In 1976, the International Thespian Society achieved two big milestones. The growing organization moved into a larger headquarters building located at 3368 Central Parkway in Cincinnati, Ohio, and purchased with contributions from numerous Thespians, sponsors, and staff. On June 10, Broadway star Carol Channing dedicated the new building with student David Finkel, who had recently been inducted as the one millionth Thespian.

Following is an interview with Finkel conducted shortly before he was honored at ceremonies opening the 16th International Theatre Arts Conference in Muncie, Ind., and published in the event newspaper, Asbestos Curtain.

THERE IS AN ARTIFACT in the possession of the Curtain: the ballpoint pen used by our one millionth Thespian. In the middle of this interview, this farsighted reporter ran out of ink. I considered resorting to grass stems and fingernails, but shy, gentlemanly David Finkel gallantly handed me his one writing utensil: a red, white, and blue all-American pen.

Carrying emergency supplies for needy writers is but one of Finkel’s talents. A veritable whiz in the area of lights, he is also adept in the productional aspects of the stage. This versatility enabled him to quickly progress through the Thespian ranks: from stage crew, to light man, to stage manager, as Finkel modestly put it, “with lots of intermingled jobs between, of course.”

Drama is not the only of our millionth Thespian’s interests (although Finkel did say, “You can apply everything in theatre to everything.”) Extremely involved in the Civil Air Patrol, Finkel plans to become a civil engineer. With his interest centered in the air as well as the theatre, he and a friend have just recently constructed a hang glider. And it flies. Who says drama never gets off the ground?

Actress Carol Channing and student David Finkel (the millionth Thespian inducted) dedicated the society's new headquarters on June 10, 1976.
Actress Carol Channing and student David Finkel (the millionth Thespian inducted) dedicated the society's new headquarters on June 10, 1976.

“When I was a kid,” Finkel began, explaining his theatrical start, “it was my sisters, really. They were extremely involved in drama.” MameHello, Dolly!, and Oklahoma! — his sisters onstage and mother at piano, Finkel was “that kid over there who isn’t doing anything.” So, they stuck a paintbrush in his hand, and a tech man was born.

Mesmerized in the world behind the actors, Finkel just wants “to be involved backstage, doing things for the play — doing it.” With this thought in mind, Finkel agreed to join his school’s Thespian troupe (Troupe 3334 of Shelbyville Senior High, Shelbyville, Ind.) on the condition that he not have to act. Shelbyville High’s director, Gary Myers, readily agreed to accept the school’s top light man.

In front instead of behind the lights for once, Finkel could only smile. How does he feel about being Thespis’ One Million? “It’s still a shock. I didn’t think it would ever happen — I’ve had a ball though!”

This story appeared in the June 1976 Asbestos Curtain, the newspaper of the International Theatre Arts Conference, and was reprinted in the September 1976 print issue 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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