Open Forum

Season Scheduling

  • 1.  Season Scheduling

    Posted 22 days ago
    Edited by Blake Wilson 22 days ago

    I'm trying to decide how to schedule/slot my shows for the Fall/Winter and would love some insights.  It's a rather complicated question, so if you have the time/patience to read the details, I hope you'll respond.

    First, here is the context:
    -This is a rebuilding year for me, so my core group of returning students is small and almost entirely female-identifying. I'm hoping to rebuild.
    -It's only my 2nd year at this school and we only did one show before COVID hit, so the kids don't know me as well yet.  We did some smaller projects during COVID, so again...I'm not as well known around the school yet.
    -My first show slot would be at the end of October (it's our festival/competition piece, dates not negotiable).
    -2nd Show would need to be in early January after winter break.

    For the shows, I'm looking at The Outsiders (mostly male-identifying cast) and to balance that, I'd like to do Men on Boats (mostly women/trans/nonbinary cast)

    So here are the factors I'm wrestling with:
    1) My core group of strongest, most consistent returning students is mostly female, so I'd like to give them a good opportunity (I think Men on Boats would be a great vehicle for that)
    2) I would like to use the Outsiders, a more known title, as a way to recruit new students, particularly male-identifying, and to be able to show it to our feeder schools....the kids read the book in middle school.
    3) I think Men on Boats would be a better festival piece, as it would showcase our stronger, more experienced actors and because I have a better idea of who will audition for it....but I'm concerned that if I do The Outsiders later in the year, I will miss out on being able to recruit new students right out of the gate before they get tied up in other activities.

    So the question boils down to:
    - Should i just do The Outsiders as the first slot festival piece, for recruitment purposes, even though I'm taking more of a gamble on it in terms of casting?
    - Or should I do Men on Boats as the festival piece to capitalize on the stronger actors?...and just take the risk of doing The Outsiders as my January show, knowing that it may complicate recruiting somewhat....and it would also mean that no male actors would be participating in the festival show.

    Would love to hear thoughts.  Thanks for reading.  (I'm also open to doing other shows., but these are the ones I'm looking at most strongly).

    Blake Wilson
    Theatre Arts Director
    Orange High School

  • 2.  RE: Season Scheduling

    Posted 21 days ago
    I think you can produce the shows in what ever order works best for you and the troupe while looking at other activities for recruitment as the year progresses.  I would just make sure to let students know that these are the shows I am considering and that while they may not have a part in this show, there are other parts available through out the year.  I also think it is important to share your vision for your program with students often as I think this can help to say to students-- this is what we are doing, you are important in that journey, and we need your help to make this program successful both on and off the stage.

    Some things that work well for me (in terms of recruitment) are that we produce some devised pieces in our honors theater class and then share those original productions (student written/produced) with feeder schools (elementary and middle) and or share those works with other classes.  Generally, we will create a short mystery for this work.  Another project we take on in class is to adapt poetry to performance.  Again, these works are student adaptations and in the case of the adapted poems, they are shared with students during their library class time at the elementary schools as part of direct instruction.  I think both of these projects help us to build our program as they are simple to produce; can be completed in class or in short order after school or on a Saturday (workshop day); and tend to involve a lot of students-- 25 to 30.  These projects can build technical skills as well through the whole production team, so I think they offer a lot of potential to build programming.

    All this is to say, that I think you can produce the shows in the order that best works for you and then look to some other simple production tasks to build out your program and offer more opportunities to students.  Maybe take a Tuesday off from rehearsal each week, if you are working after school, and work on other projects.  Perhaps a ten minute play would work well, and this work could be performed as part of a parent "pizza night" -- invite parents in to a pizza dinner and a show-- or -- create a make and take and bake pizza night and perform the ten minute play after everyone's picked up their orders.

    I think there are a lot of possibilities.

    Hope that is helpful

    Michael Johnson
    Trinity High School

  • 3.  RE: Season Scheduling

    Posted 20 days ago
    Everyone in the world of theatre is in a rebuilding year. You are not alone. This is going to take time and effort to bring back live theatre. It's struggling on all levels, everywhere. We as guardians of the art must provide an atmosphere of safety, experience, and fortitude. We still have leaps and bounds to come back from the pandemic.


    You've got some good suggestions.


    You've got a lot to think about.

    There are two elements to live theatre: performance and audience. And we have to build both. We can't just jump back and let it all just go back to the way it was because that's not realistic and has the potential to spread the virus.

    That being said, I can see your look at two small shows. But in my opinion not great choices for high school theatre right now. You are really segregating your actors in mostly boys and mostly girls. While Men in Boats is certainly brilliant for an adult cast and mature audience, it is not a great vehicle for most high schools and children performers.

