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Official Thespys Program Guide


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Table of Contents (click to expand)



Overview & Eligibility

About the Thespy Awards Program

Every year, thousands of students from Thespian troupes around the world participate in the Thespys. They progress from their school auditoriums to chapter qualifying events to the international stage. 

Thespians are scored by a panel of adjudicators and earn fair, good, excellent, and superior ratings for their presentations. Those Thespians who earn overall Superior ratings at a qualifying event (chapter, regional, or alternate qualifier) are invited to the final round of adjudication at the International Thespian Festival. Thespians who earn overall superior ratings during the ITF round of adjudication are celebrated for their superior achievement, and those Thespians who earn the top-most scores in each category are presented with a Thespy Award.


The Thespy Awards recognizes the following 21 official categories of theatrical ability:


Acting (Solo, Duet, and Group)

Musical Theatre Performance (Solo, Duet, and Group)

Musical Theatre Dance (Solo, Duet, and Group)


Technical & Writing

Costume Construction

Costume Design

Lighting Design

Makeup Design


Scenic Deisgn

Short Film (Animated, Documentary, and Live-Action)

Sound Design

Stage Management

Theatre Marketing


Explore category-specific rules and rubrics here.



Any student wishing to participate in the Thespy Awards must meet the following criteria:

  1. Participants must be inducted Thespians in active, chartered Thespian troupes.
  2. Participants must be inducted during or have active status in the academic year of submission. (The ITS academic year runs from August 1- July 31.)
  • Example 1: A student on track to earn induction in May 2023 may enter a qualifier in November 2022. 
  • Example 2: A student who graduates early in December 2022 may participate in the international round of competition at ITF in June 2023. 


Participation Overview

What does it look like to participate in the Thespy Awards?

  1. Choose a category and select your material.
  2. Polish your performance, technical design/presentation, or writing.
  3. Enter a regional qualifying event (often held at chapter Thespian festivals/conferences)
    • Present your material at your chapter's event.
    • Receive your feedback and rating. If your presentation is rated at Superior quality...
  4. Have your troupe director register you for ITF and enter the final round of Thespys.
    • Present your material at ITF's final round of adjudication.
    • Receive your feedback and rating.
    • If your presentation is rated at Superior quality and is also the highest score in the category, take home a Thespy Award!

Because students are assessed on an educational rubric, there can be multiple Thespians with the same high score in each category, which means that each student is honored with a Thespy Award!


Thespy Awards Showcase

The Thespy Awards are presented as the culminating event of the International Thespian Festival. After the final round of adjudication, selected Thespians may be invited to callbacks or filmed interviews to have their work showcased for thousands of fellow Thespians and theatre educators on the ITF main stage!


Words to Know

Here are some key words and definitions to keep in mind as you review this document. It’s a lot of keep track of, we understand!

  • Overall Superior Rating: Thespians are adjudicated by a panel, each of whom scores the student on their work. The numeric value of the score translates to a series of ratings: Fair, Good, Excellent, and Superior. The average numeric score amongst all the judges must fall in the Superior range in order for the student to advance to the next round of adjudication. Earning a Superior rating from a single adjudicator does not guarantee advancement to the next round of adjudication.  
  • Qualifier or Qualifying Event: Refers to any level of Thespy adjudication prior to the final round at the International Thespian Festival. Could include local, district, chapter, state-wide, or alternate rounds of adjudication. The term may have different definitions at the chapter level, and the adjudication process varies by chapter. Contact your chapter leadership for details on your chapter’s qualifying process.  
  • Regional: Refers to the local, district, and/or chapter-level. 

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Important Dates & Deadlines


Oct. 2022 - April 2023

Regional qualifying events at district and chapter conferences/festivals (Could include local, district, and chapter-level events. Process varies by chapter. Contact your chapter leadership for details on your chapter’s qualifying process.) 

November 15, 2022

Students participating in the alternate qualifier may begin submitting entries.

December 15, 2022

Deadline to submit materials for alternate qualifying adjudication*

December 15, 2022 - January 10, 2023

Alternate qualifying adjudication

January 15, 2023

Alternate qualifying scores released

April 1, 2023

Deadline for chapters to submit scores to EdTA**

April 15, 2023

Submissions accepted for final round of Thespy adjudication (all categories virtual / only those categories that require advance submission for in person adjudication).

