Open Forum

1.  Musicals: auditioning before choosing the show? and Scheduling?

Posted 9 days ago

I have a question for those of you that do your musicals all or partially within a class (during school time) and/or those of you who hold auditions for a musical before picking the show. I have never done a play or musical like this before, but I am at a new school and due to many circumstances, I think this might be the kind of thing we need to do.

We're at a small school and so the students are involved in many activities, making scheduling rehearsals very difficult. My music director (choir teacher) and I are looking at doing a sort of hybrid schedule for the musical that includes 2-3 days a week of in-school rehearsal (during a special daily 35 minute class period that is a study hall/catch-all period which is usually a complete waste of everyone's time) and after school rehearsals that will increase in frequency and length as the production gets closer. The in-school rehearsals will start at the beginning of the semester in January, and the musical won't be performed until the first week of May.

This is the first time in a very long time our school is attempting a musical, and this is the first year at this school for both me and the choir teacher.  Because of this, and our funky scheduling idea, we are not sure who to expect at auditions, and neither of us feel very comfortable picking a show until we know who we've got to work with.

So, we're looking at holding auditions for "the musical" right before we go on Winter Break so that we can get kids' schedules changed to be put into our musical "class" during study hall next semester. Then, during the break she and I will choose a musical based on the numbers of people and gender/voice breakdown we have. When we come back, we will hold a second audition for the individual characters and everyone else will be the ensemble.  

Are we insane? Does anyone else out there have a system like this? Do you have any words of wisdom or advice? As I said, I've never done a show in a scheduling format like this before, and I've never held auditions for a show before picking it (crazy!) so I'm not even sure what questions to ask. I would just love to hear success stories (or horror stories of warning) from people who do this kind of non-traditional scheduling and casting. Can we make this work? Thank you!!!

Emily Olson
Theatre Arts Teacher and Director

2.  RE: Musicals: auditioning before choosing the show? and Scheduling?

Posted 9 days ago
1. You definitely can make in-class rehearsals work! Admittedly, I was never successful at doing it (despite multiple attempts), but that's because our class schedule only allowed us to meet once a week, and I was working with middle school students. However, I know a lot of schools in both NY and NJ who were able to meet 3-4 times a week during the school day and had no problem producing a successful musical. I might recommend opting for a shorter musical and/or song cycle during your first year though. I found that I was never able to get through as much material as I wanted during in-class rehearsals and always wished that I'd taken on less ambitious projects. So I'd recommend erring on the safe side.

2. You can also definitely audition for the musical without having a specific show selected ahead of time. Stagedoor Manor uses that system every summer (or at least, that's what they tell their students). They're able to sell it really well -- saying that they select the session's shows after auditions, so that they're able to choose material that best showcases their students' talent. The students love the fact that their teachers are curating the program to their individual needs, and they also seem to love the surprise/anticipation of not finding out what the shows are until the cast lists are posted.

Victoria Chatfield
Executive Director
National Theatre for Student Artists

3.  RE: Musicals: auditioning before choosing the show? and Scheduling?

Posted 8 days ago
​Wow! This sounds so much like my situation, it was crazy seeing your post! We too are a small school and I feel your pain on everything.  We added a middle school program in August to our recently established High School program. We have been doing musicals for six years now with high school and we needed a feeder program since we are running low on natural talent. See that last thing I said...natural talent.  With a limited schedule I have found that our kids with natural talent...and the kids who are just plain smart, are the only things that keep our heads above water.

Rehearsal season is always a hot mess.  With middle school we scheduled a one day a week practice from 4:00-6:30. This gave me a chance to work with my set crew for the first hour 3:00-4:00 and then work on staging, choreography, and songs during 4-6:30.  This helped a lot of our athletes who had practices right after school. But then we had things like Jr. Beta trips and FFA events that ended up making what we thought was a decent schedule a mess again.

Here's what I suggest, and what I am going to try next semester.  I have two groups too, "the drama class" and "the real drama kids."  Maybe find a musical where you can practice these two groups separately, then bring them together for the show about two weeks out from the show.  Maybe the "real drama kids" or naturally talented can have the major roles where as the class is the ensemble? We actually took two shows and made them one, a show within a show, this semester, we had a fifth grade group performing old radio songs and "and now back to our show" lines, while the middle school "real drama kids" performed "the featured presentation." Last spring, my drama class were the actors and middle school drama camp participants were the dancing ensemble. The hardest part with this is finding the right show, or a show that will allow you to have this type of flexibility.  Another idea is doing a show that has separate stories, like an anthology, different groups will rehearse the different scenes/ I didn't split this cast, but my high school did Mary Hall Surface's "Sing Down the Moon" with Dramatic Publishing and it turned out phenomenal. It was such a fun show and you can have so much freedom with the casting since all the stories can be separate, they are tied together by a common theme.

Ok, finally, yes...we are all crazy.  But the outcome of a successful show is so rewarding, and a musical can expose kids to so many new elements.  Good luck! And feel free to email me if you have any questions or find something great out there! I haven't found the perfect combo yet, but all we can do is try!

Analiese Hamm
ECHS Drama Director
Statenville GA