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Six Thespians Awarded Grants to Attend International Thespian Festival

Brannon Evans reads with the cast of Broadway's To Kill A Mockingbird
Brannon Evans reads with the cast of Broadway's To Kill A Mockingbird

Students who are members of the International Thespian Society (ITS) from Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Beijing will all be able to attend the International Thespian Festival (ITF) this year thanks to grants established by former leaders of the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), which has produced ITF since 1941.

ITF, which takes place June 24-29, is an immersion in all facets of theatre arts for high-achieving middle and high school drama students. It features student productions on four professional stages, hundreds of workshops, and dozens of opportunities for students to audition for college admission and scholarships.

The Doug Finney Festival Grant is a need-based grant given annually to four students. It covers registration fees and travel. 

The 2019 recipients are:

  • Noah Erlemann, Parkland High School, Thespian Troupe 439, Allentown, Pa.
  • Mallorie-Grace Gray, Lakeside High School, Thespian Troupe 2123, Hot Springs, Ark.
  • Taylor Hammer, West Delaware Senior High School, Thespian Troupe 3852, Manchester, Iowa
  • Cameron Holder, Grimsley High School, Thespian Troupe 7993, Greensboro N.C.

Among other distinctions, Erlemann, who has been performing since middle school, has served as troupe officer; Gray has been a leader on the tech crew since middle school; Hammer is a state Thespian officer; and Holder is involved in film as well as theatre.

The grant is named for the former director of ITF, who was honored with the EdTA Hall of Fame, Founders, and Presidents Awards during his tenure. He wanted every Thespian to have the opportunity to attend the festival. After his passing in 1992, the EdTA Board of Directors endowed a fund to support this goal.

Noah Erlemann
Mallorie-Grace Gray
Taylor Hammer
Cameron Holder

The Ronald L. Longstreth International Thespian Festival Grant is a one-time grant for inducted ITS member students who are not United States citizens. It covers registration fees and travel. It is named for the Cincinnati theatre teacher who was EdTA executive director from 1968 to 1999 who continues his support.

Jonas Böttner

The 2019 recipient is Jonas Böttner, Western Academy of Beijing, Troupe 8768. Böttner, a German citizen who lives in China, is a founding member of the troupe, performing in all the musicals. He also participates in student council, forensics, and cross-country, and volunteers for a refugee support group.

The Leadership Grant was created by Joe Burnsworth, a former EdTA Board president. It covers ITF registration for one student. To qualify, a student must demonstrate leadership through Thespian activities by being a troupe or state chapter officer and have previously participated in the leadership-training program at ITF. 

The 2019 Leadership Grant recipient is Brannon Evans, Millard West High School, Troupe 5483, Omaha, Neb. A state Thespian officer, Evans participated in the Leadership Program at ITF in 2018. This year Evans also won the ITS Democracyworks essay contest, writing about the impact that being in To Kill a Mockingbird had on her, inspiring her to love theatre and become its advocate.

Brannon Evans
Brannon Evans

The culminating event for Theatre in Our Schools Month (TIOS) for 2019 was a special performance from the Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Evans was invited to read her essay at a pre-event reception, resulting in an impromptu invitation to join the cast in the staged reading. Her essay also garnered her a $10,000 scholarship from the Broadway production. 


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