    Kids love kids stuff. I know for your competition play you probably want something more edgy and dramatic. You might look at: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Silent Sky, Sending Down the Sparrows, Steel Magnolia, The Girl in the White Pinafore, Bog Of Cats, The Lost Boy, Blue Stockings, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek. (Many of these are girl heavy)

    In January you might try a bigger show. More fun. Name recognition. Look at the Broadway Junior Series and see if one of the junior musicals might fit your group. They are easier to produce overall, especially if you don't have a lot of experience with musicals. The big thing with them is they will have draw on both sides for performers and audience. Look at a fun old classic like: Harvey, Arsenic and Old Lace, You Can't Take it With You, Dracula, Frankenstein.

    I've been doing theatre both professionally and academically for over forty years. I have taught both high school and junior high school. And kids are still kids. They will get behind almost anything you lead them to. Parents are still parents and they are your support and your stopping wall. They are the ones that can make and break you. Pick material that will please and not offend both sides of that fence.

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

  • 4.  RE: Season Scheduling

    Posted 20 days ago
    Ditto to Kelly. I agree that you need something bigger to appeal to both audiences and performers. If you're concerned about the mix of male and female, you might want to look at something with flexible casting like "Almost, Maine," where actors could double roles.

    Jean Klein
    Playwriting Teacher in MFA program, Wilkes University]

  • 5.  RE: Season Scheduling

    Posted 20 days ago
    Edited by Blake Wilson 20 days ago

    Hi Jean-  Thank you for your insights and feedback.   I'll provide a little bit more context in case you have additional thoughts:  A musical, as some have suggested to me, is not really an option for us right now for a variety of reasons, so the piece(s) need to be non-musical.

    My reasons for looking at The Outsiders are as follows:
    -Our feeder middle school students read the novel, so the title will be well known to many of our students and we would have an easy tie-in to invite middle school students to attend the show.
    -The play deals with class and other it has a social relevance while still being a known title.
    - The cast calls for 18 named roles and has room for expanding to add extras, which is a good size for us.
    - As I mentioned, I'm trying to recruit male-identifying actors ..and I'd like a show that they can easily see themselves in, especially since I am trying to reach out to many students who don't always do theatre.  Not simply shows that have a few male parts, but something where the content will more directly appeal to them.

    But, yes, I do have some concern that the bulk of significant roles in The Outsiders are typically cast as male (although I'm open to casting flexibly and inclusively if I can get permission from the publisher to change some pronouns).  So the idea for Men on Boats as a companion piece would be to offer some balance by having roles explicitly defined by the writer as NOT for cis-males.  I think content-wise, with some minor language tweaks, it would be appropriate for our community.

    I'm open to considering other shows, or even just one large cast non-musical, but it's important to me to choose shows that provide some challenge and/or have some meaning.  I really try not to just do shows just because they check some boxes.   That said, it doesn't all need to be heavy drama, though.

    Anyway, with that additional context, let me know if you have additional thoughts


    Blake Wilson
    Theatre Arts Director
    Orange High School

  • 6.  RE: Season Scheduling

    Posted 21 days ago
    Two cents: as someone who is new to your school and students, I'd recommend capitalizing on your returning, tried and true students first. They will appreciate this and (hopefully) help you recruit for future productions.

    Best wishes,

  • 7.  RE: Season Scheduling

    Posted 21 days ago
    Hi Blake,

    Your plans will work fine.  Don't stress.  Here's one additional thing to consider: for all students, especially cis-gendered boys, bright, shiny trophies are a great recruitment tool.

    I have written often about my love/hate relationship with dramatic competitions. While my students have had great success in these events over the years, I would still rather focus on the joys, challenges, and practical applications of the work rather than the stress of competition.  But, as we all learn in time, these events do have practical, long-term benefits.  Most significantly, a trophy brings interest and support.  Winning (or placing high in the rankings) can be a boon.

    Therefore, if your looking to build your program and attract more male identifying kids, I would opt for the competition piece that has the greatest likelihood of winning.  If that is "Men On Boats" (also a show I'm considering), so be it.  The great thing about that play is that it is funny and may draw some of your current high school male students.  If you are also able to produce "The Outsiders" in January AND mention to those audiences about any competitive successes you had with "Men On Boats" ... that could be a win/win.

    Break a leg!!!

    Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
    Fine Arts Head
    Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
    Tunnel Hill, GA

  • 8.  RE: Season Scheduling

    Posted 21 days ago
    This sounds like a 50-50 proposition to me--whichever order you choose, you'll wonder if you had chosen the other.

    If you're looking to building your department, you could possibly consider doing some readers' theatre nights with plays that come from a variety of sources. You can even stage some of these with a couple of rehearsals but keep book in hand. Short shorts with a punch work well for these. Not having to memorize a role will tempt those students who'd like to try theatre but have held back because of your stronger students. It also allows you to find plays that will interest students with different talents.

    Jean Klein
    Playwriting Teacher in MFA program, Wilkes University]