The main stage at the International Thespian Festival (ITF) shines with the best in high school theatre. In 2023, Lend Me a Tenor will be performed by Thespian Troupe 1470 from Mount Vernon High School (Iowa).

Set in September 1934, Lend Me a Tenor follows the story of Saunders, the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, who is primed to welcome world-famous singer Tito Merelli – known as “Il Stupendo,” the greatest tenor of his generation – to appear for one night only as the star of the opera. Tito arrives late, and through a hilarious series of mishaps, is given a double dose of tranquilizers and passes out. In a frantic attempt to salvage the evening, Saunders persuades his assistant, Max, to get into Merelli’s costume and fool the audience. Madcap, screwball hijinks ensue, guaranteed to leave you teary-eyed with laughter.

Mount Vernon High School’s Troupe director, Tom Stephens, took us behind the scenes. (At the time of this posting, you can still register for ITF and see this production live and in person!)

DRAMATICS: Why Lend Me a Tenor now? Why this show for this season?

STEPHENS: “COVID obviously impacted the ability to offer programming in the arts everywhere. We lost our spring production in 2020 and have slowly built our theatre department back with virtual audiences, masked actors, and small cast shows just like everyone,” he says. “This year, when it finally felt like we’ve regained a sense of normalcy, we wanted to do something lighthearted, engaging, and just plain fun. Nothing beats a farce, and Lend Me a Tenor is one of the best. Full live audiences were welcomed back to our performing arts center to enjoy the escape that only live theatre can offer.

DRAMATICS: Please finish this sentence. You wouldn’t know it but…

“I’m a big baseball fan. In fact, it’s my goal to take my son to see all 30 MLB ballparks (we’ve made it to 20 so far). Lend Me A Tenor is set in Cleveland in 1934. In 1932, the Lorain–Carnegie Bridge opened, featuring the eight Guardians of Traffic art deco statues (the namesake of the newly re-christened Cleveland Guardians baseball team). Our hotel suite set features a large black and white photo of one of these Guardians as a period-correct nuance and also as a nod to my personal interests. IYKYK.

Another fact you likely wouldn’t know is that we’re a very small school with only 440 students. Performing on the ITF main stage is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. I credit the work ethic of the students and the amazing support of our community. We are so humbled and appreciative of being included in this year’s #ThesFest and can’t wait to see everyone in Bloomington!” 

Patty Craft is content manager for

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