As executive director from 1968 to 1999, Ronald L. Longstreth made lasting contributions to the Educational Theatre Association and its component organizations. He is responsible for much of what is familiar about EdTA. He helped put the Thespian Society on a sound business footing by facilitating its incorporation as a non-profit and moving the International Theatre Arts Conference, now called the Thespian Festival, to an annual schedule. He championed the addition of the word “international” to the Thespian Society’s name to reflect its increasingly global reach. And ultimately he oversaw the development of the Educational Theatre Association, a professional organization for theatre teachers, alongside the student-oriented Thespian Society.
When he began his career in the 1960s, Mr. Longstreth taught theatre at two high schools in Cincinnati, directed Inherit the Wind at the ninth National Thespian Festival, served as the Ohio state Thespian director, and was the Cincinnati district director for the Ohio High School Speech League. He was elected to the ITS Board of Directors in 1966, and in the ensuing years he attended and evaluated more than 160 state Thespian conferences and observed over 2,500 secondary school theatre productions. He served ITS as assistant executive secretary-treasurer, editor of Dramatics magazine, and co-chair of the 1968 Thespian Festival before becoming executive director, the position he held until his retirement in 1999. Major undertakings in the nineties included moving the annual Thespian Festival from its longtime home at Ball State University to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the development of new services and a new membership class for educators, and a restructuring of the organization under the EdTA banner.
Mr. Longstreth served on the Secondary Schools Theatre Association board for two years and on the American Theatre Association board for two years. For nine years he was chairperson of EdTA’s regional training programs for state directors and trustees. He received the ITS Founders Award in 1978 and the International Director’s Award in 1983.