I continue traditions that were passed down to me by my Thespian troupe sponsor when I was inducted over 30 years ago. I've added a few personal touches, but the format is close. The whole process is kept as a mystery for the inductees. In short, inductees have been given a monologue to prepare (yes, even techies). When they arrive, the only see me and one of the Thespian officers and we meet in the choir room. They are given a slip of paper showing their cue line and instructed to be frozen before and after their monologue. When ready, they are escorted into the dimly lit auditorium, placed in their marks on stage, I make the pronouncement from the Short Ceremony, and the 1st monologue begins as they are hit with the spot light. Each inductee is hit with the spot for his/her monologue and frozen until the end. At the end of the monologues, the Troupe President has appeared on stage and picks up with the brief ceremony declarations and then administers the oath. Inductees say the oath, sign the official roll, receive their certificate and a pin, and are escorted to the drama room, which has been transformed with lights and decorations into a unique place for our banquet. We try to recreate an after-hours restaurant for theatre people.
After dinner, we announce the Honor, National, and International Thespians, as well as any school awards (we've had a Theatre Arts student of the year award, but that may be phased out in favor of an overall Fine Arts award). Then, it's time for the Willies, which are my personal "gag" awards. We haven't given traditional "Best Actor/Actress" awards because we only produce 2 plays a year and the feeling is we need a bigger pool of nominees before we start giving out such awards. I choose some shared inside joke, things like the "I Survived the Shriner's Ballet" award or "Best Bleeding in a Major Role" (given when an actor missed his mark and walked INTO his stage slap in performance). At the end of the Willies, I award the Most Valuable Thespian award, for work done over the past 4 years, in class and in production (we've had extra-curricular and co-curricular productions).
From there, we go back into the theatre and form a circle on the stage, with the inductees in the middle. The rest of the Thespians then present the "Voices of the Theatre." Each Thespian has 2 lines - they can be dialogue or short references to memorable occurrences. (The order is assigned before the ceremony). Then a graduating senior (not necessarily the president or one of the leads, but someone who has always worked hard) reads/recites Puck's last speech from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and we end our ceremony.
Last year, we added a "movie night" portion. We all sit on the stage and watch a movie projected onto the scrim as a last "bonding" time that involves the outgoing, returning, and incoming Thespians. The formal dress, monologue performances, the air of mystery, Most Valuable Thespian, Voices of the Theatre, and Puck's Speech all come from my high school days as a Thespian. Holding the ceremony and banquet at school, the Willies, and the movie night are things that have developed over the years. Thespian traditions started at our school when I came to teach theatre and established a Thespian troupe in the school's 2nd year and they've continued since then. Time will tell what traditions stay and which ones leave once I'm gone at the end of this year. I've considered a less formal, family based ceremony, making it a public event, but the students like the exclusivity, that "after hours" feel that we have (we're normally the only campus activity that night), and consider the production performances to be our "public" time. I started the Willies as a surprise for the 1st year students and expected to hand them off to the "established" Thespians the next year but they wanted me to continue doing them instead (they stated they looked forward to them and would miss them if they became awarded by students). It's always fun to see what traditions students hold dear and what new ones they want to start.
A little nervousness and excitement for the inductees and a lot of memories and nostalgia for all. All in all, a special night.