May 3, 2023

Deadline to register for ITF and for qualified Thespians to add on Thespy Awards adjudication (additional fee applies).

May 10, 2023

Deadline to submit required materials for final round of adjudication (in-person and virtual)

May 15, 2023 - June 10, 2023

Virtual adjudications***

June 19, 2023 at 8:30 a.m. ET

All Thespys participants must be checked in at ITF registration (in-person)

June 19, 2023 9 a.m - 5 p.m. ET

In-person adjudications***

June 21, 2023

Showcase callbacks and scholarship interviews 

June 23, 2023

Showcase dress rehearsal

June 23, 2023

Thespy Awards Showcase


*Only Thespians whose troupe is not part of a chapter and/or whose chapter is not hosting a qualifying event are eligible to participate in the alternate qualifying adjudications. 

**Chapter Thespy Award coordinators must submit their scores from qualifying events within two weeks of their festival or by April 1 (whichever comes first).

***Only students registered for the Virtual Experience at ITF will be adjudicated virtually; all students registered for and attending ITF in person will be adjudicated in person on June 19, 2023 at ITF in Bloomington, IN.

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Chapter & Regional Qualifiers

Start Your Journey Toward a Thespy

The first stop on your road to a Thespy Award is most likely a chapter qualifying event. ITF chapters conduct official qualifying rounds of adjudication at their own state/regional Thespian festivals and conferences. Some chapters have a regional round of adjudications prior to the chapter-wide event. Consult with your chapter leadership about your chapter’s official policies and dates. Find your chapter’s leaders and explore upcoming chapter events.  

Choose a Thespy category in which you’d like to participate and work toward presenting it at your chapter qualifying event – rehearse your performance or technical presentation with your teachers, friends, parents, or anyone who will listen to you! Preparation is key to refining your theatrical skills. In addition to the rules featured in this document, be sure to download the adjudication rubric for your category so you know what the adjudicators are looking for and review any category-specific rules

The International Thespian Society hosts an alternate qualifier for students whose chapters do not host a qualifying event.


Official Rules vs. Chapter Rules

While chapter or state/regional officials have the prerogative to amend the official rules, amendment(s) should be undertaken only with careful consideration of the various outcomes that may result from such amendment(s). For example, in order for a performance entry to be performed in the final round of competition at ITF, its publisher must appear on the approved publishers list. If a Thespian earns an overall Superior rating at a qualifying event with a performance piece that does not meet the international criteria, they may not choose an alternate performance piece and continue on to the final round of adjudication. In such a case, the student would be ineligible to present their Thespy performance in the final round of adjudication due to the chapter’s variance from the official Thespy rules. 

Troupe directors should check with their assigned chapter or regional officials in the event that there exists some region-specific variance to the official rules and guidelines. Thespy Awards officials could include the chapter director and chapter/regional Thespy Awards coordinator. 

Individuals bearing complaints about chapter and regional qualifiers are encouraged to register their concerns with Thespys officials of the relevant chapter and regional qualifiers. Decisions of chapter and regional Thespys officials are final.


Responsibilities of Chapters

  • Provide qualifier details to EdTA by August 30, 2022.
  • Publicize. Communicate with troupe directors in the chapter about the qualifier.
  • Share official international rules and any local modifications with troupe directors.
  • Recruit and train adjudicators and volunteers.
  • Assign at least two (2) adjudicators to each submission.
  • Provide a platform on which adjudicators may score qualifiers and share feedback with Thespians (and troupe directors). Chapters can either use OpenWater, the preferred platform for Thespy adjudication, or select their own platform to use.
  • If chapters do not use OpenWater, chapter or regional Thespy Award coordinators must complete the Overall Superior Submission Form within two weeks of their chapter festival or by April 1, 2023, whichever comes first. If scoring is conducted through OpenWater, no additional form need be submitted.
  • Chapter or regional Thespy Award coordinators are responsible for communicating student scores to troupe directors and pass along information about how to register and participate in the final round of adjudication at ITF, including the following:
    • Digital invitations on behalf of International Thespian Festival
    • Link to this official guide
    • Instructions on how to register and participate at ITF 

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Alternate Qualifier

November 15, 2022 - December 15, 2022. 
Participation Fee: $15


Who Can Participate in the Alternate Qualifier?

