The Educational Theatre Association recognizes International Thespian Society (ITS) troupe directors, emeritus members, and other professional members who have dedicated themselves to the cause of theatre education for 20 years or more. This year five theatre educators will be inducted into the EdTA Hall of Fame: Meaghan Dunham of Grosse Pointe, Michigan; Helen Duranleau-Brennan of Davenport, Iowa; Harriet Matthews of Pearl, Mississippi; Lou Volpe of Levittown, Pennsylvania; and James “Jas” Warren of Tampa, Florida. Ceremonies will take place at the 2018 EdTA National Conference.
Meaghan Dunham has been a theatre educator and the director of ITS Troupe 49 at Grosse Point South High School since 1994, where she has revised and implemented theatre curriculum to align with current national and state theatre arts standards. Dunham is a long-time member of EdTA who has held numerous positions with the association and the Michigan Thespians. She is committed to the cause of theatre education and advocacy on a national level. Her nomination by Phillip Moss notes, “She brings a consistent positive attitude to each and every action, activity, and moment. It is this joyful energy that lightens the world for those around her.”
Helen Duranleau-Brennan has been a theatre educator since 1985, leading ITS Troupes 2761 at Davenport Assumption High School and 3994 at Davenport North High School. Her involvement with EdTA began when she reinstated Troupe 2761, and she now serves as an Iowa Chapter board member and a member of the EdTA Advocacy Leadership Network. According to current Iowa Chapter co-director Leslie LaCorte, who succeeded Helen as teacher and theatre director at both Davenport North and Assumption, “Helen epitomizes the professional fine arts teacher committed to excellence and student success.”
Lou Volpe began teaching at Harry S. Truman High School in 1969 and helped form the theatre department. He chartered ITS Troupe 5008 in 1992, and directed six main stage performances at the International Thespian Festival. Prior to retiring in 2013, Volpe was active on the Pennsylvania Chapter board and his students were involved with the student board. He was awarded Music Theatre International’s first Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre Education, was selected by The Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. as the Arts Teacher of the Year in 2014, and has been invited to White House to meet President Barack Obama. In March 2018, he was inducted into the Bucks County Hall of Fame. His career is the subject of the book Drama High which inspired NBC’s TV show, Rise.
Jas Warren has been a theatre educator and EdTA member for 27 years. He is the director of ITS Troupe 5692 at Wharton High School and has served as a member of the chapter board of Florida Thespians, and a member of the executive leadership of the Florida Chapter. Warren provided a template for other theatre teachers in Florida to use to create theatre leadership classes to not only produce high quality work, but provide an honors-level class that can provide festival leadership and assistance. He also works alongside the executive leadership to create and produce the Florida Thespian Festival.