Open Forum

Survey of school previews

  • 1.  Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-19-2019 09:27
    Dear colleagues,

    I need your help.  Our new building principal is targeting and very likely eliminating our long-standing tradition of putting up a school day preview of our musicals/plays.  To explain, we have been fortunate to be able to charge a reduced ticket price to allow our student body to come see our productions during the last couple of class periods in the day.  We use this as our final dress rehearsal, and the cast and crew often count it as their favorite performance, since their peers are their audience.  We have just successfully pleaded our case to keep this alive at least for now, but the writing on the wall is that it will not be an option for next school year.

    When / if this change is implemented it will be a drastic hit to our budget, but that's the least of my concerns.  I'd love to go into more detail, but I don't want to take too much more of your time.

    One of the rationales being used to take this away is that "it is not something any other school does."  My new principal is citing a few area schools (two of which he used to work at) where they just don't have as good of a performing arts program, sadly.  My counter argument is that that is no reason to stop doing something good.  If anything, it makes us distinctive and gives us something to hold up that we do BETTER than anywhere else.  With this student preview show in place we can say our district is clearly in support of the performing arts.

    This is where you come in.  I would like to know if anyone / anywhere else does anything like this.  If you have a similar during-school, student-audience preview show (in full, not a "snippet") then I want to hear from you, PLEASE!  It will go a long way to continuing to advocate for being able to keep this alive here at our school.

    Thanks in advance!

    Kenneth Smith,
    English/Drama Teacher
    Yearbook & Newspaper Advisor  ITS Troupe #8489 Director  Auditorium Asst. Manager
    Lakewood High School
    7223 Velte Rd. Lake Odessa, MI 48849

  • 2.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-19-2019 10:13
    Can't specifically help with the survey; sorry.

    But I would suggest:
    (1) countering with reasoning how the preview benefits to those attending
    (2) examples of other all-school events during school hours --- should they be cut if the school day performance is cut?

    It's been a looooong time since HS for me (so perhaps this no longer occurs), but do you have all-school pep rallies? (Personally, I never grasped their purpose other than promoting the sports program and attempting to bestow icon status on athletes. But if one goal of a pep rally is to increase attendance/support it worked because I remember religiously attending Friday night football games - although more as a social event than anything else.)

    Michael McDonough
    TRW Asst VP Amateur Licensing
    New York

  • 3.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-20-2019 08:42
    We have done full preview shows in the past, but only in certain circumstances. Our fall play this year was The Crucible and we were able to arrange a full 2.5 hours in the afternoon for english teachers to voluntarily bring their classes down that were studying the play in class. Because the play was curricular my principal was onboard, but we did not charge for admission (my school is title 1 and approx. 50% on free and reduced lunch). 

    This might not be what you want to hear, but every year my principal has allowed me to do a 1 period (35 minute-ish) "snippet" preview for our musical in the spring. We choose a few musical numbers to get the students interested and I transition between songs, so they aren't lost. It keeps the kids that don't really want to be there from having their attention wander/beginning to talk and maybe opens their eyes to something they wouldn't have given a chance. Again, it is voluntary for teachers to choose to bring their classes down, but that's never an issue- we always pack the auditorium. Also, this type of preview has been very effective at getting the students to come to a full performance in the evening later in the week. (Half of our attendance for our last show, Little Shop of Horrors, was all students.) Our students then do a full dress rehearsal preview that night for family and senior citizens. 

    Good luck!

    Mr. Benjamin Cossitor
    English/Gifted Support/Drama
    Altoona Area High School
    1415 6th Ave
    Altoona, PA 16602
    (814) 505-1510 ext. 8822

  • 4.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-21-2019 08:27
    I have done in school performances (Making sure I pay for the royalties, of course) for over 25 years. Sometimes it is for the purpose of recruiting from the feeder school, sometimes it is because of the educational importance of the story, sometimes it is because a particular audience (senior citizens, early elementary, Language Arts classes) would benefit from the experience. I have not, however, charged a fee. It is not a profit performance. Recently I started doing a performance right after school of our one act competition play.  That has proven really successful in increasing student attendance at our shows. Students who normally would not come back at night stay after school and watch the show, for free.

