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Thespian Democracyworks Essay Competition - 2022

The Educational Theatre Association’s annual Democracyworks Essay Competition is open to all Thespians members.

Democracyworks 2022 Guidelines

As COVID-19 continues to impact lives and disrupt education, the ability to deal with constant change and challenges has become increasingly important, particularly for young people. The skills that theatre experiences build—self-awareness, flexibility and accessing one’s emotions and understanding those of others—are the cornerstones of resiliency. Theatre Counts: How Theatre Education Transforms Students’ Lives, published in 2021 by the Arts Education Partnership in partnership with EdTA and the American Alliance for Theatre in Education, notes “From elementary to secondary school classrooms to out-of-school programs, research demonstrates that the core elements of theatre education build resilience and positive self-concept”. The 2022 Democracyworks prompt asks students to share the ways in which theatre education has helped them become more resilient by answering this question:

How has theatre helped you build resiliency in your personal life and academic studies?

Eligibility: Any inducted member of the International Thespian Society (by March 1, 2022) who is enrolled in middle or high school during the 2021-22 school year may submit an essay. The Educational Theatre Association will choose one essay winner based on his or her response to the above question. Important: If your essay is selected you must be available to attend the 2022 National Arts Action Summit, which will take place virtually March 28-30. The winner will also receive $250; the first runner-up will be awarded $150; the second runner-up, $100. Previous winners are not eligible.

The National Arts Action Summit, sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts, brings together arts advocates from throughout the country to meet with legislators on behalf of a wide range of arts issues, including arts education. The winning essayist will take part in scheduled Arts Advocacy Day events, including legislative training on current arts issues circulating on Capitol Hill and virtual visits to representatives’ and senators’ offices; among other activities.

Essay guidelines: Essayists should reflect on how theatre builds resiliency, bearing in mind their own experiences and that of their peers and community.

About Democracyworks: Democracyworks was created to offer youth a voice to advocate for theatre education. This program combines an essay contest with formal advocacy training and guidance culminating in facilitated visits with legislators on Capitol Hill. Democracyworks is a chance for student voices to be heard and magnified. Students are supported with advocacy training and experiences to demonstrate in real time just how democracy works. 

Submission procedures: All essays must be between 500-700 words, based on the prompt, and submitted electronically to EdTA along with a general application. Please fill out all required fields in the general application, then upload your essay. Essays should be double-spaced, in 12-point type, and submitted as a PDF. There should be no identifying information on the essay document when submitted - essays should not contain the writer’s name or other identifying information in the body of the essay (i.e. Troupe Number, Director, etc.). Title your essay “2022 Thespian Democracyworks Essay.” All participants will receive an auto-reply confirming receipt of their essay; semi-finalists will be contacted by e-mail after the essay review process is completed, around February 25, 2022. The winner and runners-up will be contacted after the second round of judging, no later than March 4, 2022. Winning essayists will be asked to create a video tape of themselves reading their essay to be featured on our website and other social media. The Deadline for submission is 12:00pm (noon) Eastern Standard Time, February 18, 2022.

Scoring Rubric: 2022 Democracyworks Essay Rubric

Awards: The winning essayist will be part of the EdTA representation at the virtual National Arts Action Summit on March 28-30, and will be awarded $250. In addition to this, the winning essay and a photo of the winner will be published in Dramatics.org. The first runner-up essayist will be awarded $150, and second runner-up, $100.

Rights: Your essay is protected by copyright from the moment it is created. By submitting to the Educational Theatre Association, you are agreeing to allow EdTA to publish your essay in print and online. Please be aware that Democracyworks essay entries are often shared on our website and in other media, by submitting a Democracyworks essay, you are authorizing EdTA to publish, quote or excerpt your essay for use on our websites, partner websites and/or in public media.

Essays may be submitted beginning January 21, 2022
The Deadline for submission is 12:00pm (noon) Eastern Standard Time, February 18, 2022.

This opportunity is for an inducted Thespian of the International Thespian Society (ITS), the student honorary organization of the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA).

Teachers and Troupe Directors note: Democracyworks makes an excellent curriculum item - see the Click to Teach: Become a Theatre Advocate.


Click here to submit an application and upload your essay.


Democracyworks is sponsored by Concord Theatricals.



*You must be logged in to submit an application. If this is your first time logging in, you should enter the email address currently connected to your Thespian record and click the “Forgot Your Password?” link to update your password for Community Hub. After you log into Community Hub, you will be able to access the Democracyworks application through the link above. If you have any issues logging in, please email EdTA Education Specialist, Leah Ball at lball@schooltheatre.org.