15 Steps to Putting on a Successful Show
He there lovelies, for some of you it is the beginning of your year, and for those of us south of the equator, we are 3/4 of the way through!!! (and am currently on holidays!) So no matter what time of year it is for you, as a Music Teacher you will be asked to put on a show of some sort, at some point this year. Click below to get your free checklist to help you with this sometimes daunting task, and read below for some more information to make this part of your job easier and enjoyable.
Decide on a Venue and Time
This is the very first step in the process. I like to look at my personal calendar and the school one first and look for possible options. When I have a few ideas I then look at my Assessment Schedule. This might seem like a weird step, but, if I know that in Weeks 7 and 8 all of my Elective classes are completing their performance assessments, then to have a show at the end of that term, or the very beginning of the next is the best time. This is simply because you can choose which students to perform based on their assessments, and they often only need a bit of tweaking to make the performance “public” ready!
Decide on a Venue
This might seem odd, but at the last couple of schools I have worked at, we had a couple of different performance spaces that could be used. Think about whether you are including other types of performance in the show. Will there be Dancers? Drama? Circus? If you do have these types of performers, then your space will need to be suitable for everyone. I like to use our Hall for most of our shows, and I prefer to do the show “in the round” with the audience on three sides of the “stage”. It has worked really well in two different schools this way, and I will continue it into the future because it does work! BUT, if you have a real stage, with real lighting and sound, use that space!
Give the show a name
This is really important. If you are part of a school, or even a private tutor, you need to give your performance a really catchy name. Alliteration is king!!!! This year, at my current school, we had our first big show that was done “my way”. This meant that it needed a new name, mainly so that it was not part of the old tradition, but also because we needed a name that would unite the faculty. After a brainstorming session at a faculty meeting, one of my lovely Art teachers came up with “The CAPA Collective”. It was brilliant! It included everything as we had dancers, drama and an art/photography display. So be sure to give your show a catchy title.
Decide on the seating arrangement/capacity
This will be easy if you are using an existing space with permanent seating, but if you have to set up your seating, then you have some flexibility with what you do. Just be sure to go into the space and measure it all out before you set the number of seats available – it will be a big mistake otherwise if you sell too many tickets for the number of seats available!
Create a poster and promotional material
If you have talented staff around you, or even a talented friend, ask them for help and let them design the poster for display. This year I found a couple of different images on the internet and printed a couple of mock ups. Together as a staff we decided which one we liked best and printed up enough to display in key areas around the school. It was really important at this stage to also make sure you have some support of other staff to help, there are always heaps of jobs on the night that need doing! Promote your show anywhere that you can – on the school notices, school Facebook page, word of mouth – anywhere! Be sure that your poster has very clear font with all the important details – venue, price, date, time, where to purchase tickets, etc…
Decide on how much the tickets will be
You don’t have to actually “sell” the tickets with a price, but it is always a good idea to charge something. I have found in the past that if you make it a donation to get in, your audience is not always very nice 🙁 BUT if you charge them a decent price, you get a much better quality of audience. The last few shows I have done i have charged $20 a ticket. This might seem like a lot, but, we actually catered the show. I have done this type of show three times now and it is always a sell out, and the audience loves the show, and they don’t complain about the price of the tickets at all when they are getting fed! I usually ask the Hospitality faculty to cater – they are always looking for events, and this is a win win – they get to plan/cater/serve at a real event, the audience loves the food, and I don;t have to think about the catering!!!! At this stage think about where the tickets will be on sale- at lunch, from your office, from the front office???
Get students and performers ready
Hopefully by now you a good idea of who and what types of performances are in the show. You will want to send out a permission note to make sure students can actually be in the show, if you need to it is also a good idea to send a “permission to publish” note at this stage too (this will save you so much heartache later when you are going through photos to display!) You will need to send home notes/information about expectations for all involved. You will need a backstage crew, technical crew, ushers, comperes, photographers and of course performers! All of these will need to be wearing appropriate clothing for their part in the show. You should make sure that everyone knows what time to arrive before the show, and what time the show should finish (approximately) so that you have everyone picked up and you are not waiting around for that last student to get safely home! You might also want to ask performers to bring in what they are wearing. From past experience, I don’t like to be shocked about what I think is appropriate, and what a student thinks is appropriate for a public performance!!! I have been known to lend clothes or even purchase something for those students who just do not have the clothing that they need for the show.
Make a Final decision on the number of performances/acts
It never ceases to amaze me that when we do a show, students are all keen in the beginning, then something happens and their confidence goes out the window and they pull out of the show 🙁 Often this can be overcome, but sometimes, they just refuse to take part in the experience. With this in mind, have a program ready with about 12-15 acts per half of the show, this number of course is not fixed, especially if you have drama performances that go over 10 minutes! You should aim for about an hour each half, and the second half of the show should be slightly smaller in number.
Create the program
Bite the bullet and just do it!!! Hopefully you will have the show just right. You should also include any formal items in the program like – Welcome to Country, National Anthem, speeches by special guests/principals, etc… Once you have watched all the performances at rehearsals, then print off the program. Changes to the program are a pain if you have to move items and reprint. You want to make sure that in the show you start and finish each half of the show with a really strong act. Have your less confident performers in the middle of each half, and mix the show up a bit. Try not to have the same type of act follow on from each other – think about what music they are performing, what type of instruments, etc… At this stage you should also be writing the compere notes – I never leave it up to the students that compere! You just don’t know what they might say 🙁 Make sure you print out a large version of the program to hang up in the “green room” and backstage for all of the performers during the show.
Create and send out notes to performers and involved students
It is always a good idea to send another reminder note home about expectations for the show. Have a meeting with the students involved and go over any questions, expectations and rehearsals now.
Set up the space
If you are lucky, this won’t take too long! (ha ha) This year’s show took me personally about 4 hours to set up after I had help from students setting up chairs and equipment! It just takes time to get everything the way you want it. Make sure you think safety and tape down any leads that are on the floor, have all of the technical “stuff” out of view, and just make sure everything actually works. It never ceases to amaze me that you can have everything ready and working, then you come back and some little gremlin has got into the sound system and it now has something really vital now not working!!!!! Make sure you have enough extra leads, power leads, duct tape, batteries, microphones, anything and everything! This is also the time to set up any displays – art works, photographs, sculptures, drama creations, etc…Use the support and help of staff and students to do this in the space.
Rehearse in the space
From past experience, and this only works if you are not doing a musical, but rehearse like items at the same time. For example have a separate time for your dancers only, drama only, musicians only etc… It means you are not moving everything all the time. Have your backstage and technical crew there and get them to make notes on what needs to go where and when. If you have the luxury of time, do a complete run of the show with the performers watching – it will be the only time they see the show! Make sure you let performers know where they are to enter/exit, and even how to end the performance.
Get your recording equipment ready
Make sure you have your cameras and video cameras ready and set up for the show. Claim the best vantage point so you will have a good recording of the performance to show the students in the show OR to use as promotional material for the school.
Have the Show!
Now it is time to just open your doors, let people in, house lights off, show lights on and on with the show.
Having a show is exhausting, but soooo worth it 🙂 Your students gain valuable experience, you have the chance to get people into your school for something positive, it is a great promotional and community exercise, it builds up your department, it can even be a money spinner, and what is best of all, the students just get such a kick out of being a part of something bigger.
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