Putting on a show


One of the things which really excites the children in Theatre Club is that after all the rehearsing they know they will get to perform their play in front of a real audience. Although some students may feign reticence, I doubt you will ever find a student in a Theatre club who will not be secretly excited at the prospect of putting on a show. In other words, although it inevitably involves a fair bit of work for the teacher(s), the end result is worth it. As one theatre club teacher has put it:

 “I cannot say enough how excited you are putting on your first production! It’s so exhilarating that even if it’s been frustrating throughout the term, the performance makes it all worthwhile”.
                                                                         Kate Hall. International House San Sebastian, Spain.

Having decided to put on a little show, the next question is what sort of show? In the section that follows, I have included all the things that can be included and/or thought about in a Theatre Club show. It does not mean that the show must contain all of them.  For your first Theatre Club show, keep it simple. As one of my colleagues commented:

“In the first Theatre Club it was enough just doing a few costumes and getting the acting right without worrying about venue, sound effects, scenery etc!”
                                                                      Kate Hall. International House San Sebastian, Spain

Nevertheless, as a point of reference, here are a few options for shows:

  1. One Theatre Club performs one play for parents and teachers. Duration 30 minutes. The Theatre Club plays last about 20 minutes. However, it is best to allow time for late arrivals, and hiccups between scenes. For a small show with a 20-minute play, advertise it as lasting 30 minutes. For example, Show starts 7:00, finishes at 7:30.

    2.   Theatre Club play + a couple of songs sung by students from other classes in the language school.

This would need to be co-ordinated with and done with the consent of both tjhe Directors of Studies and the teachers concerned. A good way to go about this is to sound teachers out first about their willingness to practice a couple of songs over a 2/3-month period. Then brainstorm some possible songs. Favourite among the younger learners have been “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hand...” or “Heads, shoulders knees and toes” for example. Older/higher level students might enjoy “Stand by me” or “Wonderful World” by Ben E. King. Give the teachers as much time as possible (At least 2 months) so that practising the songs in class doesn’t interfere with the syllabus they have to get through.

      3.   If you have enough students, combine two theatre club plays (as long as they are doing different plays) in
             one show. Duration of show: 1 hour maximum

As each play is only about 20 minutes, this makes a fun evening which isn’t too long for students or audience.  You could also combine a couple of songs by other students (see above) as this will only add 10 minutes or so the length of the show.

       4.      A show put on in the summer could be turned into a general End of Term School Show with teachers performing short five-minute sketches. In my school, this has proved very popular. Timing wise, it is best not to exceed an hour and a half. Any longer  would get a bit boring for the children and parents,  so when planning such a show, limit those involved to what can be fitted into this time frame. Typically, our end of term show includes two Theatre club groups (1 hour),  2/3 short teacher sketches (Total 15 minutes) and one or two songs by younger learners (less than ten minutes) Total time: 1½ hours

As early as possible you need to choose a venue and a suitable date for the show.

Factors to take into account

Venue.

The venue needs to be somewhere with a lot of space. You will need a stage area, space for the children to get ready, store props, a waiting area for those off stage and room to seat the audience. The size of the audience will of course depend on what type of show you opt for. With a Theatre Club of 14 children you can easily expect 30 to 40 parents/grandparents. You will need to think about seating for teachers who often come to watch their students or support you, as well as other invited children. If you have two Theatre club groups, one group will need seats whilst the other is performing the other group.

You may find such a space in your school. Alternatively, you may be able to find a small local hall with a small stage, for example, a local school hall. Many local primary or secondary schools will hire out their hall cheaply. Alternatively, local community halls may be available, sometimes for free. If you don’t know of any venues, ask the secretaries or admin staff in your school, as they will likely know of local possibilities.

Choose the date

Once you have found a venue, the next thing is to fix a date. Generally, the plays included take about three to four months to rehearse. They are designed so that two plays can be performed over a nine-month “course”. If the term starts in October, mid February would be an ideal time to put on the first play. The second play could then be scheduled for June, giving them time to learn their lines over Christmas or Easter.

In order to choose the exact day you will need the take into account some of the following factors.

  • Which day of the week?
  • Sunday to Thursday may be difficult if the students have school the next day.
  • Saturdays may be difficult if families tend to go away at the weekends.
  • Fridays tend to be the best days but this will depend on local circumstances.
  • Once you have chosen a possible date, check that there are no local or national holidays or festivals at the same time, since the children and/or families may nit be free.
  • If it is at the end of term, be careful that the families won’t have already gone on holiday. For this reason, it might be best not to choose the very last day of term.
  • Are there any school exams at your language school that week? Try to avoid having the show the same week as exams, since the students won’t have time to spend learning/revising for both at the same time.

Once you have finally chosen a date, book the venue as soon as possible.

 Telling the parents

Once you have chosen the date and booked the venue, send a letter to all the parents of the students in the Theatre Club informing them of the date. This should be done immediately. The last thing you want is three weeks before the show one of the cast suddenly telling you they won’t be there because they’ll be on holiday! Of course, this can never be ruled out, and there have been occasions when teachers have had to go on at the last minute and be “Policeman number 2” because the real Policeman number 2 has gone  on holiday. But the sooner you advise parents of the date, the less likely this will happen. If you do it early enough you may have time to change the date. Once one of my key characters found out he couldn’t be there on the day. I managed to find out that we could have the venue the following week. The entire theatre club had to immediately ask their parents if they too would be here and get back to me the following week. In the end we managed it, but only because it happened two months before the show.