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Official Thespys Program Guide




The International Thespian Excellence Awards (Thespys®) are an educational program designed to provide constructive feedback for Thespians to improve their prepared theatrical materials, expand their performance and technical expertise, and develop their professional and presentation skills. The program includes 16 official categories spanning performance, technical theatre, filmmaking, and writing. Each entry is adjudicated by theatre educators and professionals based on rubrics that reflect national standards in theatre education.

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

Thespians who score “superior” ratings at a qualifying event are invited to the International Thespian Festival, where the top scorers in each category win Thespy Awards and have a chance to earn scholarships for their artistic and educational development. The program is included in the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) List of Approved Contests, Programs, and Activities for Students.

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Dates and Deadlines


Oct. 2021 – Apr. 2022

Qualifiers at district and chapter events (ask your chapter for details)

March 1, 2022

Deadline to submit materials for alternate qualifying event

March 7-21, 2022

Alternate qualifier adjudication

March 31, 2022

Alternate qualifier scores released

April 1, 2022

Deadline for chapters to submit list of qualifying students

April 2022

Students are emailed invitations to compete in the Thespy Awards at ITF

May 11, 2022

Deadline for qualifying students to register for ITF

June 1, 2022

Deadline for qualifying students to submit their required materials

June 6-17, 2022

Thespy Awards adjudication

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How to Qualify/Eligibility

  • Any student wishing to participate must be an inducted Thespian and attend a school with a chartered troupe.
  • The Thespian must have active status in the academic year of submission. The ITS academic year runs from August 1 to July 31. For example, a Thespian who graduates early in January is still eligible for the international round in June; a student on track to earn induction in the spring may enter a qualifier in the winter.
  • The Thespian must enter their assigned chapter or state/regional Thespy qualifier and earn an overall superior score in an approved Thespy category to advance to the final international Thespys round. Find your chapter qualifier.
  • Chapter or state/regional Thespy Award coordinators must complete the Overall Superior Score Submission Form no later than April 1, 2022 in order for Thespians who earned overall superior scores at their events to be eligible for the international round.
    • If a chapter’s event occurs after April 1, their qualifying students will miss the first outreach from EdTA about participating at ITF. Chapter leaders will be responsible for communicating those next steps to their qualifying students directly (how to register and participate at ITF) and submit the qualifying students’ information to EdTA no later than two weeks after their qualifier.
  • Any Thespians without an assigned chapter or state/regional Thespy qualifier are eligible to participate in the alternate qualifier held by EdTA. See Alternate Qualifier Eligibility below.
  • Thespians may submit entries to the international Thespy Award round in any approved Thespy category for which they earned an overall superior score at their chapter, state/regional or alternate qualifier (eligibility guidelines must be met).
  • The Thespian, upon qualifying for the international level, must:
    • Register to attend the International Thespian Festival no later than May 11, 2022.
    • Submit to EdTA their entry(ies) for digital adjudication no later than June 1, 2022. Required Materials:
      • Thespy Submission Form with a “completed” status in the Open Water platform
      • Registration Fee
      • Consent and release agreement
      • Parental consent form
    • EdTA may disqualify prior to or during competition any Thespian who is not in compliance with any of the above eligibility requirements and disqualify incomplete entries. Refunds will not be issued for any Thespian whose entry is disqualified.

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Chapter and State Regional Qualifiers

Thespians, parents, and teachers should check with their assigned chapter or state/regional officials for the rules in effect in their area, as chapter and state/regional Thespy Awards officials are encouraged but not required to use the international rules. Chapters that do not follow the rules in this guide and related materials are unable to display the NASSP seal or promote NASSP approval. Thespy Awards officials include the chapter director and Thespy Awards coordinator.

While chapter or state/regional officials have the prerogative to amend the international rules, amendment(s) should be undertaken only with careful consideration of the various outcomes that may result from such amendment(s).

EdTA has no authority over the conduct of chapter and state/regional qualifiers and will not render judgments relating to their conduct or outcomes. Individuals bearing complaints about chapter and state/regional qualifiers are encouraged to register their concerns with Thespys officials of the relevant chapter and state/regional qualifiers. Decisions of chapter and state/regional Thespys officials are final.