The primary way to qualify for the final round of adjudication at the International Thespian Festival is through a chapter qualifying event (often held during chapter festivals/conferences). ITS will hold an alternate qualifier to help ensure that all Thespians have the opportunity to participate in the Thespys program. To participate in the Alternate Qualifier, Thespians must meet at least one of these criteria:

  • The Thespian’s assigned chapter does not conduct a Thespy qualifier.
  • The Thespian does not have an assigned chapter based on their school’s mailing address.

How to Enter the Alternate Qualifier

  1. Register and pay the participation fee. Troupe directors must submit entries for all participating students along with payment by January 2, 2023. Students may enter multiple categories, but only one entry will be accepted per category.
  2. Submit entry materials in OpenWater. Carefully review the rules and requirements in this document and for each category to avoid disqualification. Entries will be accepted between November 15, 2022 and January 2, 2023.

Scores will be released January 15, 2023. Thespians who earn overall Superior ratings advance to the final round of the International Thespian Excellence Awards.

Visit the Alternate Qualifier page for more information. 

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Final Round of Adjudication

Thespians who earn an overall Superior rating in an approved Thespy category at a qualifying event are invited to the final round of the Thespy Awards, held during the International Thespian Festival (ITF) each year in June.

To participate in the Thespys in person, qualified Thespians must be registered for ITF and be checked in on campus at Indiana University Bloomington no later than 8:30 a.m. ET June 19. Failure to arrive and be checked in by this time may result in disqualification. Students unable to attend ITF in person can register for the ITF Virtual Experience and submit digital entries to be adjudicated in the final round. Students must be registered by a troupe director (or by an adult guardian/primary contact if a student’s troupe is not planning on attending ITF as a group). Visit https://itf.schooltheatre.org/ for more information about registering students for ITF and the Thespy Awards.

Thespians may submit entries for any approved Thespy category for which they earned an overall Superior rating at their chapter, regional, or alternate qualifier (eligibility guidelines must be met). When advancing to the final round, Thespians must present the same work they qualified with at the chapter, regional, or alternate qualifier.


Adjudication, Scoring, and Feedback

Adjudication will take place in person for any Thespian registered to attend ITF on campus at IU Bloomington and digitally for any Thespian registered for the ITF virtual experience. Some categories may require materials be submitted digitally in advance of ITF, like Playwriting. Read your category’s specific rules carefully.

EdTA recommends each entry be reviewed by three adjudicators. Scores and feedback will be released to troupe directors (or the student’s adult guardian/primary contact, if someone other than the troupe director registered the student for ITF and the final round of Thespy adjudication) on June 20, 2023. It is the troupe director or primary contact’s responsibility to share Thespy results with Thespians.

While the rules and guidelines for digital submissions are largely the same as in-person adjudication for each category, Thespians are encouraged to recognize and prepare for the inherent differences in presenting their categories digitally. Thespians should optimize their submissions for the online format to receive the best feedback and scores. (See best practices for filming video submissions at www.Thespys.org.)


Substitution Policy

Only inducted Thespians who earned overall Superior ratings at chapter, regional, or alternate qualifying events are eligible to participate in the final round of adjudication at ITF. Substitutions are not permitted in any solo, duet, or technical category.

Qualified entries from the Group Musical Theatre Performance, Group Musical Theatre Dance, and Group Acting categories may enter the final round of adjudication at ITF with fewer performers (if appropriate for the material) or with substitutions if all the original students are unable to participate in person. This is not intended to allow completely different groups to perform at different levels of adjudication; please contact thespys@schooltheatre.org if a group needs to substitute more than two students. Substitutions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


How to Participate at ITF

ITF Thespys Particpation Fee: $50 per student


Thespians may participate in any approved Thespys category in which they earn an overall Superior rating at a qualifying event. Primary Contacts (troupe directors and/or group leader) must:

  • Register qualified Thespians for the International Thespian Festival and submit the $50 Thespys Participation Fee no later than May 3, 2023. Fees and parental consent must be submitted at the time of registration.
  • Complete one Thespys submission form for each entry (solo, duet, or group) to be adjudicated no later than May 10, 2023.
  • Submit digital materials for students registered to attend the ITF Virtual Experience/digital adjudication or for categories that require materials be submitted in advance (e.g., Playwriting) by May 10, 2023.
  • Secure performance rights for performance categories.
  • Arrive on campus at IU Bloomington and check in at registration no later than 8:30 a.m. ET on June 19, 2023 (for in-person participants). 

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Thespy Awards Showcase

Exhibition Performances, Tech Interviews, and Scholarship Opportunities 


Callbacks & Interviews

High scorers in performance categories will be invited to callbacks during the International Thespian Festival. High scorers in technical categories will be asked to participate in filmed interviews featuring highlights from their technical presentations. After callbacks have been conducted, a selection of acts from a variety of categories will be featured during the Thespys Awards Showcase. Receiving an invitation to callbacks and interviews does not indicate that a student has won a Thespy Award – only that the adjudicators witnessed high caliber work worthy of consideration for sharing with the larger ITF audience. 


Showcase & Awards Presentation

The Thespy Awards Showcase serves as the closing ceremony to ITF and features performances and presentations by selected Thespy winners (runners-up may also be chosen to perform, time permitting). Inclusion in the Thespy Award Showcase is at the discretion of the showcase producers; not all categories may be represented and not all winners in all categories may be chosen to showcase their work.

During the ceremony, Superior-rated Thespians will be celebrated, and the top-scoring Superior-rated student(s) in each category will be asked to come onstage to receive their Thespy Award. If two or more students earn identical top-ranked scores, each will win a Thespy Award.

In addition to being featured in the Thespys showcase, top scorers may be featured on Dramatics.org, in press releases, and on this website as well as in other EdTA programs as opportunities arise.


Scholarship Interviews

High scoring students in performance and technical categories will be invited to in-person scholarship interviews focused on the educational and career aspirations of each applicant. The number of scholarships and amount awarded may vary by year. Scholarships are announced at the Thespy Awards Showcase on the final evening of ITF.

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Official Program Rules

Important Information You Need to Know

The following rules are overarching and apply to all Thespy categories. You will find additional category-specific rules on each category’s Rules & Rubrics page. It is imperative that participants read and understand all rules in order to be successfully adjudicated at a Thespy Awards event. Failure to follow any of the guidelines in this document may result in a disqualification.


Rule 1: Submission Requirements

In Person at ITF:

Students must be registered for ITF and submit the $50 participation fee by May 3, 2023. The adjudication submission form (one per entry) and any category-specific materials that need to be submitted in advance of ITF (e.g., Playwriting and Short Film) must be submitted by May 10, 2023. Students must arrive on campus at Indiana University Bloomington and be checked in at registration by 8:30 a.m. ET on Monday, June 19

ITF Virtual Experience Attendees:

Students must be registered for the ITF Virtual Experience and submit the $50 participation fee by May 3, 2023. Digital submissions must be submitted on OpenWater by May 10, 2023. View best practices and tips for digital submissions at www.Thespys.org.

By submitting a performance or technical Thespy video, you grant EdTA permission to use it during the International Thespian Festival and for possible future promotion of the Thespys, the International Thespian Festival, EdTA, and/or the Educational Theatre Foundation.


Rule 2: Slating

For all categories except Playwriting and Short Film, Thespians must begin their presentation with an introduction known as a slate. The slate must include only the following information:

  • The Thespian’s name (or names, for group categories)
  • Troupe number
  • Title of selection being performed or work being showcased (e.g., "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl for a Solo Musical Theatre Performance entry or Belle's ballgown from Beauty and the Beast for a Costume Construction entry)
  • Name of the playwright(s) and/or composer(s)

A slate might sound like this: "Hello. My name is John Smith from Troupe 561, and I’ll be performing 'Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'' from Oklahoma! by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II." Or this: "Hi. My name is Jennifer Johnson representing Troupe 1101, and I’m going to share my lighting design for A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare." 