    I am not sure I fully understand your principal's argument that "other schools in your area don't do it." It seems like he/she might have some other concern. Like does it take away from the educational time for in class work? Is he/she concerned about the cost to attend? The behavior of the student body? The loss of instructional time? The disruption to the normal routine of the day? Maybe you can find out the root issue and address that more intentionally.

    I agree that the fact that you do provide this makes your school special.

    At my school we do a fall color run and a spring 5K fundraiser for the orchestra. No other school around us does this to my knowledge. These happen during the day.  We also have a forensic day, each hour different members of the forensic team perform their piece, we have teacher Ted Talk day, and we have had days where the band and orchestra students have performed during an hour and teachers could bring their students to see/hear their performances.  All of these are wonderful and really make our school special.

    You should post your question on the Michigan Community thread as well and see how many schools in our state provide this opportunity.  I am sure your friends at Michigan Thespians would lend you support for maintaining this valuable tradition. There are so many different ways students learn, theatre performances is a wonderful way to promote differentiated instruction.

    Best of luck in keeping this alive!  Long live theatre!

    John Rutherford
    Groves Performing Arts Company
    W.E. Groves High School
    Beverly Hills MI

  • 5.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-22-2019 15:59
    I am at a medium sized school in N.E. Arkansas and we do a full length school show for both our fall play and the spring musical. We charge $2 for the kids to come and see it. If the show is age appropriate we will also do a separate show for our elementary school.

    Jeffrey Clack
    Jonesboro AR

  • 6.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-20-2019 08:47

    In my experience, previewing shows has been a regular occurrence- whether it is in a district I have taught in or one I have worked with more generally.  I have seen an urban middle school preview for its feeder elementary schools. In another example, at a rural district of about 1600 students, the high school did a preview performance for the middle school (located a block or so away so the kids could walk over), and the middle school previewed for the two elementary schools (who bussed over.) 

    Previews serve as rehearsals for our students, a means of building interest in our programs within our schools and across our district, as well as a community point of pride: As you stated, it's a visible means of declaring, "We support the performing arts."  Previews also can be an essential piece of learning for students outside  our programs. We cultivate audiences and a more general respect and support for the arts by offering these opportunities to all our kids. 

    Suzanne Katz
    Washington DC

  • 7.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-20-2019 11:01
    We've never done an in school paid performance, but when he did The Diary of Anne Frank last year, we invited our feeder school's entire 8th grade class to come see it during the school day.  They read it in their English classes the same semester we performed it, so it was a perfect extension activity for them.  Their teachers spent time prepping them for not only the content but also talked about theater etiquette, dramatic interpretation, etc.  It was also a great opportunity for a little bit of recruitment :)

    All of that to say, maybe you go to your admin with the idea of alternating every other year between something "frivolous/fun" and something more educational; align your show with what they're reading in class so on those years, you have the in school performance.  It's more difficult for admin to say no to obvious academic opportunities versus less obvious (to them) entertainment opportunities.

    Annie Rice
    Spring Hill TN

  • 8.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-20-2019 15:52
    We did this the past two years, though we don’t charge admission. It’s treated as a “field trip.”

    Our first one was for the musical “Disaster!” and we invited students to come from our adjacent middle school, as well as our school’s special ed department, to come to a performance and a talkback. We invited the special ed department for “Rent.” Due to venue issues this year, we didn’t do a school performance, but plan to put this back in place for next year.

    The school shows are important to us for a number of reasons:
    1) On opening night of the first play I directed here, I was sitting in the middle, all the way stage right, when I realized that the people around me couldn’t see the MOST IMPORTANT piece of the set! I didn’t know then about checking sightlines (which I now do obsessively). I realized that, if we had an invited audience, we could adjust.
    2) Inviting the middle school helped introduce our department to those students, most importantly the incoming 8th graders.
    3) Giving the special ed kids, who ranged from needing minor academic support to our very large Autism classes. These kids were so happy to not have to sit still and be silent for the entire production, because that was an impossibility for most of them. They were dancing in the aisles, singing along to songs they knew, and full of hugs for everybody. One of their teachers sent us a card thanking us for the experience, stating that it was amazing to see their kids just get to be themselves, without worrying about getting shushed, glared at, or removed from the performance altogether.
    4) It acts as good advertising. Kids see the show during the day and then want to bring siblings, friends, and parents back to see an evening performance.

