secondary school drama productions

(39 Posts)
emma2709 Sat 05-Oct-13 00:22:39

My sons school has a policy that in auditions for things like school productions roles are given out solely based on a candidates merit and suitability for the part. Sounds fine but what this means in practice is that those like my son who are maybe not the best but are still keen never get picked yet there are others who always get parts.

Is this normal at a state secondary school? My view is that preference ought to go to those who have not been picked before, so long as they have the minimum necessary ability for the part in question.

As an 'am dram' lover and having participated in many a high school musical if you want the thing to be watchable I'm afraid it's the best person for the job.

Most schools pick ensemble type productions (think Oliver, West Side Story) where there are several main roles and big choruses.

It's completely normal. They don't pick the school sports teams on the basis of those who haven't been picked before in my experience.

It's not an easy lesson to learn sometimes but that's life in my opinion.

Chubfuddler Sat 05-Oct-13 00:41:14

Sorry. In my experience like sports teams , it has always been open audition with parts going to the "best" auditions. It's not an all must have prizes deal.

Rosencrantz Sat 05-Oct-13 00:41:30

Very normal. Life isn't about getting your turn, it is about being the damn best at your job in order to fly.

stillenacht Sat 05-Oct-13 00:43:08

I'm a secondary music teacher. For our concerts we always try to change soloists every year. Some are better than others but its important to give everyone a chance I believesmile.

Unexpected Sat 05-Oct-13 01:01:38

I think it would be nice to believe that everyone could have a turn at a main part (or even a minor part) but there are all kind of negatives to that as well. The school wants to put on the best production possible and it serves no-one well to stage something which is below par. What kind of message does it give out to those who are genuinely talented if they think that they can only get a role maybe every third year or that although they are the better singer/actor they have to give way to someone who doesn't do the role justice and who takes longer to learn the part? Given the numbers in an average secondary school and the number of parts in the usual school musical, even if you decide to rotate roles, there are still going to be people who are disappointed - on top of an audience who come away with the perception of the music/drama department as average.

stillenacht Sat 05-Oct-13 06:30:17

Well yes to be fair we have a pool of about 10 really strong vocalists and another 10 strong soloists I dont tend to stray from these ten. Its not as bad as a neighbouring school who would put on the 'David and James' show every year highlighting only their top two students.

FadBook Sat 05-Oct-13 06:39:11

Pretty normal but frustrating from your ds side.

The school productions were big at our school and renowned for being extremely good. The main parts always went to the same people and normally 'older' kids too (Y11 and 6th form) and their favourites they made a big cock up on year giving a part to a popular girl who turned out to be a diva.

My advice would be to prepare for the audition - practice lots and ask if the music teacher can coach him for 10 minutes one lunch time. A good audition and showing dedication to improve and commitment to the part, should get him principle part.

alpinemeadow Sat 05-Oct-13 06:47:20

It is good when they do things with huge choruses so that loads of dcs can take part - and at chorus level it's much easier to do the 'give everyone a turn' policy.
Emma, could your ds join a local youth theatre group? They tend to give everyone a part in the productions - so it can be a good alternative if there aren't any school parts?

meditrina Sat 05-Oct-13 06:55:04

Yes, normal.

They do try to give minor/chorus/non-speaking parts to those who were not successful in the auditions for major roles.

englishteacher78 Sat 05-Oct-13 07:09:09

I do a short production of Julius Caesar with my Year 7 every year. There is a part of some kind for everyone. Yet for 3 years I didn't do it as one particular year I was inundated with phone calls complaining about the casting which was done via audition. My father was seriously ill at this time and the rest of the department took the calls on my behalf. It was a stressful time. Year 7 parents also complain about their children not getting on the first rugby team. Yes, the best people get the big parts and places on the A team. That's how it works

ColdFusion Sat 05-Oct-13 07:11:43

If your DS is keen to be involved in the production, perhaps he could be a crew member?

JGBMum Sat 05-Oct-13 07:36:27

It is very frustrating though when your dc have been told that some parts will be cast with a particular age group, and then they're not.
Her school is putting on Oliver and Y8 were told that dodger could be male or female, but would be a Y8 student. In the event, they've given the part to a Y11 GCSE drama student. In fact all the main roles have gone to drama students.

In this case, I think expectations have been badly managed by the drama department.

alpinemeadow Sat 05-Oct-13 08:10:32

Yes, You can see why they give the parts to drama students, as they need to do performance for their GCSEs. But it's odd that the staff committed themselves in advance to giving the part to a yr 8 in that case!

Some schools do separate play productions specifically for the gcse and a level drama students to perform in, i think, so that the 'whole school' production is separate, which avoids that being a casting issue. Others do separate lower and upper school plays. But that is a huge amount of work, and it Must be very difficult to find the resources - drama teachers must spend so many evenings in rehearsals, let alone the planning etc!

