Texas Educational Theatre Association, Inc. was founded in October, 1951. Preliminary meetings in 1950 and early 1951 had resulted in tentative plans for the eventual establishments of an organization concerned primarily with improving the status of educational theatre in Texas.
However, when the proposals to revise secondary school curricula and teaching certification policies, the need for immediate action became apparent. Thus, the Texas Educational Theatre Association came into being in order to promote theatre and secure recognition for it as a course in the Texas school programs. Its purposes were stated as follows:
- To promote vigorously the development of high quality theatre programs in Texas colleges and universities.
- To cooperate and appropriate state agencies in obtaining further recognition of educational theatre as a part of the curriculum in Texas public schools, and to encourage the employment of qualified public school theatre teachers.
- To encourage the writing and production of plays about Texas and the Southwest.
- To exchange theatre theories and practices in order to permit the use of varied means of producing plays, organizing theatre departments and curricula, and constructing effective theatre buildings.
- To increase student appreciation and participation in a living theatre in which plays of high quality would be produced.
- To seek every means of creating widespread understanding of commercial and noncommercial theatre and the contribution each can render to the American culture.
During its comparatively short existence, the Texas Educational Theatre Association has made significant contributions to the development of the national educational theatre. The Minimum Criteria Policy originated in and was first implemented by TETA. The Southwest Theatre Association and the American Theatre Association adopted the criteria without revision. It formed the basis for what was to become the Minimum Criteria Policy for the National Association of Schools of Theatre. It was a TETA committee which labored for several years to formulate a Play Selection Policy. The unique plan was approved by leading play publishers and has been adopted by the Southwest Theatre Association and the former American Theatre Association.
The Association played a significant role in establishing the Texas Fine Arts Commission. For several years, appointed representatives called upon the Texas Governor in person and urged that Texas join the growing number of states which had formed similar organizations. The Commission was approved by the Legislature in 1966, and TETA members occupied important posts and the program of the Commission's first state convention.
Since its founding in 1951, the Texas Educational Theatre Association, Inc. and its Committee on Academic and Production Standards have sought constantly to improve the status of drama and its teaching in Texas public schools and colleges. Thus, TETA eagerly accepted the invitation of the Texas Education Agency to collaborate in the preparation of the following proposals, all of which were officially adopted in 1966 and are now in effect:
- Require Texas teaching training institutions to provide a certification program for teaching drama equivalent to those currently in effect for other high school subjects. Prospective teaching to complete at least 24 semester hours in drama along with 24 semester hours in another teaching field. College departments must offer at least 24 semester hours of drama content courses. Provide a plan whereby drama teachers currently certified, but with deficiencies in drama, may meet new drama teacher certification requirements.
- Establish a Fine Arts Program for secondary schools which will include art, drama, music and dance. Appoint a Program Director of Fine Arts and Consultants in art, drama, music, and dance to assist schools in the promotion of each subject.
- Transfer high school drama courses from the Language Arts program to the Fine Arts program.
- Remove the requirement that students must take a speech course before enrolling in Drama 1.
Texas thus became the first state to provide for secondary school drama teacher certification and accreditation and to establish drama as a separate subject in a fine arts program in junior and senior high school curricula. When the Texas State Legislature mandated a required examination of teachers being certified for secondary school teaching, it was a committee composed primarily of TETA members from elementary, middle, secondary, and university level schools which prepared the Examination for Certification of Educators in Texas (ExCet) in the field of Theatre Arts. This examination was first administered in 1988.
The Texas Educational Theatre Association course outlines in Introduction to Theatre, Acting, Voice and Diction, Technical Production, Stage Make-Up, Directing, and History of Theatre have been prepared and distributed to all Texas college theatre departments and to numerous theatre organizations in other states. The outlines are kept up-to-date by committees which make regular revisions. They are then reviewed by all members of the Association whenever further refinements are made. Thus, they are representative of the best thinking and teaching practices of most of the college theatre instructors in Texas. Students of TETA Institutional Member Schools who complete such courses are able to transfer them to other TETA colleges or universities without loss of credit.
The need for secondary school drama teachers' organization became apparent as the demand for drama increased in junior and senior high schools. The Texas Secondary Theatre Conference was founded in 1964. It affiliated at once with TETA. Its meetings were held at the time of the TETA annual convention.
The Texas Creative Dramatics-Children's Theatre Conference was founded at the TETA convention at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos in 1972. It affiliated at once with TETA.
At the February 1977 meeting of the Texas Educational Theatre Association, the basic structure of the organization was changed. The affiliates, Texas Secondary Theatre Conference and Texas Creative Dramatics-Children's Theatre Conference, were disbanded as organizations within TETA. In order that these groups would have equal representation with community/junior college and university/college members, four sections were formed to represent special interest groups:
- University/College Section
- Community/Junior College Section
- Secondary School Section
- Child Drama Section
The Constitution and By-Laws were amended in 1977 and a new policy of minimum criteria for secondary schools was written.
As the Texas Educational Theatre Association grew in membership and as conditions in educational theatre within the state changed, it became apparent that a reassessment of the mission and purposes of TETA was needed. Therefore, a Strategic Planning Committee was appointed to study the situation in 1988, and in 1989, the Constitutional and By-Laws were further revised. Under the new constitution, the mission and objectives of the organization have been restated as follows:
The Mission of The Association is the support, promotion, and expansion of educational theatre by providing quality educational opportunities, a network for resources, support, and expansion, a base for advocacy, and a forum for establishing standards, programs, and projects in order to celebrate the importance of theatre arts in the human experience.
The Objectives of the Association are:
- To promote vigorously the development and continuation of high quality theatre programs in Texas schools , colleges, and universities.
- To cooperate with appropriate agencies in obtaining further recognition of theatre as an art, of educational theatre as an essential part of the curriculum Texas educational institutions, and to encourage the employment of qualified teachers.
- To encourage the writing and production of plays and research in theatre history and dramatic literature, theory, and criticism.
- To exchange theories and practices about producing plays, organizing theatre departments and curricula, and constructing effective theatre buildings.
- To increase appreciation and encouragement of quality theatre.
- To secure funds to support the growth and development of the Association and to promote increased contributing memberships.
- To increase public respect and support for theatre arts and for the Texas Educational Theatre Association as a professional organization.
- To seek every means of creating widespread understanding and encouragement of commercial and non-commercial theatre and the contribution of each to the American culture.
The various sections were consolidated into two sections, and each section is represented on the TETA Board of Directors:
- Kindergarten-Grade 12: Includes interest groups in kindergarten, elementary, junior/middle school and secondary schools, and creative dramatics and children's theatre.
- College-University: Includes interest groups in Junior/Community Colleges, and Colleges and universities.
In carrying out the above mandates, TETA has added a variety of activities to its endeavors. Working with the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Creative Dramatics Network of the K-12 Section sponsors training sessions throughout the state for elementary teachers. The Teacher training Network works specifically with the College/University section to promote improved training to theatre specialists for the public schools. In 1989, the Texas Educational Theatre Association, in cooperation with the University Interscholastic League, formed the TETA Adjudicator's Organization which is charged with the training and evaluation of judges for the UIL sponsored One-Act Play Contests. TETA is also active throughout the state through its publication, advocacy, scholarships auditions, workshops, and the encouragement of scholarly research and publication.
Membership in the Texas Educational Theatre Association is open to all who work or teach in the non-commercial theatre of Texas. The annual convention is held in late January or early February.