducted Thespians, welcome. Enjoy it. Reach out and feel welcomed to the Thespian family. Although a fourth of our Thespian population is graduating, we are all Thespians forever.

Follow the International Thespian Officers on Instagram @thespiansociety.

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