As a new troupe director and theatre instructor with only two sections of theatre, plus two other preps for Creative Writing and a reading class, I’d like to say I was entirely pro-active in responsibly planning for the school year 2013/2014 with rigorous, academic and engaging instruction across all my content areas. I’d like to say that I read around as much as I could, and was able to judiciously select only the relevant materials from which to start building the school’s drama program, and have an amazing, hassle-free and stress free first year, smug in the satisfaction of a job well done.
Unfortunately, summer happened.
Summer brought with it a slew of other responsibilities, the primary one being that I spend essential and needed time with my really rather incredibly fun family. I also spent a month as a facilitator for the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project, mentoring teachers in the teaching of writing and earning a small crust for what is incredibly satisfying, rewarding and energizing work. But I still didn’t get around to planning my year out.
I am in a very fortunate position in my school; the previous drama instructor and troupe director still teaches at the school we work in. This is a massive blessing, and if you are a new troupe director, if it so happens that you have this same circumstance, then please be savvy and use it! For me, it was an essential resource that helped me begin to start wrapping my head around just how big the role of troupe director actually is.
So far, the list of responsibilities I have pieced together is thus: maintain an active troupe (hoping that the last two troupe directors paid their dues for the previous two years – ask me how I know this is something you should do); keep a record of active members and the points they attain during the course of a year; pray for someone to invent a really clever app that helps you keep an accurate record of members points; sit down with a thespian troupe officer you trust who can remember everyone who ever did a play and what they did for the last three years to work out their missing points (ask me how I know this is something you should do); work out how on earth a sound and/or lighting system works; coach and encourage students to participate in Individual Events competitions; participate in your district One Act Festival; jolly up students to attend the State Festival; produce two or three plays a year (or, as I’m reading on the community pages, up to 10); plan, write and execute an engaging theatre curriculum that balances theory and practicum; manage your theatre budget (if you have one); find alternative funding; promote your shows; fundraise; beg, borrow (but don’t steal) and absolutely do not lose anything that you manage to beg or borrow (ask me how I know this), find ways to encourage community involvement; direct students and manage teen moods and attitudes through a three month period for each show; exercise; elect officers for the troupe and encourage them to build the program with you and fundraise; and somewhere in there, you probably need to teach.
It is a very overwhelming list, and I think I only scratch the surface! The hardest part of the job for me has been to create the curriculum that I teach. Unlike our district’s English curriculum, where there is a mandated text book, a pacing calendar, and all the materials you need to deliver the curriculum, all I had to go on was a list of words that the students should know.
A list of words the students should know. Yikes.
I’ll return to what I did about the curriculum in a future post; suffice it to say, I have been told to extend a lot of grace to myself in light of the fact that this is my first year. But as someone who wants to be excellent at this, so that my students get the full benefit of being involved with a theatre arts program, I feel I short changed my students in the classroom this year. As I say, I’ll return to that in a future post.
My general problem is an all-or-nothing attitude; I plough a lot of my excitement and enthusiasm into whatever I am doing, sometimes wanting to sprint before I can ably crawl. The best advice I can offer for new troupe directors is to work out the priorities, and that will vary depending on the kind of person you are. Personally, I feel that the classroom instruction needs to be as good as the extra-curricular experience, and will be working toward making that better next year. It would definitely be wise to take advantage of the EdTA community, as there is so much wisdom available from so many passionate and dedicated practitioners of the theatre arts. Tackle one thing at a time, and take on what you can manage. The biggest thing I can take away from this year is that learning what this role encompasses takes time.
This summer, I have a better list of books (check out the helpful discussion: http://schooltheatre.org/community/viewdiscussions/viewthread/?GroupId=133&MID=2294 ) and a definite plan of study and practice for next year’s classes. I have some of my shows selected for the next three years (by that I mean my children want to do the 'Shrek' musical), and I have a super-charged President-in-waiting for my Troupe who is going to blow it out the water, thanks to the wonderful workshop hosted by the ITOs at the Florida State Thespian Festival. This summer, I will plan better in order to have an amazing, hassle-free and stress free second year as a troupe director, smug in the satisfaction of a job well done.
Then again, summer might happen.