Responsibilities of Chapters

  • Sign the agreement sent to you by EdTA to be the official Thespys qualifier for your state or region.
  • Secure event venue.
  • Provide qualifier details to EdTA as soon as possible.
  • Communicate with troupe directors about the qualifier.
  • Share official international rules and any local modifications with Thespians and their troupe directors.
  • Recruit adjudicators and volunteers. EdTA recommends each submission is reviewed by three adjudicators. Chapters are required to use at least two.
  • Provide a platform for adjudicators to score qualifiers and share feedback with Thespians (and troupe directors). Chapters can either use Open Water, the preferred platform for Thespy adjudication, or select their own platform to use. Chapters using a platform other than Open Water will be required to register their overall superior scores the Overall Superior Score Submission Form.
  • Submit overall superior scores to EdTA by April 1, 2022, or within two weeks of the qualifying event if the qualifier is held after April 1, 2022.
  • Provide Thespians (and their troupe directors) who achieved overall superior scores with information about how to advance to the next level.

Registering Overall Superior Scores from Your Chapter or State/Regional Qualifying Event

  • EdTA will collect your overall superior scores.
  • Each chapter and state/regional qualifier will be required to complete one Overall Superior Score Submission Form online (account login required).
  • The Thespy Award coordinator for your chapter or state/region should complete this form by April 1, 2022.

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Alternate Qualifier

EdTA will hold an alternate qualifier for Thespians who meet any of these criteria:

  • The Thespian’s assigned chapter does not conduct a Thespy qualifier.
  • The Thespian’s assigned chapter cancels its Thespy qualifier.
  • The Thespian does not have an assigned a chapter based on their school’s mailing address.
  • Inclement weather prevents the Thespian’s troupe from traveling to the chapter’s qualifying event (must provide documentation of the school’s decision from a school administrator).

Thespians must register for the alternate qualifier and submit materials for digital adjudication in Open Water no later than March 1, 2022. Thespians who earn overall superior scores advance to the International Thespian Excellence Awards.

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International Round and Winners

Thespians who earn an overall superior score in an approved Thespy category (see categories above) advance to the international round of the Thespy Awards, held during the International Thespian Festival in June. Thespians may submit entries for any approved Thespy category for which they earned an overall superior score at either their chapter, state/regional or alternate qualifier (eligibility guidelines must be met).

The Thespians or groups achieving the highest superior scores in each category in the international round will be honored as Thespy Award Winners. If no Thespians earn a superior score in a category, then there will be no Thespy Award Winner in that category. There is no cap on the number of winners in each category, should multiple Thespians earn identical scores.

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Thespy Awards Showcase

The Thespy Awards Showcase serves as the closing ceremony to the International Thespian Festival. Top-scoring entrants will be revealed and select top scorers will be invited to perform on the main stage (runners up may also be chosen to perform, time permitting). Performers will be asked to perform their winning selection and technical participants will be asked to create a one-minute “sizzle” video featuring highlights of their longer eight-minute video presentation. Inclusion in the showcase is at the discretion of the showcase producers; not all categories or entrants may be represented. Top scorers and other participants may also be featured on Dramatics.org, in press releases, and on the Thespys website, as well as in other EdTA programs and promotions as opportunities arise.

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International Scholarship Interviews

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

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Program Rules

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.

Rule 1: Fees/Registration

Fees for the international level will be announced when registration opens in January. Check with your chapter about fees for their qualifying event.

Rule 2: Submission Requirements

All initial adjudications at the international level will happen virtually using an online adjudication platform. Adjudications at the chapter level may be virtual or in person. While the rules and guidelines for digital submissions are largely the same as in person 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 the best scores.

If advancing to the international round, Thespians must present the same work they qualified with at the chapter, state/regional, or alternate qualifier.

Substitution Policy

Only inducted Thespians who earned overall superior scores at their chapter, state/regional, or the alternate qualifiers are eligible to participate in the international round. Substitutions are not permitted in any solo, duet, or technical category.

