Alpha Psi Omega, the collegiate dramatics honorary fraternity, was founded August 12, 1925, at Fairmont State Normal School, now Fairmont State University. The Masquers, the college drama club, under the direction of Paul F. Opp of the English faculty, created the Alpha cast (chapter) of APO to honor student excellence in theater and to promote theater education. The fraternity’s national faculty officers included E. Turner Stump of Marshall College (now Marshall University) as president, and Opp as secretary and editor of the APO publication, The Playbill. The national office was with Opp at Fairmont State.
In 1929 Alpha Psi Omega created both Delta Psi Omega, a junior college branch, chartering 53 colleges the first year, and the National (now International) Thespian Society, the high school dramatics honorary. Opp, at the suggestion of an APO member from Casper, Wyoming, developed the Thespians. He was assisted by Ernest Bavely and by East Fairmont High School dramatics director Harry Leeper, both Monongah natives and former Fairmont State students. The Thespians’ publication, The High School Thespian (now Dramatics magazine) was edited by Leeper. He also designed the insignia, which is still in use. The second and third Thespian troupes (chapters) were at Fairmont Senior High School and East Fairmont High School.
The offices of APO, DPO, and the Thespians moved from Fairmont State to Canada in the fall of 1929, as Opp took leave to pursue a doctorate at the University of Toronto. In 1930, Bavely became the Thespians’ national secretary, moving the national office to Weir High School, Weirton, where he taught. Two years later Bavely moved the headquarters to Cincinnati, where it remains. Bavely was Thespians national secretary until his death in 1950. When Opp came back to Fairmont State, the headquarters for APO, DPO, and The Playbill returned to Fairmont, where it remained until Opp’s 1966 retirement as secretary and editor.
Alpha Psi Omega now lists 640 casts in the United States and abroad. Delta Psi Omega lists 285 casts. The International Thespian Society lists 3,200 troupes with an aggregate membership of nearly 2 million. The Junior Thespians have 222 troupes.
This Article was written by JoAnn Lough
Last Revised on December 08, 2010
Garner, Dwight. 50 Years of Alpha Psi Omega. The Playbill, (October 1975).
Opp, Paul F. Alpha Psi Omega Sponsors Formation of Two New Honor Societies. The Playbill, (September 1929).