Honoring student achievement, supporting theatre educators, and making theatre accessible to all. These are goals of the International Thespian Society, but did you know those objectives were defined 90 years ago with the very first National Thespians troupes? In the inaugural issue of The High School Thespian (now known as Dramatics), co-founder Ernest Bavely outlined the following aims and purposes for the society.

THE PRINCIPAL REASON for The National Thespians coming into being is an earnest and truthful desire to better high school dramatics. With this one objective in mind, the society is fully pledged to uphold in every possible manner the following aims and purposes.

1. The Society aims to furnish suitable reward and recognition for participation in dramatics.
As is true with high school athletics, efforts expended in producing and staging plays should be rewarded. The National Thespians furnishes not only such a reward, but at the same time, a desirable stimulus for doing work in the field of dramatics. The reward is found, first, in that when the requirements are met, the pupil is given the privilege of membership in the society; and second, that to such a member, all the benefits derived from such membership are accorded. The right of wearing the official badge of the organization is one of such benefits.

2. The National Thespians aim to serve as a powerful agent in aiding the director of dramatics in securing more and better cooperation in his or her field of activity. 
The fact that a director can impress on the minds of aspiring students of dramatics the possibility of becoming members of the National Thespians will cause them to put forth the same serious and enthusiastic effort that the football coach is able to secure from his candidates by offering them the possibility of earning the coveted school letter. Such problems as those experienced in securing prompt attendance at rehearsals, the elimination of unnecessary disturbances during the rehearsal, the proper motive to have each player memorize his lines as rapidly as possible, are reduced to a minimum by the incentives offered by the organization.

3. It is the purpose of the National Thespians to acquaint its various member troupes with the best available plays for high school dramatics. 
Such a list of plays is furnished at certain desirable intervals to the director of dramatics. Additional information relative to the staging of worthwhile plays, the activities of the member troupes, and articles of general interest are published in the official magazine of the society.

United Township High School's 1931 production of The House of a Thousand Thrills.
United Township High School's 1931 production of The House of a Thousand Thrills.

4. The National Thespians endeavors to procure for its members plays at reduced royalties. 
Through arrangements with the leading play publishing houses, the society secures special rates on plays which are normally difficult to obtain because of the heavy royalties. Every member troupe is entitled to this benefit.

5. The society offers its members the advantages gained through the exchange of ideas and suggestions relative to the field of dramatics
Each troupe is urged to cooperate with its fellow troupes in bringing about a more wholesome and professional spirit in the art of play production.

6. A further aim of the National Thespians is its desire to encourage more experimentation in dramatics. 
Directors are especially urged to experiment with new ideas which may be of practical value. One reason for having the official magazine is to permit the publication of such results for the benefit of the society. Directors are urged to be scientific in pursuing such investigations.

Troupe 113 of Mississippi's Elizabeth Dorr High School in 1931.

7. The society upholds the belief that the spirit of democracy must prevail in school dramatics.
The organization forbids secrecy, and any attempt made to segregate dramatics for the benefit of a few, or to neglect the recognition of those showing any inclination whatsoever for participation in dramatics, is inimical to the spirit of the National Thespians, and under no circumstance excusable or justifiable. The society does not in any way attempt to replace the regular class or club devoted to dramatics. It serves only as a reward for having done creditable work in such classes or clubs. This feature is one major aim of the society, and any violation of it will result in suspension or withdrawal of charter.

It is the desire of The National Thespians to meet adequately and satisfactorily the demands made of every high school dramatic director. In doing such a work, the society endeavors to bring to every troupe a spirit of comradeship, a genuine feeling of loyalty toward activities in dramatics, a sense of appreciation for the art of the drama, and a distinctive honor to the school in which the troupe is located.

This story appeared in the October 1929 print issue of The High School Thespian (now Dramatics). Subscribe today to our print magazine.

International Thespian Society 90th birthday logo
  • Like What You Just Read? Share It!

  • Other Related Articles You May Enjoy

    In the Beginning, 1929-1939

    In the Beginning, 1929-1939

    Celebrating 90 years of Thespians

    Apr 01, 2019

    View from the top

    View from the top

    International Thespian Festival 2018 main stage

    Oct 01, 2018

    2018 Annual Play Survey

    2018 Annual Play Survey

    The results are in!

    Aug 01, 2018