High School Theatre

Having worked with many school at the various venues that I work at. I wonder if the students are being taught the correct technical information at their schools. In the last few years I have year 12 students thinking they know what is what in the technical side of theatre. And their lack of knowledge is scary. And if they are stage managing it is amazing what they have been told some amazing strange information regarding the requirements of the stage manager. One show I did a few years ago the student who was acting as the stage manager was at the plotting session for the lights with the Director and I. Now this is as it should be. So the Director and I plotted away with me also making notes as I recorded the cues, the notes I made were written into a copy of the script that I had. As the plotting session progressed I noticed that the student stage manager was not marking the cues into their prompt copy. Now I thought this odd as the student had been learning about Stage Managing during their drama sessions, and surely one of the lessons that they learn is setting up their prompt script and the sort of info that is needed in it – like lighting cues. But as I am only a technician not a teacher I thought to myself were will this lead to when we do the first tech rehearsal. The time arrived for the first technical rehearsal, and it became a farce as the Teacher/Director realised that the lighting cues were not happening the way he wanted them, the Stage Manager became slightly upset. I then explained that it was the SM’s responsibility for them to call the cues as required. This student had not obviously picked up that information in their studies. So it was a good thing that I had notes on all of the lighting cues in my script. This is something I now do all the time. But it makes you wonder what is being taught to our students at school. Are drama teachers etc. being taught the necessary skills to pass on technical information to their students. I personally know of a couple of teachers who have an exceptional knowledge of the technical side of theatre. More and more I am trying to assist these students learn rapidly what they need to know so that they may get a better mark. But is it really my task to teach them and is it undermining what their teaching staff has already taught them. Or do I have an obligation to make sure these students know enough so that they could eventually enter the industry. I know it slows down what I am trying to achieve for the client as I spend time showing the shows what to do and how to do it.  some teachers appreciate what I have done and make allowances when they book a venue, so that I have more time. But an ideal solution would be to get technicians into the schools to teach some basic technical theatre skills. Then when they come into a theatre they have an understanding of what is going on and have a basic skills to make it happen and to be able to communicate with professional technicians.


5 thoughts on “High School Theatre

  1. I found myself chuckling at your article as I have been working with a handful of theatre companies (community and professional) and had similar experiences: in some recent productions, the stage managers were young and inexperienced – and whilst they may have ticked all the boxes with respect to understanding specific responsibilities, didn’t consider that there might be additional tasks, which meant that things were missed during pre-production and only picked up too late once in the theatre (usually at final dress rehearsal).

    In my opinion, these techs need to have three qualities:
    1. education (taught by the teachers at school, TAFE, wherever) – my issue with some of these students is that they only appear interested in learning enough to pass;
    2. aptitude for anticipation: to be able to consider that there may be other responsibilities beyond what was taught (can’t learn this: either you have it, or you don’t); and
    3. experience (gained through practice and absorbed from others that they work with, e.g. you and me) – as long as they recognise that some of these people might have something useful to contribute to their own work.

    A future stage manager with these three qualities can identify any issues before they become problems – or at least know how to address them when they appear. If they’re missing a quality, they’re probably not going to end up as a stage manager…!

  2. i do agree with a lot of this

    but hey im in year 11 this year and i have more knowledge about lighting sound and video then most of the technicians out today, and im currently employed by bytecraft entertainment which is pretty much the biggest lighting company in australia as a touring lighting engineer. and to get there i thought myself.

    but what a lot of people don’t see is teaching yourself you have to be cautious in everything you do. iv see a lot of techs with some concert rigs running 400 amps through a 200amp camlock cable, and these are the techs that do touring rigs

    downsides iv noticed with high school techs are that they are not willing to learn, and its shits me up the wall and its worse when there rigging stuff because they think there superman, and in the end one false move and you will plummet.

    i run the theater at my school, we’ve just went state of the art with it and iv been teaching students in it for a while, and iv noticed it all comes down to the bunch of students that are out the school, if your with a group of pricks, don’t teach them, there’s no point because there not going to get work

    any ways im rambling hehe
    great site by the way


  3. “i run the theater at my school, we’ve just went state of the art with it and iv been teaching students in it for a while, and iv noticed it all comes down to the bunch of students that are out the school, if your with a group of pricks, don’t teach them, there’s no point because there not going to get work”

    You’re saying rather not teach someone the “proper” practices, and have them go out thinking they know their stuff and have them possibly go out thinking they know everything only to endager themselves and others?

  4. I can only speak of my experience, but my drama teachers were both ‘acting’ teachers. For the first time ever, in VCE, my year was doing theatre studies, which is the more tech-based version of drama. The teacher taking it was hopeless and I learned nothing. My friend was lucky enough to be paired with a lighting tech/mentor during our final production and I’m sure she had some good instruction since the teacher just ‘left them to it’. It may have changed since then, but I doubt it (the teachers are still there). On the other hand, I’ve met several years ago a 16 year old who knew so much more about sound design and equipment than me; basically because he’d worked on tech crew throughout most of his high school and been working alongside very sharing hired crew.

    But I also know this: when I did SM for the first time in uni it was difficult. Every time I do it since, I compound the knowledge with more knowledge and it gets easier and better. Same with doing any kind of tech: at school or uni we’re incredibly blanketed by the teachers, lecturers and the safety/equipment provided. It’s nothing like that out there in the ‘real world’, and so it does take a while to learn the nuances.

    When I left uni, a lot of techs just went, “right, you don’t know how to do that, I’ll do it myself”. I didn’t learn anything: so you’re one of the good ones who takes his time to teach. Many techs don’t, and that leaves a hole in the knowledge of the next generation too.

  5. Student techies and SM’s obviously dont have the practical experience some of us have. I work in a School Theatre and immediately requested the beginning of Tech Theatre classes so the crew begin to gain skills on running a production of any kind. In saying tham I have noticed from the 12 kids I have, only 2 show any real promis and interest in this industry. The rest just seem to hang on, BUT, I apply VET principles to my Tech Theatre where I explain things to them Demonstratet it several times and then get them to prove to me they were listening by actually doing it.. And correctly!! I now have students catching me out with little things. Most Drama teachers worth their salt knwo some technical things and also have an appreciation of what an SM does. At no time though have I seen them act in any of those capcities but why would they..They’re the teacher and were the techies.

    As Kyle says, even tho’ they may show little ineterest (or be pricks) you still need to make sure they understand the correct way of doing things even if they dont assume a role on your crew. There will come a time when they do someting very similar, like hang a domestic floodlight at home, and you’d like to think that they will apply similar principles of safety as we do. Sadly in school based theatre students are a litte bemused at why they have to actually do anything instead of bludging and watching their fellow students perform.

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