Traditionally produced around Christmas time, school plays can actually be put on at any time, and producing one around July is a wonderful end to the school year. It gives you the perfect platform to introduce children to music and drama
in a positive way, and have lots of fun in the process. Plays are great for boosting the confidence of children, and to help them learn how to work together as a team to achieve a goal. Parents and carers love seeing their kids on stage, and it’s also good for boosting the school’s public profile in the community. Class plays, with parents invited to watch, are an alternative for younger children that boosts confidence without the expectations of a larger school play. They also take somewhat less planning time, and will build strong co-operative bonds between you and the pupils, and between the pupils themselves.
How to Select Your Play
Before anything else, you need to know which play you want to put on, and there are quite a few different questions to consider when choosing your school’s play. Firstly, do you want a more’ traditional’ play, such as Jack and the Beanstalk or a more modern school play? Either way, it’s generally a good idea to ensure your play is as inclusive as possible and provides strong role models for all children. Modern plays are great for challenging preconceptions and helping to encourage acceptance in children. If you’d prefer a simpler and ‘safer’ play, a traditional play will be better known by parents and carers, and may bring back added nostalgia for them. Secondly, will the children and staff enjoy putting on the play? This is obviously easier to determine with a class play, but it may be an idea to give the children an opportunity to vote on a short list of possible plays. If the children enjoy the play and engage well with it, you may be able to avoid unnecessary misbehaviour. Technical demands and resources might also put restrictions on the play you choose to perform. Costumes, props, lighting and possibly instruments all have their costs, and do you have enough children to involve in any musical or singing element of the play? Choosing a play to suit your resources and your budget will allow you to focus on helping your pupils give the best performance possible.
Casting Children into Roles
A school play is an activity for every child to be involved with, to boost their confidence, and to have fun. Children who may not be as academically advanced as their classmates, or children who don’t often have the chance to ‘shine’ can really benefit from taking a key role in the school play. Similarly, by trusting a child with behavioural problems with the responsibility with a key role, you can help build their self-esteem. It is also worth giving children who are interested in speaking roles a short reading as part of the casting process. This will allow you to assess whether a child will enjoy being on stage, or freeze up. This casting process can also help to build up the confidence of the children involved, as it may give them their first opportunity to speak in front of an audience in a safe environment. Choose some reliable children to be understudies for key roles, as you’ll never know if illness and absence will strike. If there are multiple showings, it’s a nice idea to allow the understudies to perform one night, to make sure they also feel valued and included in the production.
For a school-wide play, rehearsals will typically need to be scheduled for four to six weeks before the opening night, although you may want to allow a slightly longer amount of time in case of unforeseen circumstances, and class plays will take less time than this. If you divide roles roughly between different classes, this will allow for individual teachers to start rehearsals with their groups for a few weeks, before bringing the school together to do some final rehearsals in the week leading up to the opening night, including a full dress rehearsal. There are various things you can do to make the rehearsals go as smoothly as possible, the first being to make yourself a schedule of all rehearsals. You’ll need to know which groups or classes are rehearsing various parts of the play at any time to make sure all parts are being prepared for, so that the children are as confident as possible on the opening night. Another good idea is to make sure that you don’t have large numbers of children sitting bored for long periods of time while the few key actors are rehearsing. It will make rehearsals more efficient and minimise disruptive behaviour from children not actively rehearsing. In the week leading up to the performance, you’ll need whole school rehearsals, but until then, they’re really not necessary. There will of course be times when some children will be waiting and watching other actors before their own rehearsals. A great way to engage them with the play is to ask them for constructive feedback on what they’ve seen. This will help their views feel valued, boost their confidence, and keep them actively watching, rather than just waiting for their turn. They may also have some great feedback that can be used to improve the performance even further. Pupils can also practise their lines outside of school. By giving them lines to take home to learn with their parents, it gives them something fun to do outside of school and gives parents a way to be involved with the play. As well as this, it also means that you have more time to really focus on the more challenging scenes in the play during school hours. Doing a quick vocal and physical warm up before rehearsals will help pupils to focus their efforts on rehearsing and help them to realise that acting is a skilled activity to take seriously, while still having fun.
On the Night
If you’re using a stage for your school play, things will be a lot easier if you keep the wings clear. Backstage will potentially get very noisy and chaotic anyway, and the kids can be very tempted to peek out and wave to their parents. Instead, keep your performers in a nearby room, and use runners to call them up when their scenes are about to start. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks and ask for help. Parents are great for helping with tasks such as getting costumes made, and other staff members should be more than happy to help you. This is a school effort and most people will happily assist you in any way you need them. Another of these tasks is going to be the clearing away after the play. You’ll need to get volunteers to agree to help you before the show, as you may end up being left to do it on your own otherwise. It’s also important to remember not to get upset if something goes wrong. The main reason for a school play is so that the children, teachers and parents can come together and have fun. Often, when something does go wrong, it simply adds to the fun of the show as long as everyone takes it in stride. For those people who have helped you in a major way, it’s a really nice idea to have a card and gift to thank them at the end of the performance, so they’re aware of your appreciation. It also encourages people to help out in subsequent school plays and makes people feel valued. You’ll probably find that others have also arranged to thank you too for all your effort.
School plays are all about having fun for everyone involved. They’re a great way to build confidence in children and bring the school closer together. A child is more likely to want to do another play if their first experience is positive and they allow parents to be further involved in their children’s school lives; seeing them develop and grow.