Here are your ITO 2023! Each year the ITO (International Thespian Officers) are elected by their peers. These student leaders represent the student voice in the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) and the International Thespian Society (ITS). During their term as officers, they work with EdTA staff, chapter leaders, and Thespians from around the world. Their goal is to lead by example, to mentor other student leaders, and to advocate for the arts.

The ITO 2023 embody EdTA’s motto, simply put in today’s vernacular, #ThespiansForever. The ITO develop deep roots in the theatre world as they serve, learn, and grow toward their future plans.

Read on and meet the Class of ITO 2023.

Class of ITO 2023

Introduced alphabetically by first name. 

Arushi Maheshwar (she/her)
Saratoga High School, Troupe #6354
Graduates 2024

young woman in pink shirt with black hair

Arushi Maheshwar

What do you hope to accomplish as an ITO?
I would like to champion a “Theatre for Social Change,” an initiative that aims to take the theatrical arts and hone in on certain areas of social change such as neurodiversity, LGBTQ+ rights, and racial diversity. I would like to implement virtual workshops for Thespians to learn from each other about allyship in action, connect with peer Thespians to shine a spotlight on effective ways of sustaining grassroots social change movements, and collaborate on a methodology that can scale across the thousands of communities that Thespians represent. 

My central mission is to use theatre as a medium to advocate for inclusivity in the performing arts, develop programs to instill life skills such as communication and collaboration, and promote mental well-being for all. 

Additionally, I would like to connect Thespians with students who do not have an ITS troupe or theatre program in their schools, and form friendships and community bonding with them. Adding on to the Educational Theatre Association’s (EdTA) initiatives of Jump Start Theatre and Pathway, this program would allow Thespians to become directly involved with mentoring non-Thespians from underrepresented schools. Many students do not have ITS or theatre programs in their schools due to a lack of funding. However, the students in those schools would benefit tremendously from a theatre program and are also equally deserving of having access to one.

Which EdTA core value resonates most with you?
People Matter. I believe that every individual in society has the ability to make a difference and it is the social responsibility of every human being, through empathy and understanding, to empower each other to make that reality come true. I am often disappointed when I see others in my community picking on, harassing, or belittling other people simply because they are different.

In my local community, I have noticed a lack of neurodiversity in the arts programs. My first thought was: How is it fair that arts programs only support those of the neurotypical community and fail to support those of the neurodivergent community?

Many neurodivergent students were reluctant to join theatre in my local community because of the lack of support provided, causing underrepresentation and exclusivity in a community of artists. Determined to be the change I want to see, I created Well’Arte, a student-run nonprofit organization focused on neurodiversity in theatre. We began in the summer of 2021, and performed three, 10-minute plays (on topics of inclusivity and kindness). We donated all of our funds to autism advocacy organizations and other theatre organizations dedicated to neurodiversity in theatre.

How has your theatre education impacted your life?
Through theatre education, I have become more introspective. What specifically inspires me about theatre is the freedom of the artform itself. In theatre, there is no right or wrong answer. There is only the pursuit to tell a story in the way you want to tell it.

Whenever I am given a textual reading or a play in drama class, I often find myself spending time each night deciphering the text, post-flagging my scripts, and coming up with several questions to discuss with my peers the next day. Although I never found the “perfect” answer to my questions, I was able to express my curiosity and gain new insights I hadn’t gotten before through these discussions. This is just one of the many ways that theatre education allows me to become more introspective.

Jane Wang (she/her)
Northwood High School, Troupe #6309
Graduates 2025

young woman in jean jacket with dark hair

Jane Wang

What do you hope to accomplish as an ITO?
Leadership is about utilizing traits you have to inspire others toward a brighter future. One aspect of the ITS platform that I am deeply passionate about and involved in is social activism. I am eager to foster a newfound sense of agency and drive for Thespians to advocate for important causes within their respective schools and communities. I believe that my ability to create genuine, heartfelt connections with people I interact with, and to speak with confidence and enthusiasm in front of large crowds, will allow me to help Thespians to feel heard by the ITS.

I strongly believe that my unique experiences as California State Thespian Officer, and my cultural heritage, will bring new insight and contributions to the table. I will help create an open environment for other marginalized communities to feel heard and seen in the EdTA. I will be a voice for those who want to be heard, foster creativity, and empower the incredibly diverse student population of the world to be involved in all forms of theatrical arts. 