I suppose ultimately it comes down to more people wanting a part than parts available - which is why community youth drama groups can be so valuable.

englishteacher78 Sat 05-Oct-13 08:26:04

It does take a lot of time yes.

Chubfuddler Sat 05-Oct-13 08:51:41

I joined a local community theatre group in order to mop up the parts other members were too old to play - at sixteen I got to play everything from 12 to 30. I deliberately avoided the youth theatre and school productions as there was so much competition!

alpinemeadow Sat 05-Oct-13 09:08:33

Excellent idea chubf!

I think with some local youth drama groups it's a different kind of production - the whole aim is that everyone who goes gets a part, so they script their own plays, and to an extent write their own parts, so it's not competitive or audition-based. Very different experience from performing in an existing play. Ideally you'd get the chance to experience both of course, but inclusive community groups are fab!

Chubfuddler Sat 05-Oct-13 09:12:44

It was fab. They can be as cliquey and political as school productions, but the one I belonged to had genuinely open auditions - you didn't even have to be a member to audition. They're usually ridiculously excited to have teenaged members IME.

Schools take these things way too seriously and spend far too much time on them IMO. Rehearsals are OTT and take priority over everything else.
DS2 did it last year, he got a small crowd role which is all he wanted. They started rehearsing in September and he was there nearly every night until December. All other after school activities were cancelled in favour of the show.

cory Sat 05-Oct-13 18:55:52

What others said: open audition is normal, but there are ways round it: you can practise hard, join a youth theatre, join a community am dram group etc.

mumofthemonsters808 Sat 05-Oct-13 19:05:49

It's not just school productions where this happens, my DD is a member of a youth drama group and every production without fail the main parts are awarded to the same kids. Before the audition results were announced me and my OH guessed who would be successful and we were bang on. The Director's niece is a good one to put your money on. That's just the way it is.

alpinemeadow Sat 05-Oct-13 19:09:08

Ah - rather different from our experience of very inclusive local youth drama, mum of monsters! That sounds quite/very irritating - but does everyone at least get some kind of part?

Schmedz Sun 06-Oct-13 00:07:16

Would people seriously prefer that those with greater merit at audition and better suitability for a part be overlooked in favour of giving someone less able 'a go'?
If OP's DS is keen and enjoying taking part then isn't that to be encouraged, regardless of whether he gets lead roles or not? Does he think it is unfair and demoralising if he is missing out of parts he auditions for, or is there more disappointment by the OP? Yes, lead roles are nice but actually performing in a great show, whatever role you have, is a huge buzz. If someone wants lead roles and is missing out, then feedback on how to improve can always be sought, and the more stage experience the better in improving skills. Sadly, sometimes it is not even a matter of ability per se, but who is more suitable for a certain role according to who else has been cast inthe other roles!
Having to cast school productions is a task I undertake several times a year. Every teacher I work with is acutely aware of the value for every child in taking part and the fact that a show only has a set number of principal roles - but also that every role is important in creating the story and show. Yes, children will be disappointed should they miss out on a part they wanted but rarely has there been a production when, by the end, there are children having taken part who have not thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt from it.
Frequently, however, there are parents fuelling disappointment and creating dissatisfaction by undervaluing the role their child has been chosen to play, especially when it is an ensemble role.
I have seen shows where those with merit have clearly been overlooked in the interests of 'fairness'. Sadly, it is hugely UNFAIR on the children of minimum ability when their performance is embarrassingly bad less than optimal. Or when they are upstaged entirely by a more talented individual in a stunning cameo and that is all the audience talks about afterwards!

MoominMammasHandbag Sun 06-Oct-13 00:16:14

Our local Youth Theatre does a kind of revue a few times a year where kids do sketches, songs and little plays, often stuff they have written themselves. Totally different set up to the very meritorial school productions. There is a place for both I think.

mumofthemonsters808 Sun 06-Oct-13 09:37:53

Alpine- yes if unsuccessful in the auditions for main parts and any speaking role, the children will appear in the chorus. I'm not disputing the important role of chorus because without it the show could not take place and the children also learn a lot from their role. I just wish it did that feel that the auditions were a waste of time and parts had already been allocated and for just one production the Director's niece would not have the lead and sing more songs than anyone else ( I don't want to put a kid down but she is not mind blowing, I'm probably just jealous that my sister is not the Director).

What I also find frustrating is that there are only 6 weeks of learned drama techniques between the two yearly productions. So the odds are if you do not have a role in the first production you will not have one in the second. Unless you have gained a lot from these few sessions. There is also no feedback from the auditions, if asked general statements are given "You were beaten to the post" rather than "You rushed the script, you were too quiet etc". Maybe I'm expecting too much, the group is run by volunteers who devote their time freely to enable the group to survive and devote countless hours to the group. It is not a performing arts school. These are my gripes not DD she just accepts it's the way things are.

Moonmin -DD attends another workshop and they do this type of sketch show and they are fabulous. The material the kids produce is amazing.

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