    “Even when the dark comes crashing through-
    when you need a friend to carry you-
    when you’re broken on the ground-
    you will be found.”
    -“Dear Evan Hansen."

    Disario, Jodi
    Drama/English teacher and Director
    Willow Glen High School

  • 9.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-20-2019 23:25
    We were able to perform a school preview prior to State Competition.  Teachers could choose to send students or whole class.  We could not sell tickets.  Our auditorium doesn't hold full student body.  I feel your pain.  I have worked at a number of school districts who felt school performances showed favoritism.  However, the band and choir tour middle schools and elementary schools (where there is already a feeder program), but theatre cannot tour and there is no feeder program.

    Carol Knarr Gebert
    Jay County High School
    Portland, Indiana
    Thespian Troupe #574

  • 10.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-20-2019 23:36
    We were able to perform a school preview prior to State Competition.  Teachers could choose to send students or whole class.  We could not sell tickets.  Our auditorium doesn't hold full student body.  I feel your pain.  I have worked at a number of school districts who felt school performances showed favoritism.  However, the band and choir tour middle schools and elementary schools (where there is already a feeder program), but theatre cannot tour and there is no feeder program.

    Carol Knarr Gebert
    Jay County High School
    Portland, Indiana
    Thespian Troupe #574

  • 11.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-21-2019 11:17

    I run a program in Colorado and we also do a preview show.  In our case, we invite the middle school students to come see the full production and then hold a talk back after the show.  We only make the smallest modifications to keep the content age appropriate.  This show helps advertise the program in the middle school so that we get a larger number of incoming freshman

    In addition to the middle school, we invite our teachers to bring their students in if the want to.  The high schoolers see the first half of the show and go back to class.  We hope that gets them interested in coming to one of the performances as paying customers.

    There are a lot of schools in our area that do previews.


    Jay Kinsel
    Director of Theatre
    Centaurus High School

    Jay Kinsell
    Theatrical and Technical Director
    Erie CO

  • 12.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-21-2019 14:37
    Marine City High School in Marine City, Michigan does a Full School preview for our Spring musical. We, too, find a MULTITUDE of positive reasons to perform for our school. With so much focus on STEM and SAT prep, having an Arts encounter balances the learning experience some.

    James McCulloch
    Drama Director of Mariner Drama
    Marine City, Michigan

  • 13.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-22-2019 11:15
    We usually do this type of in school day production. We have an accelerated middle school on our campus and we invite those students to see the show. We also invite our special ed students to enjoy the show. I think it's really important for them since it may be the only time in their lives they are able to enjoy seeing a live performance. In fact, occasionally we've been able to pay for the rights and have a show just for these kids. They are able to move freely around the auditorium.

    Does you principal have pep assembly's for sports that all students are required to attend during the school day? I'd bet you do and are expected to disrupt your classes to have your kids attend. Why is this a school requirement but your play (which I'm assuming is a voluntary attendance from the teachers attending) is being removed? I'd also provide data that shows the affect this will have on your budget in the future; and provide your budget for the past 5 years and show the amount the shows cost vs how much you bring in just form that show. I'd bet your admin has no real concept of the cost that goes into producing live theatre.

    Shira Schwartz
    Chandler Unified School District
    Chandler AZ

  • 14.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-22-2019 16:33
    I can remember attending preview shows all through elementary and then performing in them in JH.  Present day, I have done a preview of our JH show for the past nine years and on occasion, our HS show does as well.  We do not charge for the preview, but I should note our school hasn't done a production with a big price tag in awhile.

