About ITF

What is the International Thespian Festival?

Every summer, thousands of high school Thespians bring their love of all things theatre to the International Thespian Festival—also known as ThesFest—a celebration of student achievement in the arts. Organized by the Educational Theatre Association and hosted by the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, the ITF is a one-of-a-kind, week-long immersion experience in singing, dancing, acting, designing, directing, creating, writing, and memory-making. ITF features workshops presented by theatre professionals, individual and group performances, programs for technical theatre students, and opportunities to audition for college admission and scholarships. So whether you’re a freshman just beginning your theatrical journey, a seasoned senior with an impressive résumé and great headshot, or an educator seeking enriching professional development—opportunities and adventures await at the International Thespian Festival.

Who can attend Festival?

ITF is an educational event for teachers and their students, limited to people twelve years of age and older. Students under the age of 21 may not attend ITF on their own—they must attend with an adult either a teacher or a parent. All chaperones must register for the entire week of ITF. EdTA recommends registering one chaperone for every ten students. Female students must have female chaperones; male students must have male chaperones. The troupe director must be housed in one of the residence halls with his or her student delegates. If a troupe director is unable to accompany his or her student(s), another teacher or parent may fill in. To find chaperones, contact your Chapter Director. For a fee, theatre directors and students of high schools not affiliated with EdTA are welcome at the International Thespian Festival.


The first ITF was held in 1941 at Indiana University. ITF was then suspended due to the outbreak of World War II, but resumed in 1947 and was held again in 1949. The next ITF did not take place until 1952 and was held every other year until 1982 when it became an annual event. Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, hosted the ITF from 1972-1994. In 1995, the ITF moved to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2014, the Thespian Festival celebrated twenty years at UNL.

In order to accommodate our growth and provide more opportunities for more students, ITF needs a venue with more robust theatre capacity, and will move ITF to Indiana University in Bloomington (IU) in 2020. In 2019, ITF will remain at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Read more here.