Top Tips And Handy Hints On Directing A School Musical
It’s wonderful to see so many schools and drama groups taking on one of our musicals to perform over the next couple of months. We hope that you and the children enjoy the process immensely. Of course, many of you will already be old hands and seasoned directors, but for those taking on the challenge (and it sure can be a challenge!) for the first time, or for those in need of some fine-tuning, we’ve put together a few markers to guide your path.
On Your Marks
For your own sanity, create an all-singing, all-dancing production schedule. This should include absolutely everything you can possibly think of that will need to be undertaken during the process. Include dates, deadlines, spaces, equipment and the person responsible (it shouldn’t always be you!). Then share the schedule. Make sure that everybody knows the size of the venture and that you would very much appreciate their involvement and support, thank you very much.
For further guidance on this, see Organisation Is The Key To A Brilliant School Musical
Making The Most Of Rehearsals
It is quite remarkable how little can be accomplished during a rehearsal. All it takes is for a few scripts to have been forgotten, piano music to have been mislaid, chairs to be cluttering the stage, the CD player to have a dodgy connection, or half the cast to be late back from a netball game, and suddenly another rehearsal slips by with very little tangible progress having been made. Much of this can be mitigated by effective planning, consistent approaches and artful delegation, alongside plenty of spare copies of scripts and song-sheets.
What Do You Mean You Haven’t Learned It?
They know every word from Frozen, every song from Matilda, and when it comes to birthdays they can remember a huge list of things they would like. Yet, when it comes to learning their lines, some children just can’t/don’t/won’t. You need to spot these children very early in the rehearsal process and outsource the problem to their parents/elder siblings/friends/form tutor/teaching assistant/parrot. It is also worth asking one or more of the other children to start learning these lines too … just in case.
Other teachers can be really useful here as well. See our blog on Classroom Activities For School Musicals for further information.
Allow The Scenes To Run
When you’re directing a scene, it can be very tempting to seek perfection each and every time. The reality is that, especially with children, this just doesn’t happen. Somebody will always come in late, somebody will always forget their line, somebody will always say their line at completely the wrong time. The important thing is to keep the scene going, get to the end, then evaluate together. This also keeps the rest of the cast from getting bored and breaking off into conversation.
Projection And Clarity
The lines will come, eventually. The songs will become more tuneful and powerful. But some children, right up to the day of performance, will find it difficult to speak loudly enough or clearly enough to be heard and understood – which is really the most important aspect of the whole play. Make sure you give enough rehearsal time to working on this issue. See our blog on Stress-Free Suggestions For Staging Successful School Musicals for more guidance on this important area.
Work On Transitions
It is vital to give enough rehearsal time to joining up the scenes. A good way of doing this is to include the final two lines of one scene and the first two lines of the next as part of the scene change. This will help cement the sequence of the play in the performers’ minds and help to ensure the pace of the production doesn’t flag. If at all possible, avoid blackouts and hefty scene changes. It’s astonishing how many parents will reach for their mobile phones given a moment’s opportunity in the dark.
Children have such great imaginations, it makes absolute sense to involve them in the directing process. It also takes the pressure off you having to come up with all of the ideas yourself. It might even pay dividends to avoid using the script during some of the rehearsals, working off-text and bringing a real sense of fun to proceedings. Our blog on Drama Workshop Ideas For Primary School Kids gives plenty of suggestions to get you going.
The more fun you have, the more fun they have, the more fun the audience have and the greater the likelihood of you taking on another show next year. Get everyone involved as much as you possibly can, rally the troops, badger other staff for support, keep the parents in the loop and see how the whole thing gathers momentum and becomes a key fixture in the lives of all involved.
See School Musicals CAN Be All-Inclusive for lots of suggestions on how to make this dream a reality.