For group musical and acting categories, all Thespians who participated as part of a group in the chapter, state/regional, or alternate qualifiers are not required in order to perform in the international round. A group may enter the international round with fewer performers (if appropriate for the material) or substituting a few different students if all the original students cannot participate. This is not intended to allow completely different groups to perform at different levels; please contact us if you have more than two substitutions in a group of six or more.

Social Distancing/Masking Policy

Participants submitting a collaborative entry (group/duet entries) are expected to follow current masking and social distancing rules and recommendations while rehearsing and producing their final submission video. If participants are unable to perform safely together, they should consider submitting individual category entries instead.

For example, if a mask mandate is in effect, participants should wear masks in their video submission. If requirements state that individuals not housed together are required to maintain a distance of six feet, participants should record their video at the recommended distance.

It is important to note that certain masked and distanced performances may impact sound/speech and hide facial expressions, so discovering techniques to emphasize enunciation and characterization will be especially important. Participants may consider using clear face masks to allow facial expressions to be seen by adjudicators.

Digital video submission requirements

  • Find an effective filming location.
  • Area should be quiet so adjudicators can hear both you and your track (if applicable).
  • Film in front of a non-distracting background. If possible, choose a solid-color wall or consider hanging a sheet behind you. The color should contrast with your clothing.
  • Dress neatly, in proper attire as written in the guidelines. No costumes or props are allowed.
  • Make sure you are lit well enough to be clearly visible.
  • Before filming, conduct a full-volume test to make sure you and your track can be heard in the recording.
  • Ensure your blocking is effective and visible when filmed. Consider whether to increase or decrease your movement or to adjust your camera angle. 
  • Video submissions should be recorded as full-body camera shots so that adjudicators may score movement.
  • Shoot your video horizontally, not vertically.
  • Try multiple takes and submit your strongest.
  • No editing is permitted on performance videos (do not stop and start in between slating or transitions, do not add special effects or text). The video should resemble an in-person performance as closely as possible. 
  • Performances should be shot in one continuous take so that adjudicators can effectively score transitions.
  • Microphones are acceptable in order to improve audio quality, provided that they are worn and not handheld. Be sure any mic packs and wires are securely attached and not distracting from the performance.
  • Listen to and watch your video carefully afterward to make sure you are within the frame and that the accompaniment is not louder than your voice.

Digital portfolio submission requirements

  • You will be asked to share your portfolio as you would for an in-person presentation. Please upload the material asked for in the submission form in accordance with the program guidelines.
  • Each of your uploaded samples should be clear and of good quality – good production or process photos, or easily readable documents.
  • Uploads should be well-photographed or clearly readable. Though you will be able to expand on them in your video presentation, the sample should be able to speak for itself to a certain extent.

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

No performance or technical category may be filmed for rebroadcast or other use without prior written approval from EdTA.

Rule 3: Slating

For all categories (except playwriting and filmmaking), Thespians begin with an introduction known as a slate. The slate must include only:

  • The Thespian’s name(s)
  • Troupe number
  • Title of selection(s)
  • Name of the playwright(s) and/or composer(s)

Rule 4: Time Limits

After the introduction (slating), time begins with the first word, musical note, or acting action (if it precedes the first word or note).

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 disqualification.  


Time Limit

Solo Acting

3 minutes

Duet and group acting scenes

5 minutes

Musical theatre solo, duet, and group performances

5 minutes

Short films

5 minutes + 1 minute for credits

Technical categories

8 minutes



Rule 5: Acceptable Materials

Thespians must choose a piece fitting the acceptable material criteria. Unacceptable selections noted below will be disqualified.

Non-Musical Performance Categories



  • Selections from full-length or one-act plays or musicals, written for the theatre and published by a pre-approved publisher.
  • Author-only permission.
  • Any play (or monologue from a musical) not published by one of the pre-approved publishers listed on the Thespys website.
  • Works available through self-publishing platforms.
  • Monologues published independently that are not from a theatrical script (e.g., monologue book, monologue website).


Musical Performance Categories



  • Songs from a musical that have been used in a musical (regardless of its previous publication as a classical or popular song – e.g., “Forever Plaid,” “Mamma Mia,” etc.).
  • Must be publicly available for sale in a vocal selection or musical score.
  • There must be a copyright mark on the music.
  • A cappella songs unless originally written to be performed a cappella in the script.
  • Songs from films.
  • Songs from television.
  • Popular songs not used in a published work for the theatre.
  • Classical songs not used in a published work for the theatre.
  • Tracks with any background vocals.



