SCHOOL THEATRE is more than just a fun activity. It sets students up for success in life by strengthening critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and leadership skills. But while you may want to raise awareness about the benefits of theatre education, daily responsibilities such as school assignments, spring productions, or college applications can quickly make adding anything else to your plate seem overwhelming. It’s also easy to feel like your voice wouldn’t add much to the conversation.

That’s why, every March, the International Thespian Society, Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), and Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) partner with the American Alliance for Theatre & Education — and students like you — for Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) Month. TIOS raises awareness about the value of theatre education and draws attention to the need for all students to access quality theatre programs in their schools. By raising your voice with those of others for one month every year, you can make an impact that’s hard to dismiss.

Maybe you’ve scrolled through Instagram posts of troupes meeting with state representatives about arts funding. Perhaps you’ve watched a Facebook live story of a Thespian sharing the impact theatre had in their life. Maybe you’ve even thought about participating in TIOS Month but couldn’t think of ways to show your support.

We can help. Here are five ways you can join the conversation by participating in TIOS Month this year.

1. Join the Thespian Spirit Week Instagram photo challenge.
Show your Thespian pride by posting a photo on Instagram every day during the first week of March as part of Thespian Spirit Week. You’ll find details by following the ITS page: @thespiansociety. Students who post a photo based on the prompt with the daily hashtag and #TIOS20 are eligible to win an ITS backpack and a special surprise for their troupe.

If you want to take your Thespian pride further, share how theatre has enhanced your life on the social media platform of your choice using the hashtag #TIOS20. Help your network see what you and your troupe are doing all month long. The photo challenge is the quickest and easiest way to engage with Thespians all over the country.

Thespian Spirit Week

2. Share theatre trivia.
Saturate your school with information about theatre. You can share the daily facts posted on the EdTA and ITF social media platforms, or you can create your own. Ask your school administrators if you can read theatre facts at morning meetings or over the intercom. Theatre trivia is a fun way to get people talking about the benefits of theatre education.

Remember, all your theatre facts don’t have to be serious. For example, did you know that prior to becoming pope, John Paul II wrote a play titled The Jeweler’s Shop that was produced at the Westminster Theatre in 1982? Creating displays, putting up posters in your school hallways or on bulletin boards, and making announcements about your Thespian troupe are ways to connect with your classmates about school theatre. If you’re short on time or less creative on paper, you can download and print posters and other graphic templates.

3. Write a letter or email to your state representative or senator.
Do you remember letters? Well, your state officials and school board leaders still read them. Next to speaking with your legislators on the phone or in person, there is no better way to reach them. And it’s important they hear from you because they directly affect how school funds are allocated.

Although most school administrators and elected officials believe theatre programs are beneficial to student learning, arts programs are often the first to go during budget cuts. If these representatives hear your stories and see that theatre education is important to students and adults, they may work harder to make theatre education available to all students. Not sure where to start? Check the TIOS website for letter templates.

In 2019, Kansas Thespians earned a proclamation from the governor for Theatre in Our Schools Month. Photo courtesy of Kansas Thespians.

4. Collaborate with other arts programs.
If your school also has a choir, dance troupe, or visual arts club, meet with these groups to discuss how each program can support the others. Pass out flyers in your school and attend another art program’s upcoming concert or gallery show. Invite them to write letters or emails to your representatives. Ask them to cross promote your theatre trivia on their social media platforms.

Additionally, consider reaching out to your local professional or community theatres to share what you are doing for TIOS Month. You never know how local art advocates may be able to assist you or your troupe. Connecting with other art activists in your community will broaden your advocacy reach.

5. Give a speech or craft an Op-Ed.
Get creative with other ways to spread your message. Use your school newspaper or theatre stage to tell your parents and community why you are advocating for theatre education. Invite the representative you connected with to attend your show. Contact your local radio stations, television broadcasters, and newspaper reporters to pitch your story. Tell them about your social media campaigns, theatre trivia, school collaborations, and legislator outreach. Use the news release templates on the TIOS site for ways to connect with your local media.

Now that you have a few ideas for ways you can participate in TIOS Month, pick one of these actions and start planning!

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