As a low-income, first-generation Asian-American student, I have made it my lifelong goal to diversify the theatre industry by pushing for representation. These shared goals with the EdTA can be achieved through unique initiatives such as the creation of an online blog, aimed to educate Thespians on current events of theatre arts advocacy work, disparities within the entertainment industry, funding for arts programs in public schools, and additional current events that may pertain to aspiring performers. I am committed to researching and writing these articles, as they will inspire today’s youth to take a stance in their community to also become leaders for civic engagement.

Which EdTA core value resonates most with you?
Striving for Excellence. Being an ITO 2023 embodies what it means to be a leader and an advocate for our community. To truly be a successful ITO, it is vital to strive for excellence by fostering an environment where everybody, regardless of race, age, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic class feels empowered to participate in theatre arts. It is essential for the representatives of young Thespians to continuously advance our reach in underfunded schools of the world, stand for better representation, and address the disparities and inequities within the industry.

With my extensive background in leadership positions, political advocacy, and campaigning, as well as my experience in theatre arts, I hope to continue pursuing excellence by pushing for increased engagement of marginalized youth and our events’ expansion to accessibility and diversity.

How has your theatre education impacted your life?
Although theatre education has impacted deeply, the most significant gift I have been fortunate enough to receive is to help create a platform for arts funding initiatives. I interned with the Californian Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, to draft and endorse bills such as Proposition 28. This legislation goes  into effect summer 2023 and will benefit hundreds of struggling theatre departments throughout California by providing $2.1 million for performing and fine arts curriculum and hiring. 

Aside from collaborating with notable state politicians to draft laws in California, another facet of my political advocacy work has been founding TheFemmRep, a certified 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization that aims to increase the participation of women and youth in our government. I, along with my appointed all-female Executive Board, work tirelessly to establish online and in-person events and resources for young women who are passionate about creating representation in the American government.

As the Founder and CEO of this organization, I have gained leadership experience by chairing weekly meetings with Board members and implementing monthly blogs, a social media presence, a website, and restaurant fundraisers. Our booths at events such as the Los Angeles Pride Parade and the Irvine Global Village Festival have allowed me to interact with my community and promote the initiative. 

Josh Cunnison (he/him)
Kecoughtan High School, Troupe #2847
Graduates 2024

young man with curly hair and dark shirt

Joshua Cunnison

What do you hope to accomplish as an ITO?
I have seen the change that diversity brings to a group. I have been an advocate of diversity and inclusion since I was eight years old. That year I joined a summer camp called 4-H. I truly believe that 4-H was the biggest influence on my leadership journey. What I remember is people from all sides of the commonwealth coming together for a weeklong camp in the middle of Jamestown. We were taught how to lead through games and interactive experiences. I have been a counselor at this camp that helped raise me, and also was on their leadership board.

As an ITO 2023 I’d like to implement student-led diversity and inclusion education for other students. This is something we did in 4-H. I would define some of the most important EdTA Core values and possibly combine some of them to make a couple different committees for the elected student leaders to join. This could have a lasting impact on diversity and inclusion throughout the rest of the history of ITS.

We could set up stands at ITF with the different subcommittees and see that the program is implemented well and actively supported by the students and fellow thespians at the conference. My goal is to shape my peers into leaders and active members in ITS and in the world.

Which EdTA core value resonates most with you?
The worst feeling as a teammate, and especially as a leader, is having that one odd apple that doesn’t want to work together with the rest of the team. That is why I believe that the single most important core value is Work Together. I believe that it is crucial to work as a team, and if it is not achieved, if only one person doesn’t want to work with the group, it can possibly ruin all of the progress made toward the goal.

My childhood consisted of a lot of sports and extracurricular activities. One of the most influential activities in my early life was soccer. I played soccer for more than 10 years and made a club team. Every single year that I played rec we almost always went undefeated, except for one year, during this year we had the same people that went undefeated the year prior. However, since we won so much, the best player in our league decided that he wanted to play for us and joined our team. Almost immediately you could see that he was miles above every single one of us and was an incredible player. We automatically leaned on him to score every single goal, we would slack off in practice because we thought since we had the best player we couldn’t possibly lose. In short, that year we went from 10-0 to 2-8. We only won two games because we relied on one person.

That is why teamwork is so important to me. Even from the young age of nine, I knew how crucial teamwork was after that experience. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships,” said basketball great Michael Jordan.

