A Closer Look: Is the International Thespian Society Worth It?
High school offers students a plethora of extracurricular options. But each opportunity takes time and dedication. If you like drama, you might aim to join your school’s chapter of the International Thespian Society.
But is it worth it?
The International Thespian Society is an honors program. It rewards intense theatrical study and scholarship. ITS members often dedicate their after-school hours to theatre at the expense of other activities.
Yet, for many students, the International Thespian Society is well worth the time spent. Is it right for you?
What Is the International Thespian Society?
The International Thespian Society is an honors program in drama. To enroll, a student must earn Thespian Induction Points (TIPs) through works of theatrical scholarship.
Many modes of theatrical scholarship merit TIPs. A student can earn points by participating in the school’s drama productions in a range of roles. Performers, directors, writers, designers, and stagehands all earn TIPs for their work.
A student is eligible to enroll in the International Thespian Society once they’ve earned ten points. At that point, they keep their membership through the end of high school.
Thespian Society members have further opportunities to earn distinctions as they accumulate TIPs. Membership grants students an array of opportunities, both within their school’s chapter and internationally.
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Do College Admissions Officers Value Thespian Society Membership?
College admissions officers have a range of opinions on the International Thespian Society. Some have fond memories of it, and they might look approvingly at ITS membership on an application.
That said, ITS membership is not a significant factor in admissions. If you’re looking for the best extracurriculars for your application, it’s wiser to focus on conventional academic scholarship or varsity sports.
The Internation Thespian Society is valuable as a means of theatrical education. There are many benefits to enrolling in ITS. Admissions points just aren’t one of them.
International Thespian Society: Overview
The Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) operates the International Thespian Society. EdTA is a professional organization for drama teachers. It first launched in 1929.
The International Thespian Society is a thespian honor society. It’s open to middle-school and high-school students who pursue the art of theatre seriously.
Schools host chapter organizations. Each chapter is connected to the broader Thespian Society. Every year in June, EdTA holds the International Thespian Festival, which welcomes students from chapters all over the world.
International Thespian Society Benefits
The International Thespian Society offers benefits to its members. Moreover, the act of pursuing membership itself proves beneficial to some drama students.
Honors in performance arts can be hard to come by. This theatre arts group offers students the opportunity to create performance art within an established organization.
The organization’s structure often pushes students to cultivate drama more seriously. As a result, many students see eight key benefits from the International Thespian Society.
Gain Diverse Theatrical Skills
The International Thespian Society encourages students to gain a range of skills. According to enrollment rules, a student must accumulate at least ten points. But, the points cannot all fall in the same category.
A student must earn points in at least two kinds of roles. This might be performing and writing. Or, it could be design and directing.
Certainly, a student could do the bare minimum. Someone could check off one role in a category, aside from their preference, and be done with it.
But, usually, they don’t. The International Thespian Society fosters enthusiasm and curiosity for all aspects of theatre. It teaches students that theatre is the culmination of many art forms.
As a result, students tend to enjoy different types of roles as they try them. ITS may introduce you to your new dream position.
Hone and Strengthen Your Art
The International Thespian Society helps students dive deep into theatrical arts. You can earn more points by taking on more complex roles in your troupe. That’s only possible as you hone your skills.
ITS also offers an array of educational resources. Between lectures, articles, and festivals, you can take advantage of many opportunities to grow.
Graduate With Thespian Scholar Distinction
As an International Thespian, you’ll get to graduate with distinction. ITS is an honors society. It rewards scholarship.
Some educational institutions look down on the study of performance art. They think it’s less critical than the study of mathematics or English.
Yet, as an ITS member, they cannot refuse your distinction. You will graduate with this honor on your diploma. And, in some schools, on your hat!
Apply for EdTA Scholarships
EdTA runs the International Thespian Society. Each year, it offers its members many scholarship and grant opportunities.
EdTA awards hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of scholarships every year. All members are immediately eligible to apply. An ITS scholarship could make your college theatre dreams a reality.