    Our reasons for doing so:
    1. Its a great final "dress rehearsal" before we open to the public.  We get to work out the bugs and the kids can shake of the nerves.
    2. Its the one time our cast/crew will get to perform for a full house.  We have a 450 seat auditorium and we are lucky to get 150 people on our best night.
    3.  The school audience is often times our best audience.  For some reason, adults in our community seem afraid to have an audible reaction during our plays, so its great hearing an audience laughing at the jokes and so on.
    4. Our district is very low income.  Few kids will pay to come to our athletic events, let alone the play.  The preview show ensures that a large portion of our student body gets to see the play, regardless of financial limitations.
    5.  Being in a rural area, we have little access to the arts.  I am thankful that our admin sees this as an opportunity for our students to get some culture.
    6.  I really feel doing the preview so all of our elementary students can see it encourages future participation.

    The HS plays that have been done over the last decade have mostly been fluff, but that is poised to change with a new director for next year.  I can definitely see using the preview show, depending on what it is, to tie into a lesson and create a learning opportunity.

    I really hope you are able to keep doing your preview shows.

    Derek Friederich
    Thespian Troupe 417/Speech Coach/Jr. High Drama/Fine Arts Center Technical Director
    Postville IA

  • 15.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-23-2019 18:01
    Lots of schools do preview performances...but if I read your original post correctly, it sounds like you are charging students for the chance to come see a preview performance during class time. The "buy your way out of class" thing may well be what your new principal is objecting to. Have you offered to make previews free?

    Billy Houck
    Theatre Teacher, retired
    Carichael, CA

  • 16.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 04-24-2019 12:17
    A "preview" with an admission charge sounds like a performance to me.

    I can see how a "preview" monetarily benefits your program, but if you are not paying royalties for that performance, I can't imagine it is allowed under the provisions of your contract with the publishing company.

    In the school system where I have taught for 19 years, we are not allowed to charge anything for performances during the school day.  We have done many performances for different parts of our student body, but most of them have been of original or public domain shows.  Only once have we done a performance of a copyrighted show.  When we performed The Crucible for every 11th grade student simultaneously, we found a donor to pay the royalty for that performance.  We built the set pieces and costumes for the public performances, so it didn't cost us anything to perform for the students during the day.

    As someone who taught English as well as Drama/Theatre during the first part of my career, I know that every play or musical a student experiences live adds to the reference well which enables them to approach dramatic literature on the page.  There is value in making it possible for students to see a play or musical, even if the connection to the curriculum is not clear.  But that is a hard sell for many administrators in this time of high-stakes testing.

    I suggest that you ask other (non-theatre) teachers about the benefits they see of these school-day previews.  They might be willing to give you testimonies that you can compile to give your principal.  But you might find out that there are teachers who really resent the disruption to the class day and just haven't spoken to you about it.  If your faculty is in support of the previews, your principal might be willing to talk about other sources of funding for you, such as a PTO grant to subsidize the day performance.

    C. J. Breland
    Asheville High School
    Asheville NC

  • 17.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 07-09-2019 12:32
    In my old school in Manville, NJ, for each of my 7 years we had an In-School Show which was well received and allowed our kids to have a “Performance Dress Rehearsal”. We allowed pictures on that day so parents could get some good action shots. What was most rewarding was when the teachers said, “I see this kid in a whole new light”. That backs up the old story of: be sure to see people in their own element. Maybe you have kids that aren’t great in class or sports or behavior or are super shy, come see them in my play & see a kid going out of his/her comfort zone & is confident, etc.

    In my new a school, for 4 yrs in In School Show of Act 1 was cancelled at the last minute every year because it wasn’t “convenient”.

    Maria Stadtmueller
    Kendall Park, NJ

    Sent from my iPhone
    Once Every Woman's Favorite Actor, Now This. Guess Who!

  • 18.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 07-11-2019 10:42
    Many schools do Act 1 for free during school.  It exposes more students to live theatre, and promotes your program to students that might not otherwise know what theatre is all about, also it attracts new audience members for the night time show if it peaks someone's interest and they want to come back to see how it ends.  Lastly, it is a great last rehearsal for the actors because they get to rehearse with a live audience which changes things sometimes as you well know.  

