This is my fifth year teaching theatre arts at Wakefield High School, and one of the most exciting as well as trying of my duties is the daunting task of choosing our season for the upcoming school year. No matter what I have to consider and no matter what the problems I face in developing the season, I always keep the kids in mind. I think about what types of plays I should expose them to. I also consider what shows they will enjoy working on. I consider what the students are adept at and what the students should be pushed toward in developing their skills. Also, I try to determine the mood that will be created for the students by working on these productions.
The process usually begins right at the end of a year. I grab as many plays as I can find. I search for ones I have heard of but never had a chance to read as well as plays that are new to me. The next step is to read and read, make notes and read some more. I try to keep in mind the students who will be dedicated to the department as well as envisioning the new students who will join the group. This takes a great deal of creativity.
We generally do one musical a year in the spring. We also produce one straight play in the fall. In addition, we have a one-act play which is rehearsed and presented in the winter months. At Wakefield, we also put together a children's production. Now, this sounds like it may be easy, but it can be a major undertaking. My background is largely based in musical theatre, so I feel pretty well-versed when it comes to picking a musical.
Most of my undergraduate years were spent singing and dancing on stage. As a senior I took a directing class and was supposed to direct a play. I attempted to direct and choreograph a production of "The Wiz" with some of the younger dance and theater students at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I loved every moment of the experience, and I look forward to the musical productions every year here at Wakefield.
Not until I studied acting in Graduate School at Florida Atlantic University did I become very familiar with non-musical theater. For this reason I find myself reading more plays than musicals over the summer months. I look for possible fall productions as well as potential cuttings for one-act plays.
I usually look for some contrast in the productions during the year. For example, last year we produced "The Servant of Two Masters" in the fall, "Psycho Beach Party" as a one-act play in the winter, and "Starmites" in the spring. The first is an Italian farce, the second a contemporary, over-the-top comedy and the third is a science fiction musical. Granted, none of these were deep or emotionally charged choices, but then in the next season we presented a gripping production of "The Crucible." Some years we work on a Shakespearean play. We usually try to slide in an original play or two as well. I think about the productions in groupings of four years — I have students for this amount of time, so I try to give them the opportunity to work on a variety of productions. I hope that when my students leave Wakefield, they will have had a chance to work on a wide variety of productions.