Theater honor society aims to build community

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | 5:12 p.m. CDT; updated 4:06 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Last semester, MU theater major Matt Davis was looking for an organization to bring the school’s theater department together. Davis said theater students are somewhat scattered because one place does not hold the entire department.

Driven to change this, Davis searched for an honorary society he once heard a teacher mention.

In an Internet search, Davis found Alpha Psi Omega — the National Honorary Theatre Society.

The organization looks for students with high achievements in theater and academics and aims to push those who aspire to join Alpha Psi to reach their highest potential.

“It was really fascinating because it was the answer I needed immediately, right there in front of me,” Davis said.

After talking with friends and fellow performers about starting MU’s own cast, or chapter, and receiving an enthusiastic response, Davis contacted Judith Sebesta, a theater professor who was a member of Alpha Psi Omega as an undergraduate at Austin College in Texas. She readily agreed to be the faculty sponsor for the MU cast.

Sebesta said her experiences with the fraternity really enhanced her college experience and that she was excited to bring those experiences to MU.

“It was such an important way to become a part of the theater department community,” Sebesta said. “What Alpha Psi really did was help continue that feeling of community and camaraderie amongst theater students all year long across productions.”

Even though Alpha Psi Omega is referred to as a fraternity, it is an honors society open to both male and female theater majors and minors. Unlike some national organizations, Alpha Psi does not require that a cast have a certain number of members.

MU’s cast held its first official induction on May 10 and rounds out the current membership at 12.

Last year, MU had 47 undergraduate theater majors and 21 students pursuing a doctorate in theater.

For MU students to become members, they must have a grade point average of 3.0 or better, and they must accumulate at least 10 points during two semesters in MU’s theater department. The point system is based on three categories: performance, technical and playwriting.

“The standards provided are high, but that’s what they ask for. We are an honor society, and we have to uphold those values of achievement,” said Davis, who is now president of MU’s cast.

Both Davis and Sebesta stress that Alpha Psi Omega is not just for performers. Those interested in technical aspects are welcome, too.

“This is not just about actors,” Davis said. “It takes so many positions and people to make one show, and that’s something we really want to stress.”

Productions are still open to all students, even those outside the department, who wish to audition or help backstage.

Davis said he thinks this organization can help build a stronger community within MU’s theater department.

“I feel like Alpha Psi opens people up to pushing themselves to be better, which is something that’s pretty important in this field,” Davis said. “It’s good to love something, and if you really want to show your love for it, you have to give everything you have.”

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