    My previous principals had us do it 1 or 2 ways.  Either we could invite the entire school - but it was not mandatory to attend - each teacher could decide IF they wanted to attend during the specific day and class period it would be offered.  Or we would just invite the English classes since it fits with their curriculum and standards...but then we would have to do multiple performances throughout the day (which meant my actors and techies missed almost an entire day of school), but it made the admin happy that the rest of the student body wouldn't be missing their other core classes to attend.

    Good luck!  It's a good tradition to continue.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 19.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 07-11-2019 14:58

    I am allowed to do 1 performance during the school day as a promotional tool.  I am not allowed to charge for it, and each student who is missing class to perform/tech must have their teachers' permission.  The performance is then opened to our feeder schools.

    This past year we were allowed to do 2 school day performances.  All of the same rules applied, except that the second one was a performance of I Never Saw Another Butterfly and instead of being open to our feeder schools, it was open to our social studies classes.  Since it's a fairly short show, the students in the audience just missed 2 class periods.  The kids involved in the show always miss the first 4 periods (of a 7 period day).

    Laura Steenson
    Theatre Director
    Reynolds High School
    Troutdale OR

  • 20.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 07-11-2019 20:22
    Reading all these responses, I am reminded of the time we were doing an in-school production of Twelfth Night...Just before we started, an actor told me he couldn't do the performance because his math teacher was giving a test that he would not be allowed to do a make-up. The math teacher's classroom was next door to the theatre. I checked the time. I told him to get into costume, go take the test, and hopefully he would be back in time for his first entrance. So he went to take the test. Did I mention this was a period production with tights?
    Once my student was in the math class, his costume to his was too much for the other students. Or at least the math teacher thought it would negatively impact the classes' (AP!)  math skills.  The math teacher told him to "just go back to the theatre and come in to take the test at lunch."
    The show went on as scheduled, but the tale of the tights goes on forever.

    Billy Houck
    Theatre Teacher, Retired
    Carmichael, CA

    Billy Houck
    Retired Theatre Teacher
    Carmichael, CA

  • 21.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 07-12-2019 08:11
    It's sad that the teacher didn't recognize the performance as a valid part of the child's education and work with him from the start.  I am lucky to be a part of a school that commits to educate the total child...athletics, academics, arts. Because we are a small independent school, we have to share students.  Many of the theatre kids are academic team members, sports team members.... The coaches, club sponsors, etc. and I work together to share rehearsal times.  Teachers are reminded to consider musical rehearsals and performances when planning so that that research paper is not due during tech week.  We perform our annual musical at a local college. The day before opening all students (cast, crew, and orchestra) are out of school.  They meet at the theatre for a short rehearsal, cast photos, and then we do a preview for various groups, depending on the show.  Sometimes it's our preschool. We have invited local schools.  Then they all leave at lunch time to go home as rest and then come back that evening for the final dress.

    Dawn Rollins
    Theatre Director
    Spartanburg SC

  • 22.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 07-15-2019 13:29
    Although we don't charge, we have 2 days of previews that happen during school.  I have teachers sign up to bring their classes.  I only show a portion of the show and use it both as an advertisement and to allow first-time actors to get the feet wet in front of an audience.

    Scott Bier
    Whittier, CA

    "Your fear of looking stupid is holding you back."

  • 23.  RE: Survey of school previews

    Posted 07-16-2019 13:06
    We always do a full-length show with a reduced admission fee during the day. At times, we have done two productions like this, but most recent shows have only had one. We also sell concessions our stage is in the gym) at this show. It is the show where we make the most money. I am in rural Arkansas, and we do not get big crowds at night. Without the daytime "preview" we would likely not break even on our shows. It would effectively kill our program in time, which receives zero budget from the district and must sustain itself.

    Jennifer Vernon, NBCT - AYA English Language Arts,
    English II, journalism, speech, and drama instructor,
    Piggott High School,
    Piggott, Arkansas

    Check out my classroom projects!