Theatre has been a home for me for a long time and has helped me through a lot of different pathways, one of the most crucial parts of my life was my battle with obesity. When I was 15 years old I weighed almost 300 pounds and absolutely hated myself. When I was younger, I never struggled with weight and was a pretty healthy kid. During the COVID-19 pandemic I gained more than 100 pounds. Since I gained so much weight over a short amount of time, I struggled with lung problems and difficulty breathing.

Never once in the theatre program did I feel left out or made fun of because of weight or appearance. I was still able to be cast in all sorts of roles from comedic characters, to romantic interests, to protagonists.

Now, thanks to my friends in theatre that supported me, I’ve lost more than 80 pounds. Theatre is the most positive experience in my entire life, it has shaped me as a person and as a leader and helped me through the toughest moments of my life.


Meghan Crohe (she/her)
Pennsbury High School, Troupe #830
Graduates 2024

Young woman with blond hair and brown shirt

Meghan Crohe

What do you hope to achieve as an ITO?
I will use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect further with Thespians to get Theatre In Our Schools Month declared at the national level. There are so many incredible resources through the EdTA, so many Thespians across the nation to connect with through the ITSLC, and so many ways to create, reform, and share theatre around the globe.

When it comes to DEI, I believe theatre should be the most welcoming environment that allows students from all backgrounds to come together and share their love of the art. There are programs and activities in my troupe that might help students who would struggle on their own, such as having an upperclassman to guide them, helping them prepare for auditions, run lines, or answer any questions they may have. This program is called Backstage Buddies at my school. 

I went into my junior year with the goal of establishing a more inclusive and welcoming environment in order to bridge the gap between underclassmen and upperclassmen at my school. This was a big problem in my troupe as a result of COVID-19, and I did not want new students joining theatre at the high school level to feel unsupported, intimidated, or unwelcome like I had at points. Aside from this, I am happy to say that my troupe encourages anyone to audition for shows, and welcomes neurodivergent individuals and students no matter how they identify when they walk into the doors of our auditorium.

It’s my goal to further investigate roadblocks that may stand in the way of DEI, and work to organize more ways to become the most unbiased version of ourselves that we can. 

Which EdTA core value resonates most with you?
Be the Person You Want to Work With. The three subsets of this value include celebrating individuality and honoring diversity, engaging fully, and bringing joy and optimism to your work. I believe that these ideas are important for creating a safe and happy environment. Recognizing and honoring uniqueness and skills that students have is important for making them feel appreciated. Especially when casting or electing members of a board, I think this core value is key.

How has your theatre education impacted your life?
Theatre itself is an important tool that can be used for advocacy. For example, this past year I was assistant director to a program in my troupe called S.T.A.G.E., which stands for Sharing Theatre and Guiding Emotions. It was designed to spread theatre to our district’s elementary schools while incorporating social and emotional learning through a children’s one-act play.

We prioritize casting underclassmen as it is their first introduction to the high school and is very low pressure, and it’s entirely student-run. Next year I plan to work with my district to make sure we can visit even more schools in order to share it with even more students. Additionally, when it comes to advocating for the art itself, for the past two years I have written to my state representatives about Theatre In Our Schools. In March of 2022, my troupe was the first in the state to get Theatre in Our Schools Month declared for Pennsylvania by the state senate. I will continue to advocate for theatre education at every level. I hope to spread this message to as many people as possible through this international platform.


Nat Wilkes (they/them/theirs)
Cherry Creek High School, Troupe #1730
Graduates 2024

Young woman with dark hair and pink and black shirt

Nat Wilkes

What do you hope to accomplish as an ITO?
One of the most beautiful aspects of theatre is the opportunity to collaborate with other committed and compassionate artists. Last summer, I was able to collaborate on recruitment for Colorado Youth Congress, the nonprofit focused on systems change, with a fellow Colorado thespian, Meadow Sinner. We would frequently exchange ideas of how our theatre executive leadership could transfer into the nonprofit world and what we had learned from the nonprofit world that we could transfer into theatre. We were both in line to be Treasurer for our respective troupes this school year and grew incredibly close in just a short few months.

Tragically, on the closing night of our summer internship, Meadow Sinner was murdered in a domestic violence dispute. I had lost a friend, a coworker, and a fellow thespian. At Meadow’s funeral, I collected myself enough to talk to her friends from school, providing them my phone number so we could connect and I could offer support to Meadow’s troupe. In the past year, I have kept up contact with these students and encouraged my coworkers to attend their productions when possible.

