Open Forum

Performance Policies

  • 1.  Performance Policies

    Posted 12-14-2018 11:22
    Hi, friends-
    Does anyone have an example of their Performing Arts Department Policy in regards to performance choices and content that they'd be willing to share?
    As we're currently in the holiday season, we grapple with choices about which music to include in music programs; in the current political climate, we consider #metoo and consider how our choices in musical theatre might be perceived by an audience.
    I am certain that having educational philosophy and departmental policy would help ​our educators and administrators feel secure in making, and standing by, these choices, whilst also helping an audience member with questions about the content of any given performance understand more clearly.
    Some examples of questions from audience: is theatre or music influenced from a biblical story (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) appropriate in a secular setting?  Does 'Anything Goes' 'Oklahoma' or 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' have a place on the modern stage, given the explicit or implicit use of racism? What about 'How to Succeed in Business', with its sexism? If these shows are produced, how do departments 'get ahead' of issues by educating the audience even before the director's notes in the program come out?
    (These are questions that get filtered through to me as the Director of Theatre, not my personal questions).
    Thanks, everyone!

    Nicole Tremblay
    Director of Theater
    Indianapolis IN

  • 2.  RE: Performance Policies

    Posted 12-17-2018 11:40
    Edited by Janet Cain 12-17-2018 11:40
    I am hoping people will answer this.  As far as I know, our district has no official policy and it desperately needs one.  Our high school musical has just been cancelled and it could have been prevented if we had a content policy and approval procedure.

    Janet Cain
    Cincinnati OH

  • 3.  RE: Performance Policies

    Posted 12-17-2018 12:29
    Edited by George Ledo 12-17-2018 13:01
    Sorry, but as a non-teacher I want to weigh in on this.

    This recent trend of hiding the past (and hiding reality), IMHO, has gone totally out of whack, but it seems that a small minority of people are the ones making the most noise.

    Should we stop teaching history because of all the wars? A good chunk of Western history was shaped by wars. Should we totally gloss over WWII because of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the Japanese? That period leads right into a study of the Korean War, Viet Nam, and the modern era. Should we stop teaching about Prohibition and the Depression because of the poverty and the increase in organized crime? Should we stop teaching about the medieval period and the Industrial Revolution because of the feudal systems (which are actually starting to re-surface today)?

    How about movies? Songs? Novels? Literature in general. Art? Gawd, look at all those naked statues. Geez, even the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has naked people. Should we cover that up to avoid offending a few people (who don't even need to go there if they don't want to)?

    Which brings to mind: personally I find a number of talk shows, news programs, reality shows, and similar TV fare highly offensive and condescending. I just don't watch them. A simple, older-generation response.

    It's really easy to complain -- gets easier all the time -- but a lot of times the complaints are based on an assertive lack of understanding, or what I call "arrogant ignorance." I've run into this a million times all over the place, including scene shops and profit-making businesses: "I don't know anything about this subject but I'm too arrogant to admit it, let alone to learn anything about it. So I'll make noise."

    I so often see posts here to the effect of, Gee, we want to do [some huge musical] but don't have either the voices nor the technical resources. Or Gee, we want to do this show but it might offend (a few people) in our conservative community. Being from an older generation, my answer to something like that is simple: just do another show. But putting together a "policy" that defines and accounts for what might be offensive to a few people is just painting yourself into a corner: not only are you setting a precedent for the rest of the school, but you're also opening that policy up to further revisions, to the point where eventually you might not be able to do ANY shows.

    An older-generation response to your question might be to start from scratch: put those questions aside for the moment (you can't possibly respond to all of them) and look around at charters and mission statements from other (non-school) theatres. See what they're about, what they do, and why they do it. Web sites can be a good source for this. If your school is going to train kids for the professional theatre world (whether they choose to go there or not), then it needs to understand what pro theatre is all about. Put together a mission statement that addresses the teaching and the training for the real world and doesn't kowtow to everyone who comes along wanting to set their own rules.

    Sorry if this sounds over-bearing, but sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses instead of just cutting them down because a few people are bothered by the thorns.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer

  • 4.  RE: Performance Policies

    Posted 01-09-2019 10:06
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I am 100% with you. I was hoping as other schools will have had similar challenges, there may already have been a written policy that I could use as a template.

    I think when a department and school feel confident about why we feel work is important, and educationally sound, both because of the challenges that it may present, as well as the artistic merits that it offers students, then we wouldn't have to constantly be wiping the proverbial sweat off our brows and clutching at our pearls...

    I appreciate everyone's response, and I will continue my research and start writing policy!

    Nicole Tremblay
    Director of Theater
    Indianapolis IN

  • 5.  RE: Performance Policies

    Posted 12-18-2018 11:57

    Take it as a learning curve now.  Run everything by your principal first.  We have a very difficult approval process in my district.  It was set in place because too many chose to go too far.  I understand what people say about being able to do the kind of material we want, but we do work for school districts and we have to fall under what they deem is appropriate for the students.  Are there plays and musicals I would like to do but can't- oh, yes, but that happens everywhere.  Not all theatres let you do whatever you want in fact most don't.  You play to your audiences expectations of the theatres they support and that is all the way down the line from Broadway to first grade.  If it bothers you enough, find someplace that more fits your ideals.  I'm sorry your play was cancelled and I hope you are able to replace it with something else for the sake of your students. 


    Break a leg and may all your theatre seats be filled,


    Kelly M. Thomas

    Department of Theatre

    Dr. Ralph H. Poteet High School

    3300 Poteet Drive

    Mesquite, Texas 75150




  • 6.  RE: Performance Policies

    Posted 01-09-2019 12:39
    Sorry to hear that, Janet. Which musical was it? I'll keep in touch if I get any further with policies and procedures!

    Nicole Tremblay
    Director of Theater
    Indianapolis IN