As the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the International Thespian Society draws to a close, take a look back at Dramatics’ coverage of the festivities surrounding the organization’s 75th birthday in 2004.

THE EDUCATIONAL THEATRE ASSOCIATION kicked off the celebration of its 75th anniversary in July with a Homecoming Convention in Cincinnati and will wrap it up next June with the world premiere production of a new school version of Ragtime, featuring a cast of Thespians from all over the United States.

In between those two events, the association is encouraging its members to participate in a grassroots observance of the milestone by contributing to the Thespian Spirit Quilt, which will be assembled from squares submitted by member troupes and displayed at the 2005 Thespian Festival. The association is also making available commemorative announcements that can be included in programs during the anniversary year and encouraging Thespian alumni to share reminiscences of their school theatre experiences on a special page at the EdTA website.

A performance by nonagenarian ingénue Kitty Carlisle Hart, who as it happens was 18 years old when the Thespian Society was founded in 1929, was a highlight of the Cincinnati convention. Mrs. Hart made her Broadway debut in 1933 and later married playwright Moss Hart, who, incidentally, is the co-author of the most-produced play in the history of the Thespian Society’s production survey. She counts among her friends just about everybody who worked in the American theatre during the past 70 years, and many of them — George S. Kaufman, Irving Berlin, Harpo Marx, George Gershwin, and others — turned up in the stories she told in the course of performing My Life on the Wicked Stage, a revue of show tunes and standards.

An advertisement in Dramatics for the 2004 Homecoming Convention.

Ragtime: School Edition is a new version of the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens-Terrence McNally musical, commissioned by Music Theatre International for the educational theatre market. The world premiere, performed by a cast of Thespians from all over the United States, will mark the other end of the anniversary celebration at next year’s Thespian Festival in June. A cast of 36 Thespians was selected in a series of auditions held at state Thespian conferences last winter and spring and a three-day callback session at the 2004 Thespian Festival. They’ll rehearse next spring under the direction of Glenn Edwards at Las Vegas Academy, perform a couple of warmup shows for Las Vegas audiences, and open the 2005 Thespian Festival at the University of Nebraska on June 21.

The national-cast production of Ragtime: School Edition is underwritten by a major gift from Procter & Gamble Productions, with costume support by Dodger Costumes, and is being produced by special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

This story appeared in the September 2004 print version of Dramatics. Learn about the print magazine and other Thespian benefits on the International Thespian Society website.

International Thespian Society 90th birthday logo
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