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EdTA and USITT Launch High School Technical Theatre Exam Pilot

Thespians singing on stage at the International Thespian Festival

The Educational Theatre Association(EdTA) and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) are collaborating to launch the BACKstage Technical Theatre Pilot Exam, a digital test for high school students designed to measure their competency in a broad range of technical theatre knowledge. The joint effort is the first partnership of the two national theatre organizations, both of which are committed to life-long learning in the field of theatre. The BACKstage pilot exam also includes the support of the California and New Jersey Departments of Education, two states with a strong Career and Technical Education presence in theatre.

The BACKstage pilot is seeking a broad cross section of rural, suburban, urban schools that include diverse student populations working in a variety of educational settings, both in- and after-school. Teachers interested in having their school’s students participate can sign up through a Zoom registration for an informational webinar being held July 7, at 6 p.m. EST. Individuals who are unable to attend the webinar but would like to be considered for the pilot, can also register to receive a recording of the webinar.  

The exam, written by a team of teachers and industry professionals, will address a broad range of technical theatre knowledge and be conducted in two parts—a pre- and post-test—in schools throughout the United States, with the preliminary goal of refining the test through an analysis of scores to determine the suitability of individual questions for most high school students regularly engaged in technical theatre instruction. The exam is also designed to help educators better understand how they can improve their technical theatre curriculum and what professional development they might need to teach it.

USITT Executive Director David Grindle said, “USITT is excited to work with the industry and our partners at EdTA, and DOE’s in California and New Jersey. This pilot will help open doors for program funding and provide certificates for those seeking to enter the industry and training programs.”

James Palmarini, EdTA director of educational policy, said, “We see this exam as a potential CTE game-changer for theatre education. It has been challenging for EdTA to gain recognition for technical theatre as a viable career pathway for students—we think this test can change the conversation. We’re very gratified to be partnering with USITT on this effort, given their status as the leading voice of the industry.”

He added that the ultimate goal of the digital exam is to gain state and industry recognition of it as the benchmark that indicates students’ readiness to enter the entertainment design and technology industry or to pursue further study at the higher education level.  

Final selection of schools will be completed by July 14. The pre-exam will be made available on September 1.


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