By Sean Elias
I was a student Thespian at Parsippany Hills High School in New Jersey, home to Thespian Troupe 6383, when a grant from this organization enabled me to attend the International Thespian Festival (ITF), introducing me to the transformational power of theatre on a global scale. As a Thespian alumnus and now troupe director, I knew that attending the International Thespian Festival would be a life-changing experience for my students at The Jemicy School.
When I started teaching at Jemicy, a school dedicated entirely to the education of students with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences, there was no theatre program and no budget for one.
But knowing firsthand how theatre can build self-confidence I went ahead and immediately scheduled a meeting with every leadership team member I could, to share with them what I experienced as both a Thespian student and educator.
In 2018, two years after starting Jemicy’s theatre program, we were awarded the Send a Troupe to Festival Grant. Almost overnight this award made it possible for my students to experience the world’s premier high school theatre event, while also transforming our theatre program \ into an internationally award-winning Department of Performing Arts.
The grant was just a starting point. It gave credibility and stature to our theatre program and encouragement and validation to my students.
The moment my kids saw that ITF stage, they asked, “Do you think we’d ever get to perform here?” I responded with the Thespian credo, “Act well your part. There all the honor lies.” Eventually, their hard work paid off.
In 2019, we received the great honor of being invited to perform on the main stage at ITF, and this year we were chosen to return yet again as our state’s Chapter Select. But more importantly, each of these opportunities offered my students something even more significant than the honor of performing at ITF.
For the first time, despite the challenges inherent in their learning differences, my kids began to believe in themselves, and the greatness they are capable of.
Visit the Virtual ITF webpage to learn more about the weeklong International Thespian Festival this June. Make a gift to Edtf.org/donate to help more deserving students, like mine from Jemicy School, who may never have been able to attend ITF, be given the chance to realize that they too can achieve greatness.