During World War II, Thespians were highly engaged on the home front, entertaining troupes, producing patriotic plays, and raising money to buy scripts for soldiers. This 1942 article from The High School Thespian rallied students about their important role in the war effort.

IN TIMES OF WAR, the people of the theatre must undertake to play one of their most important and responsible roles. Any hope of ultimate victory is greatly conditioned by the ability of the people to carry on in spite of the terrible toll exacted of us in “blood, sweat, and tears.” This job of keeping high the morale and fighting spirit of both soldier and civilian is the responsibility of the theatre. Whether Broadway, Hollywood, radio, or amateur, the job we must do is the same for all — to entertain, to inspire, to preserve the ability to laugh in the face of misfortune, to forget, for a moment, the hardships and sorrows in order that we may return to the attack with renewed vigor.

The cover of the January 1943 High School Thespian was dedicated to Thespians serving in the Armed Forces.

The cover of the January 1943 High School Thespian was dedicated to Thespians serving in the Armed Forces.

But even more important is our responsibility to use the theatre as a means of keeping in sharp focus, before its audiences, all those indigenous and idiomatic facets of the American tradition which, taken as a whole, comprise the American way of living and the principles for which we are fighting. Lewis Mumford, in the Saturday Review of Literature, states, “It is only by drawing on the roots of American culture that we shall gather the toughness and courage and self-confidence that will enable us to live through the menacing days that lie ahead.” Even a casual consideration of the American tradition reveals an amazing saga of expansion, discovery, industrial development, and creative achievement.

As a people we are a composite of Paul Revere, Ichabod Crane, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Uncle Tom, Buffalo Bill, Thomas Edison, Freckles, and Huckleberry Finn. Peter Rabbit, Little Orphan Annie, and Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch are just as symbolic of our way of life as Nantucket’s clipper ships and the prairie schooners of the Oregon Trail. Fighting side by side, a mighty nation has been built by the Yankee, the cowboy, the immigrant, the Tennessee mountaineer, the prairie farmer, and a score of other divergent types, but all of them, however, united in one common belief in the sanctity of the freedom of the individual.

Out of this epic background of history and legend has come our literature, much of which has been in dramatic form and has thus preserved for us those American characteristics, qualities, adventures, and personalities that combine to make us more acutely aware of the ideals for which we now fight and give our lives. Now more than ever before, the people of the theatre must use the stage and the drama to keep our great tradition alive and dynamic until victory shall be won.

This story appeared in the October 1942 print version of The High School Thespian. Learn about the print magazine and other Thespian benefits on the International Thespian Society website.

Thespians from Newport News High School in Virginia performed for nearly 30,000 soldiers at Fort Eustis thanks to twice-weekly trips.
Thespians from Newport News High School in Virginia performed for nearly 30,000 soldiers at Fort Eustis thanks to twice-weekly trips.
International Thespian Society 90th birthday logo
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