Rule 3: Time Limits

After the slate, time begins with the first word, musical note, or acting beat (if it precedes the first word or note) of the presentation. If a Thespian exceeds the time limits below, the adjudicator will note the time and a final eligibility ruling will be determined. Exceeding the time limit may result in a disqualification.


Time Limit

Solo Acting

3 minutes

Duet and Group Acting

5 minutes

Musical Theatre Performance and Dance (solo, duet, and group)

5 minutes

Short Film

5 minutes + 1 minute for credits


5 minutes

All technical categories

8 minutes


Rule 4: Acceptable Materials

Thespians must choose a piece of work that meets the acceptable material criteria. Unacceptable selections noted below will be disqualified. View the list of approved publishers here.



Selections and materials must meet the following criteria:


The following types of selections and materials are not allowed in Thespy adjudication:       

Acting Categories (non-musical)

  • Selections must be from full-length or one-act plays or musicals written for the theatre (not for film or television)
  • Selections must be published by an approved publisher.
  • Direct permission from the author only.
  • Any play (or monologue from a musical) not published by one of the approved publishers.
  • Any work featured on a “red light” list from an approved publisher.
  • Works available through self-publishing platforms.
  • Monologues published independently that are not from a theatrical script (e.g., a monologue book/website).

Musical Theatre Performance Categories

  • Songs must be from a stage musical or have been used in a stage musical (regardless of previous publication as a classical or popular song (e.g., “Mamma Mia,” “Lady Marmalade,” etc.).
  • Sheet music must be publicly available for sale in a vocal selections book or musical score.
  • There must be a copyright mark on the sheet music or on the published score (i.e., bootleg PDFs of scores are not acceptable)
  • Selections must be published by an approved publisher.
  • A cappella songs unless originally written to be performed a cappella in the musical.
  • Songs from musical films or television musicals that have not appeared in a stage musical.
  • Classical or popular songs not used in a published work for the theatre.
  • Tracks with any pre-recorded vocals, including background vocals.
  • Any selection from a musical not published by one of the approved publishers.
  • Any work featured on a “red light” list from an approved publisher.

Musical Theatre Dance Categories

  • Songs must be from a stage musical or have been used in a stage musical (regardless of previous publication as a classical or popular song (e.g., “Mamma Mia,” “Lady Marmalade,” etc.).
  • Selections must be published by an approved publisher.
  • Recordings with vocals are acceptable in the Musical Theatre Dance category
  • Any selection from a musical not published by one of the approved publishers.
  • Any work featured on a “red light” list from an approved publisher.

Technical Categories

  • Any published work written for the theatre (musical or non-musical). The work need not appear on the approved publishers list.
  • Works written for film or television.
  • Unpublished theatrical works.


Rule 5: Performance Rights

For performance categories, it is the troupe director’s responsibility to ensure that permission is obtained for the use of copyrighted material where required. In certain cases, permission is not required. Be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Musical Theatre Performance Categories: The performance of a song from a published musical score with copyright notices printed upon the sheet music or in the back of the published score is considered fair use in Thespy adjudication so long as the licensing company who holds the performance rights to the musical is listen on the approved publishers list and the work itself does not appear on a red-light list from the licensing company (which would be noted on the approved publishers list).
  • Acting Categories: The performance of a monologue or scene from a non-musical play are subject to an agreement negotiated between EdTA and several major theatrical publishers. Thespy participants must use a monologue or scene from a publisher who appears on the approved publishers list.


Rule 6: Approved Publishers

It is very important that Thespians and troupe directors correctly identify the publisher of any material used in a Thespy entry to ensure they have permission to perform it. Securing permission from the approved publisher for a school production does not grant permission for a Thespian to use it for a Thespy entry. Refer to the approved list of publishers for detailed information about acquiring rights for Thespy performances; not all material from every publisher is approved for Thespy use.

Publishers interested in becoming an approved publisher can submit an application.


Rule 7: Dress Code

For all categories (performance and technical), Thespians will present themselves at adjudication or in their submission video as a blank slate, refraining from wearing clothing and/or accessories that distract from the performance or presentation. The goal is to level the playing field and allow the focus to remain on the work, not the aesthetics of the presenting Thespian.

