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More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

  • 1.  More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-01-2020 12:58
    Hi All. As I'm thinking about next year's shows, I was reminded of a small-cast play that is really funny, but with the current configuration of my program, it really isn't feasible to do a small cast show. For longer than I've been here, we do a fall play and a spring musical. Pretty standard, I guess. We have a high enough interest level that I try to do medium to large cast sizes (13 min for 12 Angry Men up to 25 or 30 or Argonautika). I try to alternate as well, since even a dozen is tough on a lot of kids. So doing a play with 6 or 7 would be an even bigger disappointment to a lot of kids. Here is Nairobi, we don't have any one act competitions or anything like that, so that isn't an extension option.

    For those of you who do more shows than this per year and are able to get in some choice small cast shows, what is your schedule like? How do you make that work?

    Steven Slaughter
    Rosslyn Academy
    Nairobi, Kenya

    "Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." - W Berry

  • 2.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-02-2020 00:53
    Edited by Laura Steenson 02-02-2020 00:54
    We do 3-5 shows per year.  Three are adult directed - musical, main stage play, and spring black box play (typically smaller show).  Generally the musical goes late August through early November, the main stage is December through February, and the spring play is March through mid May.

    Some years we do 1-2 student directed (generally a pair of seniors) children's shows.  This year, my black box show is 6-7 characters - smaller than I usually do - and it is rehearsing at the same time as a children's show that is directed by an alum, who is doing it for college credit.  This way, 25-30 kids are in a show - it's just that 6ish of them will be in one show while the rest are in the other.  The shows perform 2 weeks apart.

    Laura Steenson
    Theatre Director
    Reynolds High School
    Troutdale OR

  • 3.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-02-2020 10:24
    We do a show about every 7 weeks at our school.
    My favorite theatre schedule is- Start the first week of school with a big fall play.  We put it up in about 6/7 weeks. Then we do a small cast winter show about 6/7 weeks after that, then we do the big Spring Musical about 3 months later, and finally a medium sized Spring show about 6 weeks after that.
    We could do two musicals if we wanted as well.
    It keeps us pretty busy, but does allow for lots of opportunities for students.

    Brooke Phillips
    Teacher/Director of Theatre
    Millard West High School
    Co Chapter Director-Nebraska Thespians

  • 4.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-03-2020 07:11
    Hi Steven,
    At my current school we produce 4 mainstage plays and 2-3 smaller productions/one-night-only events.  It can be a challenge and I don't think this works at every school.  The most I've been able to produce at one school was 8 shows, that was 4 musicals and 4 plays, but let me explain HOW.

    First, several shows are produced from a class.  We rehearse only during class and the only after school time is a few days of tech or maybe an odd rehearsal.  That's the secret.  While I'm rehearsing the extra-curricular productions after school, I'm rehearsing the co-curricular productions during the day.  Then all I need is performance time slots and some tech.  I choose low-tech shows for classroom productions and we make it work.

    At my most insane, I was working one production after-school, and two productions during the day and producing at least one show every month.  I HIGHLY recommend you do NOT do that.  It was fun.  Once.  Never again:)

    Nathan Shewell
    Theatre Arts Director

  • 5.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-03-2020 09:30
    A collection of one-acts is your solution. The numbers for casting add up, and the projects can be student directed (if they're up to that), even student-produced so you don't have to do all the logistical stuff (trust but verify...!). Simple sets. There's a ton of material out there. Require proposals to vet the best shows/production teams. Six weeks should be plenty of time even if they are alternating who's rehearsing where/when.  We did these for years in the winter slot...then moved to post-spring-musical when our middle school (same building) started doing full musicals and using the HS kids to do most of the tech.

    Douglas "Chip" Rome
    Theatre Consultant
    Educational Stages
    Burke VA

  • 6.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-03-2020 09:42
    I just started this year with student directed one acts.  We scheduled "An Evening of One Acts" and performed three one act shows in an evening.  The student directors for all three cast together so we spread the opportunity around and made sure we could give everyone a chance to appear on stage that wanted to do so.  I was skeptical because we are a middle school, but they really rose to the challenge.