Leadership Opportunities: Troupe, Chapter, International
The International Thespian Society is a complex organization. Within it, there are plenty of opportunities for student leaders to run things.
If you want to learn how to lead an educational group, ITS gives you that chance. All members can apply for leadership roles at the troupe, chapter, and international levels.
Dramatics Magazine Subscription
All members of the International Thespian Society get a free subscription to ‘Dramatics’ magazine. ‘Dramatics’ publishes nine issues per year.
It reports on contemporary events in the world of student theatre. It also publishes Op-Eds on facets of theatre education. Periodically, the magazine prints new, original short plays.
‘Dramatics’ is a useful way to stay current in the broader student-theatre scene.
Audition Slots for NIES Showcase at Thespian Festival
EdTA holds the Thespian Festival every year in June. The festival is a mix of live performances and panels on education.
Students have the opportunity to produce one-person acts at the festival. They perform in the National Individual Events Showcase.
NIES is an exciting opportunity to develop original work. It can also get students in front of agents and producers.
All ITS members are allowed one audition slot. For the right student, it can be the opportunity of a lifetime.
Original Play Submission Opportunities
EdTA periodically publishes and produces student plays. It publishes short plays in ‘Dramatics’ magazine. It produces student plays at its international festival and regional events.
Student playwrights have a dearth of opportunities. Joining ITS can give you a chance to get your work in front of other thespians.
Drawbacks to International Thespian Society
The International Thespian Society offers a lot to some students. But, it’s not the right choice for every person.
One thing that’s worth thinking about is, there are no guarantees. In many schools, earning TIPs depends on landing roles that require auditions.
If a student is not cast often enough—and they can’t land production roles regularly—they might not earn enough points before graduation.
It can be disheartening to invest time and creative energy, only to be shut out at the finish line.
Fortunately, almost any student can earn ITS membership with enough time. Yet, just because you can, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you. Consider these three drawbacks.
The International Thespian Society requires a serious, ongoing time commitment. Members—and hopefuls—participate in multiple theatrical productions per year.
During a production season, students might stay late every single day after school. Some dress rehearsals or design sessions might require students to come in early.
For some students, ITS’s demands of their schedules aren’t compatible with other goals. A student who takes a full load of AP classes may not have time to do ITS as well.
School Participation Varies
Some high schools don’t have International Thespian Society chapters. Other schools technically have an ITS troupe, but it’s languishing. ITS works best with a student culture that’s engaged and passionate about the art of theatre.
Now, some students choose to pursue ITS membership outside of school. There are a handful of community-based drama troupes in the program.
But, ITS is an education-oriented organization. It thrives within the structure of a supportive school system. If your school’s thespian society is lackluster, consider other paths to drama education.
TIPs Standards Differ
The International Thespian Society sets point values for different activities. They reward more intense theatrical scholarship with more points.
This encourages a deep engagement with theatrical art. It circumvents broad, shallow practice.
But, ITS allows local troupe leaders considerable leeway in awarding points. Troupe leaders can grant more points for roles than the guidelines state. And, they’re allowed to award bonus points.
So, different troupes end up with wildly different standards of theatrical merit. Points may not mean as much if you transfer to a new school. And in some troupes, “point inflation” devalues the reward.
Standards are subjective in art in general, of course. But if irregular standards bother you, ITS might not be the group for you.
Is It Worth It?
There are plenty of benefits to joining the International Thespian Society. It outranks any national thespian society in the United States. And, membership gets you quite a few opportunities.
But, there are no guarantees. Between the time commitment, non-standard TIPs, and inconsistent school participation, you may discover ITS isn’t for you. That’s okay!
You’re in high school for four years. You’ve got to make the best choices for yourself. Nobody is spending your time but you.
High-School Success Tips and More
Maybe you want to join the International Thespian Society. Or maybe you’re struggling to balance homework and sports. Either way, we’ve got a lot more where that came from.
If you liked this article, awesome! Why not check out more posts on high-school success?
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