My number one goal is to support troupes through providing resources and effective communication to members and directors. I believe theatre is a community which spreads throughout cultures, as we share the same values and ethics. To connect thespians and grow the community is to grow the individual.

How has your theatre education impacted your life?
I have matured greatly as a theatre artist and human being through the connections I’ve made with other students, and am confident that I will expand these skills as an ITO.

When Meadow was murdered, I channeled my grief into productivity. I led through those difficult times on projects to keep myself busy. Theatre teaches principles, skills, and character which sets Thespians apart. Personally, theatre has been the sole reason I learned to be more gregarious and outgoing, which is a skill that has supported me in all my endeavors.


Sid Gunasekaran (he/him)
Coppell High School, Troupe #5992
Graduates 2024

Young man in blue shirt giving two thumbs up

Sid Gunasekaran

What do you hope to accomplish as an ITO?
My primary focus is on fostering connections among Thespians and cultivating a strong sense of community within the organization. I believe that the foundation of successful leadership lies in building robust relationships with those around you, and I am committed to working tirelessly to create an environment in which all Thespians feel seen, heard, and valued.

I plan to attend workshops, participate in panel discussions, or simply converse with fellow Thespians to build relationships. I believe that face-to-face interaction is an essential ingredient in nurturing relationships and fostering a sense of belonging and unity within the community.

In addition to in-person outreach, I would also work to create digital spaces where Thespians can connect and engage with one another. This could include online forums, dedicated social media groups, and even virtual performances and workshops. By harnessing the power of technology, we can bridge the gap among Thespians across different locations and create opportunities for them to collaborate, support one another, and share their passion for theatre.

Furthermore, I would encourage mentorship and collaboration within the Thespian community. By establishing mentorship programs and encouraging experienced Thespians to guide and support newer members, we can ensure that everyone has the chance to grow, learn, and contribute to the organization. Inclusivity and diversity are important focuses of my approach to leadership.

As a proud South Asian Indian Tamil, I have personally experienced the lack of representation for individuals like myself in the theatre industry. This is an issue I am passionate about addressing, and I am determined to use my unique perspective to make a lasting impact.

Which EdTA core value resonates most with you?
I firmly believe in the importance of “striving for excellence” in everything that I do. This means setting high standards for myself and consistently pushing to do better, whether it’s in my personal or professional life. To me, success is not just about reaching a particular goal or achieving a specific milestone. It’s about continually improving and growing as an individual.

When I pursue excellence, I challenge myself to become better and do better, which not only aids me in achieving my objectives but also brings a sense of fulfillment and purpose to my life. Being open to positive change is also crucial in today’s fast-paced world. With constant advancements and developments, we risk becoming stagnant and falling behind if we don’t welcome new ideas and new ways of doing things. By embracing positive change, we can stay ahead of the curve and continue to grow and evolve as individuals. A

How has your theatre education impacted your life?
Theatre education has had a profound impact on my life and has helped to shape me into the person I am today. Through theatre, I have developed important life skills, made meaningful connections with others, and found a sense of purpose and fulfillment. As a student, theatre education provided me with a safe and welcoming space where I could express myself creatively and explore different perspectives. It taught me the importance of collaboration, communication, and creativity, and helped me to develop my confidence and resilience.

I learned to take risks and push beyond my comfort zones, which has helped me to succeed in all areas of my life. Moreover, theatre education has provided me with a sense of community and belonging. It has allowed me to connect with others who share my passion for the arts, and has given me a way to make a positive impact on the world. Through theatre, I have been able to tell important stories, challenge stereotypes and misconceptions, and promote empathy and understanding.

Finally, theatre education has taught me the value of hard work and dedication. It has taught me that success is not just about talent, but about persistence and perseverance. Through theatre, I have learned to set goals and to work tirelessly to achieve them, which has helped me to achieve success both on and off the stage.

As someone who has experienced the negative effects of eating disorders, I am passionate about raising awareness and advocating for better support for those who are struggling. In particular, I’m committed to supporting organizations like the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), which provides resources and support for individuals and families affected by eating disorders. To this end, I recently hosted a charity fundraiser show called “The Broadway Banquet,” where all proceeds from the event went to NEDA and raising money for charity. The event featured musical performances from a variety of local artists and performers, as well as speeches from eating disorder survivors and advocates. It was an incredible experience, and I was proud to see so many people come together to support a cause that is so important to me. I am committed to continuing my advocacy work and to using my voice and my platform to promote positive change in the world. 

Patty Craft is a regular contributor to Dramatics.

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