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Our History

The "Dramaturgy" of Oregon Thespians

Oregon Thespians has a long history. We want to document it here and your help is needed! Former Westview HS Troupe 5350 Troupe Director and Chapter Director CJ Hindman is currently looking for information and photographs to document Oregon Thespians' history. The information will be detailed here in a timeline of highlights. If you have anything you can add to this dramaturgical information about our organization, please contact Historian Coordinator CJ Hindman or committee member Sara Dempsey.

Watch this short informative video on the Educational Theatre Association's YouTube channel to learn more about the founding of the International Thespian Society in 1929.

The Early Years


Oregon Thespians was started in YEAR HERE by group NAMES HERE.

Oregon Thespians started as the State level student-centered organization of the International Thespian Society.

Oregon Theatre Arts Association (OTAA) was the teacher-centered organization of the Educational Theatre Association. OTAA started the annual professional development conference each fall.

More information here about the first Oregon Thespians state event: State Conference. The size of State was small enough to move locations each year, and be hosted at member high schools.

Years of Growth


"Improvisation Festival", or Improv Fest began as multiple Thespians from different troupes joined to create theatre and celebrate short scenes at the end of the day as part social mixer and part improvisation event for troupes across the state.

State included competition until the interest grew so large that it separated into Regionals and State. Then, Regionals grew and separated into three Regions: NE, NW, and South.

Developing student leaders, Leadership Summit was added where students shared goals and created regional and state goals, all led by the State Thespian Officers.

New Millenium of Changes


As EdTA became the umbrella organization, Home of the International Thespian Society, and later a new fundraising arm Educational Theatre Foundation, OTAA merged under the Oregon Thespians banner and changed its name to Oregon Theatre Educators Association to better reflect its purpose.

Troupes needed more individualized leadership training experience so Camp Thespis started in the summer over a weekend as a few troupes teaching their Drama Club officers to understand their troupe level roles. After ten years, it grew from 30 to 300. Eventually, it melded with Leadership Summit to become one statewide Thespis: a Leadership Summit to provide both troupe level and state level leadership training in one fall event.

Improv Fest underwent some changes adding a Design/Tech option for student technicians and additional devising components to the Performance option. The newly minted Instant Theatre Festival, or InstaFest, continues to be a favorite among Thespians and Junior Thespians in attendance.

Junior Thespians had a huge increase in numbers and events, participating in InstaFest, then Junior State Day, and finally Junior Play Day, a juniors-only event. We also did a trial run of having Junior State Thespian Officers.

Every year, seniors seek programs for their next educational journey. Colleges and universities sought access to those students to help them make that decision. As a trial, Milwaukie HS Troupe 75 hosted the first Unified College Auditions in the summer at his school. After a short hiatus, and building on that success, Oregon Thespians worked with Washington Thespians' own Unified event timing to further the amount of schools represented by having them come to Oregon after their WA auditions. A smaller version for juniors occurs during State as an introduction to the event.

State continued to grow and grow! With the growth, it was decided to keep the event in one location. Eventually the event landed in the state's capitol, Salem.

A new student group formed under then STO Meridian Lattig's leadership: BITOC (Black, Brown, Indigenous Thespians of Color). Meeting monthly, the affinity group focused on supporting each other through Thespians.

Pandemic and After Times


No Thespians could have anticipated the year 2020, with a global pandemic shutting down the world, and thereby cancelling State. By 2021, State went online as our first ever virtual event.

By 2022, State was back in person with our first ever two track system where one group of Thespians were engaged in Main Stage events while the other track explored one-acts and workshops before they switched and got to experience the other activities. Everyone got to experience everything, just in a different time during the Festival. This tracking system continued as the event grew in 2023, when College Auditions shifted to be only at State, capitalizing on college and universities participating as vendors, teaching workshops, and already doing College Auditions, along with desiring one event to attend per year.

Extending the work already being done with DEIA, Oregon Thespians added to their Mission, Vision, and Values by aligning with EdTA's Anti-Racist Statement and developing an Action Plan to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging to all students across Oregon, particularly the most marginalized students. The BITOC group continues to meet regularly, led by the Director of Equity and Outreach.

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