Commitment to theatre is what the International Thespian Society is all about. The Society was established in 1929 at Fairmont, West Virginia, by Dr. Earl Blank, who was then the director of dramatics at the high school in Casper, Wyoming; Dr. Paul Opp, a member of the college faculty; and Harry Leeper, a teacher at East Fairmont High Schools.
They named their organization the National Thespian Society for Thespis, the Greek who, according to legend, was the first actor; their guiding principle was a dedication to excellence in theatre arts in secondary schools. Seventy-one schools became charter members of the society. The first national convention and election of officers was held in 1930. From this modest beginning, the organization enjoyed steady growth, and in the next five years, the membership had increased to 320 troupes. The national office was moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1935. By the time the Society had celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, there were 3,190 troupes on its rolls.
At that point, the Society had grown into an international organization with more than a million members and troupes in every state and many foreign countries. The Society sponsors state, regional, national, and international theatre conferences where its members can learn more about the art and craft of theatre, perform and see outstanding performances, and audition for scholarships.
In 1989, the governing board of the Thespian Society formed the Educational Theatre Association to help it provide a broader range of services to theatre educators. The Educational Theatre Association is a professional organization for theatre teachers that includes its membership all Thespian troupe sponsors. Its board now operates the Thespian Society, continuing the tradition of honoring and serving theatre students and their teachers.
The goals of the Thespian Society haven't changed. It still strives to give young adults a place for outstanding theatre where the standards of excellence in theatre arts will be advanced and to honor those students who do theatre well. And it continues to be guided by the principles of its founders: a belief that participation in the arts is an essential means of widening students' cultural horizons and enriching their lives.