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Board endorses China initiative

August 14, 2014

The Board of Directors of the Educational Theatre Association has encouraged Executive Director Julie Woffington to proceed with a plan to partner with a Chinese education management company to develop an EdTA chapter in China.

Shanghai-based Dipont Education Management proposes to establish Thespian troupes and encourage EdTA membership, organize student drama festivals, distribute EdTA publications, and ultimately develop student and teacher exchange programs between China and the U.S.

Woffington, who visited several Chinese schools to observe their newly established American-style drama programs last spring, said the relationship will be structured like that with any other chapter. Dipont representatives Jeff Zhu and Lili Ma visited the 2014 Thespian Festival as observers and plan to return next year with a delegation of Chinese students.

The board, meeting in Cincinnati before the 2014 EdTA National Conference, also put forward a solution to a challenge associated with liability insurance covering state-based Thespian events, an essential part of EdTA’s programming for students. State EdTA chapters have been dealing with substantial new costs for insurance coverage required by host venues for Thespian conferences and other events that is beyond the scope of EdTA’s general liability policy. Without insurance that meets the sometimes complex requirements of the venue, the event could not go on.

Six states have had to work through issues with liability insurance in order to proceed with their events in the past year.

The problem, insurance broker Fred Wittenbaum explained to the board, is that in a volatile legal climate venues are increasingly asking for specific types of coverage that are not covered in a general liability policy. The solution, which the board agreed to pursue, is an event liability insurance group policy that will cover the activities in every state (except Louisiana, for which special arrangements will have to be made). The national organization will pick up part of the approximately $30,000 yearly tab, and the rest will be paid by the chapter organizations through assessments based on the attendance at their events. The net effect will be to increase the cost of state Thespian events by about a dollar per person, which the chapters may choose to absorb or pass on as an increase in the registration fee.

In other action, the board heard reports on the newly released National Core Arts Standards, the recently concluded 2014 Thespian Festival, and the organization’s policy on hazing, and set a timetable for recruiting its next appointed board member.

The new standards are a reevaluation and restatement of what students should know and be able to do in the arts. James Palmarini, EdTA’s director of educational policy, who took a leadership role in the development of the theatre sections of the new classroom standards, briefed the board on the work that lies ahead. The immediate task, he said, is to introduce the standards documents and concepts to EdTA members. Over the next few years EdTA will be working with other arts education organizations to secure adoption of the standards by state departments of education.

The Thespian Festival, EdTA’s premiere annual event, logged an attendance record this year, with more than 3,400 Thespians, teachers, teaching artists, college representatives, and exhibitors. The event underwent a wide-ranging schedule makeover. Main stage performances were double-tracked to make it possible for everyone attending to see all of them—and to increase attendance capacity—and workshop offerings were substantially expanded. There was some apprehension about how the new schedule format would be received, but it proved unwarranted. Responses to the post-event survey have been very positive, according to Director of Education Nancy Brown.

Director of Membership David LaFleche briefed the board on a number of recent reports of violations of EdTA’s hazing policy. LaFleche reminded board members that the ultimate penalty for hazing—withdrawal of the troupe charter—can only be enforced by board action.