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Thespian Democracyworks Essay Competition - 2021

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

Democracyworks 2021 Guidelines

The pandemic created a year like no other in education in 2020. As a theatre student, perhaps your bedroom or kitchen suddenly became your classroom or stage. COVID-19 brought on closed schools and economic hardship that has prompted budget challenges and concerns over lost learning time. As a result, in the 2021-2022 school year, districts such as yours may be forced to reprioritize funding and resources towards core subjects that could, in turn, cause arts programs to be cut back or even eliminated. To address this concern, the Educational Theatre Association has joined with other national arts education association’s to launch the Arts ARE Education advocacy campaign, an initiative that will emphasize the need for schools to continue to fund and grow arts programs in their districts in 2021-22. But we need your help to make the case. One of the important messages the campaign emphasizes is the ways in which theatre education creates safe spaces for students. Therefore, 2021's Democracyworks prompt asks you to share why theatre education matters to you and your school community by answering this question:

How does theatre support your social and emotional well being and foster a welcoming school environment?

Eligibility: Any inducted member of the International Thespian Society (by March 1, 2021) who is enrolled in middle or high school during the 2020-21 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 Virtual National Arts Action Summit in Washington, D.C., April 5th - 9th, 2021. EdTA will pay for your registration to the virtual event. The winner will also receive a $250 cash prize; 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 supports social and emotional well being and fosters a welcoming school environment, bearing in mind their own experiences and that of their peers and community.

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 “2021 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 22. The winner and runners-up will be contacted after the second round of judging, no later than March 4, 2021. 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 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time, February 7, 2021.

Scoring Rubric: 2021 Democracyworks Essay Rubric

Awards: The winning essayist will receive admission to the Virtual National Arts Action Summit in Washington, D.C., April 5th - 9th, plus $250 cash. 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.

Essays may be submitted beginning January 14, 2021
The Deadline for submission is 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time, February 7, 2021.

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


Click here to submit an application and upload your essay.


*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 Leah Ball at lball@schooltheatre.org.