The Educational Theatre Association’s President’s Award recognizes an individual who has made exceptional contributions to the Association, EdTA President, board of directors, or volunteer leadership of EdTA. The 2019 recipient is Bob Henrichs of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Elected to the EdTA Hall of Fame in 2012 Henrichs spearheaded the effort to establish a new home for the International Thespian Festival (ITF) at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UN-L), his alma mater in 1994, succeeding in moving it from its previous site at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
ITF, produced by EdTA, is the premier high school theatre festival in the nation, attracting 4,500 students and their teachers for a weeklong immersion in performance, learning, and opportunities to audition for scholarships and college admissions. EdTA’s signature event has thrived at UN-L, growing in attendance every year, and has been at beyond maximum capacity the last two years.
Henrichs began his teaching career at Hastings High School in Nebraska. During his tenure there, he was elected vice president of the Nebraska Thespian board and served as Nebraska chapter director.
In 1998 he became the youngest-ever vice president of EdTA. As the first two-year president of EdTA, from 1999-2001, he oversaw the change to the system of policy governance that the board still uses today. He served as the state treasurer of Nebraska Thespians for more than a decade, and later served as secretary.
In presenting the award during ITF’s opening show, EdTA Board President, Debbie Corbin, said “Bob Henrichs has been an inspiration to young teachers, sharing his leadership skills, his passion for theatre, and his love of students. It our pleasure to recognize his talents and gifts with this award.”
In 2001, at the new Lincoln Southwest High School, Henrichs chartered Thespian Troupe 6547. The troupe’s 2007 production of Black Elk Speaks was an ITF main stage show and received a Chief Standing Bear Award from the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. Lincoln Southwest was the first Nebraska school to receive an EdTA Outstanding School Award, in 2006.
Henrichs has been named Nebraska Theatre Teacher of the Year three times, and in 2010 was one of the first recipients of the ITS Outstanding Theatre Educator Award. Colleagues describe him as “a true educator who puts his students first,” one who “takes a very difficult and challenging curriculum and brings it to life for his students.” One former student, 2003-04 International Thespian Officer Jenna Christine Ferris, said, “To this day, I know I am a better performer, worker, leader, and teammate in life because of the discipline and passion Bob showed us.”
Henrichs has been omnipresent at ITF throughout its run as the voice of what’s known in the industry as ‘the God mic,’ that warm but commanding voice that gets the attention of the audience, sight unseen, before each performance.
ITF has been oversubscribed for the past three years so to expand capacity the event is moving in 2020 to the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington which can accommodate 6,500 students.