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Theatre Season Overview

WISDAA has offered One-Act Play contests since 1930, and a state festival with expanded programming since 1991. One-act contests start in mid-October with the District level, with most plays entered advancing to the Sectional level in late-October/early-November. Plays earning the required threshold scores move on to the State level, always held the weekend before Thanksgiving. We also administer the Educational Theatre Association’s individual, duet, and small group Thespy contests. An “open” practice Thespy contest is held entirely online, with adjudicators asynchronously appraising pre-recorded performances or portfolio presentations; the State-level Thespy contest is held both in-person at the State Festival (alongside one-acts) as well as virtually.

Mid/late September

Initial Registration Opens

Early/mid October

District Festivals
Virtual District

Mid/late October

Open/Practice
Virtual Thespys

Late October/Early November

Sectional Festivals
Virtual Sectional

Mid/late November (Thursday-Saturday before Thanksgiving)

State Festival (One Acts + Thespys)
Virtual State

Membership + Director #

Schools must be members of our Association to participate in the One-Act Play contest; membership is not required for the Thespy contest or to attend the State Festival, though discounts are extended to member schools. All schools must designate an employee or vetted (background-checked) volunteer to direct/supervise students. The director is the administrative contact for registering, making arrangements for the squad to participate (such as traveling to contests), and supervises students at contests. They also teach tactics of performing and producing as well as guiding the ensemble on creating a meaningful work of theatrical art.

Eligibility #

One-Act Play Contest #

Production Elements #

  • The entire performance — including setup and strikedown; from bare stage to bare stage — must happen within 40 minutes. Timing begins from when the first foot, prop, or scenery comes onto the stage, and until the last one leaves.
  • Set/set pieces – varies from minimalist to sophisticated and assembled by stagehands or cast members during the performance with choreographed precision
  • Costuming/makeup/props
  • Contest performance venues provide lighting and sound – flexibility and adaptability are key!

Same Play, Different Casts #

Yes, since this would allow working with smaller cohort groups/pods.  This is allowed, irrespective of whether one show is in person and the other is virtual. Schools may submit the same show with different casts and should title them differently (e.g., The Tempest, Cast A; The Tempest, Cast B). Each cast would be evaluated on its own merits. A school is still limited to just one in-person one-act entry at each level (District, Sectional, State), and actors may not appear in more than one play (though technical crew may be shared).

Contest Dates/Locations #

WISDAA district and section chairs report to the State Office One-Act festival dates/locations.


Each school’s coach accesses the WISDAA One-Act Theatre Registration in SpeechWire and notes scheduling preferences for their assigned festivals. From this time until about 2-3 weeks before the first WISDAA festival they will attend, coaches may log back in and make changes to registration, until the cutoff date for changes set by the festival host. The State Office will “push” entry data to that festival host (and will later push entries to the second festival level). A school may enter one or more plays, but only one may perform in-person; other play(s) may be video recorded and submitted for asynchronous, virtual evaluation.

  • District festivals happen early/mid-October
  • Sectional festivals happen late October-early November
  • State is always the Thursday-Saturday before Thanksgiving in November

Middle Level schools may perform at the same festivals as high schools in their geographic region.

One-act plays are not compared to/ranked against one another; each performance is evaluated on its own merits.

Scores to Advance #

  • District: high school plays must earn an average score of at least 1.5 from at least two of three adjudicators. All middle level plays advance from District to Sectional.
  • Sectional: to advance to the State level, any play must earn an average score of at least 2.3 from at least two of three adjudicators.
  • State: average ratings of at least 2.67 by at least two of four adjudicators determine school awards; nomination of actors by at least two adjudicators determines acting awards. Coaches have a brief window on the Monday-Tuesday following sectionals to confirm State participants.

Thespys #

In addition to, or in place of One-Act play participation, a school may participate in the Thespy contests administered by WISDAA. Students can participate in both one-acts and Thespys.

State Festival #

The State Festival is a tremendous learning experience, and schools who do not advance one-acts are still strongly encouraged to attend, where their students can watch other shows, and participate in other workshops and activities. Past non-qualifying schools who have gone to State report a renewed vigor by students, excited to push themselves further, the following year.

Important Pages #

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Updated on 01/02/2024
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