Thespians should follow these guidelines:

  • Dress neatly in simple, modest attire suitable for a professional interview or audition, in black or dark colors. To better understand styles that constitute this tone, search the internet for “business casual for students.”
  • Acceptable footwear is neutral and may include character shoes, dance shoes (if appropriate for the category), dress shoes (such as Oxfords), or sneakers in unobtrusive colors and patterns, free of logos if at all possible.
  • Theatrical makeup, costumes, and props are not permitted.
  • Clothing should be appropriate for the situation. For performance categories, consider black/dark-colored apparel that might be worn in a professional audition and that allows easy movement for the actors to accommodate the action of the performance. For technical categories, choose apparel suitable for a professional interview or the black/dark-colored clothes traditionally worn by technicians.
  • Avoid wearing distracting items such as large, dangling jewelry, light-up footwear, or fashionably distressed clothing.

Note: If selected for the Thespy Award Showcase, Thespians are permitted to dress in formal attire. All Thespians at ITF are encouraged to dress up to celebrate the closing ceremony, and performers are not restricted to the dress code required for adjudication. Group performances should still consider coordinated apparel choices, and may consult with the director/producers of the showcase if any questions about apparel arise.


Rule 8: Props & Set Pieces in Performance

The use of set pieces, props (including stationary and handheld), or other personal items is not permitted in Thespy adjudication and will result in disqualification.


  • Solo Acting, Musical Theatre Performance, and Musical Theatre Dance: One (1) chair may be safely used.
  • Duet Acting, Musical Theatre Performance, and Musical Theater Dance: Two (2) chairs may be safely used.
  • Group Acting, Group Musical Theatre Performance, and Group Musical Theatre Dance: One (1) table and up to six (6) chairs may be safely used.

“Safely” means that items may be used in a safe manner but should not be used as props (e.g., pushed over, lifted, etc.). Sitting on, laying across, and/or standing upon a chair(s) is usually acceptable so long as safety is the priority (i.e., if a chair or table has wheels, it would not be considered safe to stand upon).


Rule 9: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

Race, ethic origin, gender, sexual orientation, body type, and/or disability should not influence an adjudicator’s evaluation of a Thespian. Thespians are encouraged to choose material that speaks to them as long as all copyright rules are followed. For example, a Thespian may play a role of any gender, regardless of the gender with which the student identifies. However, it is important to note that all copyright rules are to be enforced. The Thespian cannot change pronouns without the express written consent from the publisher.

Deaf and hard of hearing Thespians may use a conductor (adult or student) in Musical Theatre Performance and Dance categories to guide tempo.


Rule 10: Adjudicators

All Thespy adjudicators are required to complete a free, public course online through EdTA’s Learning Center to help standardize the feedback Thespians receive on their Thespy submissions. Prospective adjudicators may complete the course at any time prior to the beginning of their desired adjudication session. Adjudicators should also complete the application if they would like to be contacted as opportunities become available.

Troupe directors and chaperones may be required to volunteer as adjudicators at ITF if more than four (4) of their students are participating in the Thespy program.

Adjudicators should avoid and disclose conflicts of interest that may influence their evaluations. For example, troupe directors and coaches should not adjudication their own students.


Rule 11: Disqualification

The International Thespian Excellence Awards program is meant to challenge, inspire, and educate Thespians. As noted throughout this document, there are very clear rules to ensure equity among all participants. Violations of these rules can lead to disqualification at any level of adjudication. Disqualifications in the final round of adjudication will be ruled on by a member of the EdTA staff and require unanimous recommendation from the adjudication panel and the EdTA staff member.


Rule 12: Appeals

Direct all appeals, questions, and requests for clarification to thespys@schooltheatre.org. Please include all relevant details including the name of the student, their school’s name, their troupe number, the location of the adjudication, and detailed information about the issue that led to disqualification.


Category-Specific Rules

In addition to these overarching rules, Thespians must follow all category-specific rules in any category in which they are presenting. View a full list of category-specific rules.


For answers to any questions regarding the International Thespian Excellence Awards, email thespys@schooltheatre.org.


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