    Amy MacCord
    Musical Theatre Teacher
    Hawthorne FL

  • 7.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-03-2020 14:20
    Hi Steven,

    It sounds like your set up might be similar to mine.   Private school where you are the only full-time director?   We also do a fall play and spring musical - of which I direct both (we have a part time tech director).   Our school just built a new black box theatre and I wanted to start adding programming for smaller cast shows in there.   I had to do something unconventional since I didn't have the time to add one more show to my school year schedule.   I did a show using only seniors in a small cast show (Silent Sky), cast it in June,  blocked it/rehearsed it for two weeks in July and one week in December and performed it in January...the rest (staying up on memorization/character work) they did on their own.   Moving forward we just got approved to make smaller cast shows into a class that students audition for/along with the theatre class prerequisites for it.   This way I have time to do more shows that are smaller cast shows and then save the bigger cast shows for extra-curricular time.

    Student or alumni directed show are also options as is doing a collection of one-acts.

    Pamela Hurt
    Plano TX

  • 8.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-03-2020 15:12
    This year, we did a large cast fall show and will do a smaller cast early spring show and an in-house one-act play festival in late spring that students write and direct. I try to emphasize that the fall show is the "get your feet wet/join the ensemble/there's a place for everyone" kind of production whereas the spring show is for students who want to push themselves which makes casting more competitive. To make sure there's still something for the majority of kids to participate in, we do the one-act play festival which, depending on how many plays and how many roles there are, can ensure plenty of opportunities for everyone year-round without as much commitment.

    We are also attempting Nathan's idea of rehearsing a smaller show in-class at the same time as another show. I teach MS and HS, so HS rehearses after school and MS rehearses in class. So far it's a bit stressful directing two shows at once, but the structure is working. MS is taking it nice and slow in class, but will pick up once the HS show is over. In the past, we have tried a 3 show season: one fall play, one winter children's play, and one spring play. All varied in size and type, but something for everyone. In the end, I think you have to ask yourself what the students need and offer what you can without killing yourself. What you need matters, too. :)

    Maralie Medlin
    Director of Fine Arts
    Gaston Christian School
    Gastonia, NC

  • 9.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-03-2020 17:46
    I too am the only director at the school and we have to share our performance space with a study hall after school that only allows two weeks of stage time for even our full musicals. It’s a challenge, but we’ve managed to use alternative locations and still do four shows a year.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 10.  RE: More Than Two Shows: How Do You Make It Work?

    Posted 02-05-2020 23:44

    Now is a great time to plan for fall. It would also be helpful to map out a 1-3-5 year plan to see where you would like your program to go, and how you want to see it grow. You may find that adding more shows isn't the best way to get to your end goal.

    We do 8-10 shows per year. Most of them are co-curricular, and many of them are audition only shows and we have the class lists set the April before so we can plan our season.

    I agree with the suggestions about adding one acts. We have a very popular Student Directed One Act Festival-usually three 30 minute shows that all run on 1-2 full weekends. It's a great way to mentor student directors, get lots of kids involved, and, while present for rehearsals, you can be free to handle other theatre business while the student directors work. This does take lots of training and close monitoring of your young directors.

    Another way to add a MainStage show is to hire a community based or alumni director. We do this for at least one show a year. They are board approved as a walk on coach (finger prints and all) so they can be alone with students. It's a great opportunity for your kids to work with another director, to add a show, and it doesn't add to your directing load. However, regular communication is vital and you end up as the Producing Director (along with other duties). When using a guest director I select my best PSM and TD as these are the two who I count on to be the communication link between the director and myself. When using an alumni I've found it to be smooth as they already understand the program and how we operate.

    Krista Carson Elhai
    CA Educational Theatre Association, Past President
    CA Thespians Director of Membership & New Teacher Outreach
    Theatre Chair Claremont HS
    An International Baccalaureate World School
    Claremont CA