School Shows

School Show -problems

We have all worked on a school production, and at times they can be a nightmare. So what is often wrong with these shows? Well it seems to me that they really do not have a basic understanding of theatre  and back stage in general.  I have often found they do not understand the concept of a Stage Manager and the importance of the Stage Manager. In fact some schools have not even assigned someone to act as a SM, they expect the venue technician to follow a script, operate lights and sound. All with the benefit of maybe two rehearsals. It makes you wonder where people get their training. I had one show where there was a student Stage Manager that was studying the area for her final year drama class, so I thought cool, someone who knows what to do. That thought soon changed when during the plotting session this student did not make any notes etc in the prompt script about cue placement and calling. I decided not to speak up and see what would happen with the first full run. I had had the cues marked in my copy of the script. So there I sat at the lighting console waiting for my first lighting cue call, which never came. So the rehearsal ground an abrupt halt, I then explained to the SM that they are required to call the cues as I can not hear the dialogue from my lighting position. So after a frantic hour or so of working on the prompt copy we started the rehearsal again. And this is just one of many problems that can be associated with school productions.  Sometimes a client will arrive at the venue and has not allowed enough time to really set up the audio or lighting. They are hoping it can be set up on the fly as the rehearsal happens.At times there has been no time allowed for a lighting focus, they hope that it will move magically into place. If it is a musical they think pointing a microphone roughly in the right direction is going to help.

Now to be fair some of the shows, especially the musicals, are often directed by other staff members and not the drama teacher. Often they are directed by a committee which can be an interesting experience for the technician. Who do you talk too, and who really has the final say. Lets put it to the vote 🙂

Drama teachers can also be guilty of not of having the correct knowledge, they are more interested in the acting etc and spend little time on thinking about the technical side of the production. This knowledge they may have they paa on to the students, but if it is not current or correct it can lead to all sorts of problems, especially if you contradict them.

So What Can we do?

We maybe we need to prepare some form of documentation for the client. I know this might sound like teaching them to suck eggs but we are also trying to make their show the best possible production. We need to be very pro-active when the client first makes a booking. We need to sit down with them at a production meeting and talk through with them what they are hoping to achieve. We need to collect enough information so that we can advise them on what they are going to need. We can assess what level technical assistance they are going to need. We can gauge if they will have the right people in place to SM the show, weather they have allowed enough time for proper lighting and audio set up. Even safety can be discussed at this point. From all of the information that you gather you can then make the necessary recommendations about thing like SM’s, whether the need more crew, more time or they need to simplify their show. This information then will need to be conveyed to the client in the nicest possible way.

What next?

This is only the first part of this, I intend to put together some basic information that anyone putting a school show, presentation night etc that be used as a guide. It will be intended to give them ideas and guide them in making their show the best possible with the resources that they have.

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