In 2009, the International Thespian Society reached a new membership milestone: the induction of the organization’s 2 millionth member: Raymond “R.J.” Harding.

THE THESPIAN SOCIETY is now indisputably the largest ensemble cast in the history of theatre. The 2 millionth Thespian, a 15-year-old sophomore at Ola High School in McDonough, Georgia, named Raymond “R.J.” Harding, was inducted as a member of Thespian Troupe 7321 this fall, joining a line of theatre students that extends back to a small West Virginia town in 1929.

R.J. Harding in classroom scene work with Rachel Ward at Ola High School.

R.J. Harding in classroom scene work with Rachel Ward at Ola High School. Photo by Tracina Wyatt.

Many of R.J.’s 1,999,999 predecessors have gone on to do important work in the performing arts — among them Tom Hanks, John Goodman, Goldie Hawn, Stephen Schwartz, Dick Van Dyke, and Madonna — and other Thespians have distinguished themselves in virtually every field of human endeavor.

Actually, if it were not for a Thespian of a previous generation — Ola High School principal Ross Iddings — R.J. might not have had the opportunity to become a milestone member.

When Ola drama teacher Cynthia Sigler started her job at the then-two-year-old school in 2007, Iddings called her into his office. “He was a Thespian,” Sigler said. “And he told me, ‘I want a Thespian troupe here. I want a full drama program. Let’s get this thing going.’”

Sigler now runs a program that involves 150 of the school’s 1,700 students. She teaches two dance classes and four theatre courses. R.J. first got interested in theatre as a middle school student, when he and a friend prepared a scene for an in-school competition. 

At Ola, he had a small role in Grease as a freshman and has worked on one-acts for Georgia Thespian events. He loves doing improv and works as a technician on lights and scenery, and he dabbles in making short films with friends. Outside the theatre department, he’s an enthusiastic member of the Ola marching band’s drumline. He said he likes acting well enough that he might consider it for a life’s work but is also thinking about other options, including joining his family’s plumbing business.

As the 2 millionth inductee, R.J. will attend the 2010 International Thespian Festival as a guest of the International Thespian Society. Executive Director Michael J. Pietz said a special observation of the membership milestone is planned for ITF.

This story appeared in the January 2010 print version of Dramatics. Learn about the print magazine and other Thespian benefits on the International Thespian Society website.

Raymond Harding at the 2010 International Thespian Festival.
R.J. Harding at the 2010 International Thespian Festival.
International Thespian Society 90th birthday logo
  • Like What You Just Read? Share It!

  • Other Related Articles You May Enjoy

    Thespian Throwback: A Century Spinning

    Thespian Throwback: A Century Spinning

    Creating the 2005 Thespian national cast production of Ragtime

    Nov 14, 2019

    Thespian Throwback: Diamond Jubilee

    Thespian Throwback: Diamond Jubilee

    Looking back at the 75th birthday of ITS

    Nov 07, 2019

    Thespian Throwback: New Home for ’95 Thespian Festival

    Thespian Throwback: New Home for ’95 Thespian Festival

    Celebrating our 25-year run at UNL

    Oct 31, 2019