PSU news by
Penn State's student blog



Oldest Continually-Active Club Thespians Still Going Strong In 120th Season

There is no club in Happy Valley with more history than the Penn State Thespians.

In the midst of its 120th season, Thespians is the oldest continually-active student organization at Penn State and just selected the cast for its 210th show, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Dating back to its first performance on February 14, 1898 — “The Rivals” — Thespians has had many students grace the stage. Between the large alumni base it’s created and the club’s long-time link to Schwab Auditorium, where it’s held performances since 1903, Thespians has created a legacy for itself.

“Beauty and the Beast” director Max Levine knows there is something special about having that legacy to live up to and hopes to maintain that high standard into the future.

“When you perform for Thespians, it’s performing for the general public,” Levine said. “But a lot of Thespians, at least in my eyes, is also performing for the people who have gone before you and living up to the high bar that they’ve set in the past.”

Thespians holds main-stage shows each semester, which serve as a chance for the many performers of the past to see the organization they’ve built. For the cast, it’s also an opportunity to connect and get support from those who created their current opportunity.

“It’s really strong alumni-based,”  Josh Brown, who’s playing Lumière in “Beauty and the Beast,” said. “It’s really cool whenever we do a show and you see all of the alumni come back. Some of them are older as opposed to newer clubs where it’s just recent people who have graduated.”

For Thespians to be in a position to put one of these productions on the stage, however, is far from an overnight process.

Levine was hired to direct “Beauty and the Beast” in November following his performance as a cast member in “Rock of Ages.” He started preliminary preparations with producer Matt Schiffman and technical director Andrew Bean last semester.

Auditions were held from January 11-13 and the cast was hired last week. Now, the club practices hours each week to be ready for opening night on March 23.

For somewhat of a short turnaround after “Rock of Ages,” one of the keys to the Thespians’ success is the group’s large return of students from the previous show and the chemistry that’s already built-in for the cast members.

“Especially in production, it helps to have a lot of people who have been through this rodeo before,” Levine said. “The carryover comes in terms of talent of people who have done our shows before and really enjoy it, where they come back to do another. It comes in terms of the sets. Sometimes we have sets from previous shows that help us get a head start on building a new set.”

Another key for the Thespians’ success in recent years has to do with the relatively new theatre group, No Refund Theatre.

NRT formed in the mid-1990s and focused on a different type of production than Thespians. This club holds performances for free each week in 111 Forum. There’s no rivalry between the two groups, but a different focus that allows performers to gain different experiences.

“No Refund Theatre is cool because it’s something that’s setting a precedent because, it’s been around for a bit, but only since the 90s,” Levine said. “For Thespians, it’s doing some things that have been around for over 100 years.”

With the amount of crossover between the two productions, Levine views NRT as a positive both for Thespians and performing arts on campus as a whole.

“There’s a lot more inter-connectivity now between the two clubs than there used to be,” Levine said. “It helps people diversify their interests in theatre. You get these grandiose, main stage productions in Thespians where you can be part of this huge production that really looks good on stage. Then with NRT, you have these smaller, more intimate productions where you really bond with the people you work with.”

No matter the changes to performing arts in the last century, Thespians is still going strong. With tons of history in the past, it’s set up to continue its success on the stage at Schwab Auditorium for the foreseeable future.

About the Author

Steve Connelly

Steve Connelly is a junior majoring in PR and an editor for Onward State. He is a proud native of the state of New Jersey, and yes, he is literal trash. He is a soccer fan, nap enthusiast, and chicken tender connoisseur. He tried to be a photographer once, but the only good thing that came out of it is a name for his future sports bar, The Blurry Zamboni. You can follow him on Twitter @slc2o (feel free to slide), email him at [email protected], or come say hi to him in his office, the Irving's basement.



Former Women’s Gymnastics Coach Files Lawsuit Against Penn State Over Handling Of Abuse Allegations

Former Penn State women’s gymnastics head coach Jeff Thompson has filed a lawsuit against the university following the termination of his contract in February 2017. Thompson, alongside his wife and associate head coach Rachelle Thompson, was accused by former gymnasts and an assistant coach of creating a hostile team environment. The Thompsons allegedly pressured athletes to compete […]

Men’s Soccer Trio, Reading United Win PDL Eastern Conference Title, Fall Short Of National Championship

Penn State Hockey’s Evan Barratt, Aarne Talvitie Participate In World Junior Summer Showcase

Ally McHugh Wins 400 Medley National Championship

Penn State Women’s Soccer Adds Swiss Forward Kim Dubs

Student Life

Girirajan Lab Seeks To Bridge The Gap Between Fly And Human Genomes

The lab uses a combination of human genomics, computational biology, and functional studies, using Drosophila and human cell lines, to understand the risks caused by genetic mutations and to grasp how gene disruption leads to altered neurodevelopment.

Join Onward State: Fall 2018 Application

Pennharmonics To Hold 25th Anniversary Reunion Concert

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Join Onward State: Fall 2018 Application

Onward State is hiring for the fall semester and we’d love to have you join us.

Heinz Field Sold Out For Pitt-Penn State

The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, September 8.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Madden NFL 19 Ratings For Nittany Lions

For the second consecutive year, Sean Lee is the highest-rated Nittany Lion in the Madden video game.

Send this to a friend