Rule 6: Securing Performance Rights

It is the Thespian’s responsibility to obtain permission for the use of copyrighted material where required. In certain cases, permission is not required.

  • The performance of a song from a published musical score in an adjudicated category is considered a fair use, and no permission is required.
  • The performance of a monologue or scene from a non-musical play at chapter conference/festival or in an adjudicated category may be subject to an agreement previously negotiated between EdTA and several major publishers. Thespy participants must use a monologue or scene from one of the pre-approved publishers listed on the Thespy website.
  • If there is an exception noted in the approved publishers listing (e.g., Neil Simon or August Wilson plays), you will need to secure permission (and likely pay a fee) in order to use it. You must provide proof to the EdTA office that you have secured these rights by April 1, 2022.

Rule 7: Approved Publishers

It is very important to correctly identify the publisher of any material used in a Thespy entry in order to ensure you have permission to perform it. Securing permission from the publisher alone does not grant you permission to use it for a Thespy entry. Please refer to the approved list of acceptable material for detailed information about acquiring rights with approved publishers; not all material from every publisher is approved.

Publishers not listed who wish to be added may contact EdTA.

Rule 8: Dress Code

For all categories (including performance and tech), Thespians will present themselves as a blank slate, refraining from wearing clothing or accessories that distract from the character.

  • Dress neatly in simple, modest outfits in black or dark colors. To understand styles that constitute this “business casual” tone, see these examples or search the web for “business casual for students.”
  • Acceptable footwear is neutral and includes character shoes (dance shoes, if appropriate for the scene), dress shoes (such as Oxfords), or sneakers in unobtrusive tones and patterns, free of logos if at all possible. Refer to the images in the business casual link in the above bullet point for more examples of acceptable footwear.
  • Theatrical makeup, costumes, and props are not permitted.
  • Clothing should be appropriate to the situation yet allow easy movement for the actors to accommodate the action of the performance.
  • Avoid distracting items such as large/dangling jewelry, light-up footwear, or fashionably distressed attire.

To be as inclusive as possible, no student should be disqualified for clothing.

Rule 9: Props

Use of set pieces, props (including handheld), or other personal items is not permitted and will result in disqualification.


  • For solo acting, one chair may be safely used.
  • For duet acting, two chairs may be safely used.
  • For group acting and musical theatre, one table and up to six chairs may be safely used.

“Safely” – Chairs 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 the chair(s) is usually acceptable, but safety should be the priority (i.e., if a chair has wheels, it would not be considered safe to stand upon).

Failure to follow any of the guidelines in this document will result in a disqualification.

Rule 10: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Race, ethnic origin, gender, and sexual orientation should not influence a Thespian’s evaluation. Thespians are encouraged to choose pieces that speak to them, but copyright rules must be followed. For example: Thespians may play a role of any gender regardless of the gender with which they identify, but it is important to note that all copyright rules are to be enforced and the Thespian cannot change pronouns without the express written consent from the publisher.

Deaf/hard of hearing Thespians are permitted a conductor (adult or Thespian) for musical performances to guide their tempo.

Rule 11: Adjudicators

All Thespy adjudicators are required to complete a free, public course on the EdTA Learning Center to help standardize the feedback students 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 this application if they would like to be contacted as opportunities become available.

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

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

Rule 12: Disqualification

The International Thespian Excellence Awards program is meant to challenge, inspire, and educate Thespians. As you’ll note throughout this document, there are very clear rules to ensure equity among all participants. Violations of these rules can lead to disqualification at the chapter or international level.

Failure to follow any of the guidelines in this document and the program rubrics will result in a disqualification. Adjudicators will note the reason for the disqualification on the evaluation form. Disqualifications at the international level will be ruled on by a member of the EdTA staff.

Rule 13: Appeals

Direct all appeals, questions, or clarifications to thespys@schooltheatre.org. Please include all relevant details: name of the student, school, troupe number, location, and detailed information about the issue.

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