Organisation Is The Key To A Brilliant School Musical
All those who have ever produced or directed a school musical will know this feeling; you are about to begin the whole process once again, and this time you are determined to make it a brilliant, stress-free, life-enhancing and in no way draining experience for each and every person involved – but in particular for you.
Then you get under way.
Within days, perhaps even hours, you remember the size of the challenge ahead of you, the extra unseen and unpaid time it will involve, the hundreds of little tasks which you and you alone are likely to have to shoulder. Before the cast are anywhere near being off-script, let alone beginning to do justice to the story, you are starting to look forward to the morning after the final performance. Which is not to say that you won’t love the show, won’t get a buzz from seeing it performed, won’t be proud of your efforts and the achievements of the children. But you know it isn’t going to be easy.
But … and thank goodness for the ‘but’ … there is one way to ensure that putting on musicals for schools doesn’t leave you reaching for the nearest full bottle of gin. Organisation.
Organisation. Organisation. Organisation.
It is the one thing that will keep you feeling in control no matter what, and the one thing that will make the whole process much more enjoyable.
It all starts with this. If you choose a school musical that is too ambitious, too long and too challenging, you set the children – and yourself – up to fail; you will be hairless and gin-less within weeks. Too short, too simple, too boring, and you know you will have the headteacher questioning all the time, effort and upheaval, not to mention your own value to the school.
Have a look at our blog on “Choosing The Right School Musical” if you need further guidance.
The Production Schedule
A good production schedule is a document, usually in table/calendar format arranged chronologically, which contains all of the practical elements you are going to need to consider to make sure the show is a success. Often it helps to work backwards from the last thing you will have to do (e.g. striking the set, returning the costumes or sending out the DVD/Photographs) to the first thing you will have to do (e.g. designing an audition poster or writing about the play to parents). Other key considerations for musicals for schools will include a technical rehearsal, dress rehearsals, room bookings, stage design and construction, costuming date, ticketing process, programme design and printing, and dozens of others. And that’s before you even begin to think about the actual rehearsal process (see below).
Auditions can and should be great fun, but they are often stressful and don’t provide you with the casting for which you had been hoping. See our blog on Auditions For School Musicals Can Be Fun for more help in this area.
The Rehearsal Schedule
Similar in format to the production schedule, your rehearsal schedule should be the definitive guide to how you and your cast are going to get through the play. Most school musicals are already divided up into ‘acts’ and ‘scenes’ (ours certainly are) and some provide you with very clear information about which characters appear in which scene (ours certainly do - click here to watch a video on what's inside one of our books). Then it is just a case of providing this information clearly to all of the cast, to all of their parents and to all other relevant staff. And of course having a mechanism in place to issue regular reminders of the schedule. Once you know who is playing which part, you could even produce a register for each and every rehearsal.
Equally, you may be in the enviable position of being given time to rehearse during the school day with all of the pupils. In which case, plan which scenes to do carefully to ensure you don’t have lots of bored and agitated students sitting around in the hall whilst you work on a scene for two or three actors. Our blog on Stress-Free Suggestions For Staging Successful School Musicals provides all manner of ideas to help make rehearsals a valuable use of time. Or take a look at Drama Workshop Ideas For Primary School Kids if you want some fresh approaches.
The Master Copy Of The Script
At the very beginning of the process, start by placing a nice, clean, fresh, well-spaced, single-sided copy of the script into a big folder marked clearly with your name and perhaps even your phone number. Have it with you at each and every rehearsal, adding as many notes about direction, blocking, things to work on, lines which have been removed or added, where different people enter and exit. This will be your ‘bible’ and provide you with great reassurance when the children seem to forget everything from rehearsal to rehearsal.
At The School Musicals Company we will always issue you upon request with an editable WORD version of the script for you to adapt and use as necessary.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
The more meaningful support that you can have around you during this process, the more likely the whole enterprise will be enjoyable and successful. Plan early which tasks can and should be outsourced, who and how many people you will need back-stage or front-of-house, who will take full responsibility for the technical demands of the show, who will help to market it, undertake administration etc. It is always worth meeting with the headteacher before things proceed to outline how best the production can be served by the school community in order to be something of which everybody can be proud.
And the same goes for generating and maintaining the interest of all the children involved. See our posts on School Musicals Can Be All-Inclusive and Classroom Activities For School Musicals for more on this area.
And Finally …
If you don’t get yourself organised from the word go, you will be chasing your proverbial tail for weeks, maybe months. And nobody likes that! So spend the time wisely early doors and reap the benefits when the curtain finally goes up.