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to ask how you, as a parent, feel about school shows?

(122 Posts)
manicinsomniac Thu 11-Dec-14 17:15:23

I'm a performing arts teacher. I put on a wide range of shows every year, from informal class plays where they take their scripts on stage to a full scale musical with thousands of pounds worth of hired set and technical equipment.

Today, I have had two extremely vocal complaints.

One regarded the quality of some class plays performed earlier in the week. The parent felt that it was a long evening of very low quality drama that was hard to sit through. These particular shows followed a criteria of having a reasonable number of lines for every child and were cast by me saying 'put your hand up if you want a big part' etc. Everyone got the size of part they wanted. And yes, some of them were eye wateringly bad. But they were having fun, getting involved and learning.

The second complaint was about the big school musical and concerned a child in their last year of school not having a speaking part and never having had one in the past either (in the big musical that is. The child has had parts in smaller shows). The parent complained that it is always the same group of children in the big parts and that others would do just as well if they got the chance. Anyone who auditions for this show can be in it but I am very selective over the named roles. And yes, it is often the same children - because there are a good number of very talented children.

I feel like I can't win. I put everything into both types of shows and the inclusive ones get slated for being poor quality and the very competitive, high quality gets slated for not being inclusive enough!!!

What would you prefer to see as a parent -
a lower quality show that shares the parts around
a higher quality show that chooses the best for the parts?

Do you value and enjoy the show itself or just want to see you child on the stage?

SetPhasersTaeMalkie Thu 11-Dec-14 17:27:26

How horrible for you after lots of hard work.

I'm a very annoying parent because I don't have strong feelings about school shows. DS seems to love doing them. They look like so much work. But still I rarely give them a second thought.

I can't imagine complaining.

I don't really enjoy the shows and endure them when I'm there rather than enjoy them. Sorry.

WhispersOfWickedness Thu 11-Dec-14 17:27:57

I've just returned from DS's nativity ��
I would prefer to see a 'lower quality' hmm production with all kids having parts, parents just want to see their own child IMO, it doesn't really matter what part they're in.
In the nativity I just watched, there was an autistic boy who was one of the narrators. He completely forgot his lines at one point so there was a long gap until he picked it back up again with some prompting, you could feel the whole room rooting for him and I think every parent in the room was proud of him when he kept it together and managed to get back on track smile
I think most people would be angry at the thought that he should have just been stuck at the back with a non-speaking part just in case this happened angry
This an infant school though, although I can't imagine feeling much different if it was an older age group confused

suspiciousandsad Thu 11-Dec-14 17:30:35

I'd rather see a show which the children benefit and learn something from as opposed to something cobbled together for the sake of the parents (who will moan regardless).

TeenAndTween Thu 11-Dec-14 17:32:12

Primary or Secondary?

For our big school musical at secondary the best kids get the main parts, and I think that is how it should be. What slightly annoys me though is sometimes the chorus are very very much in the background. If your child has been giving up lunchtimes and after schools to rehearse, then choreographing so that every child gets a (very) short time at the front where their family can see them isn't too much to ask is it?

I don't think I'd like a 'long evening of low quality drama'. I'd rather have shorter evenings of low quality drama. So in the shows where anyone gets a go limit it to 1 hour. If 2 classes, then do their shows on separate nights?

Primary, I think that giving children a chance to have a go is important, but again if you can't hear the main parts, you can't follow the play and then everyone loses interest.

Personally I think you can't win. grin

suspiciousandsad Thu 11-Dec-14 17:33:44

I agree with the nativity involving everyone equally. High school productions are different, there are many roles for children to explore and be part of which aren't necessarily on the stage.

PedlarsSpanner Thu 11-Dec-14 17:35:30

If there is a good number of suitably talented children why do you often chose the same children over again? I can see why the second parent might be miffed tbh.

Wrt the first parent, pfft to them. As you say, the children were engaged, and learning, so two fingers to the moaner <flicks Vs>

Anyway, I had one wallflower and one show off, school played them to their strengths, a thumbs up there

manicinsomniac Thu 11-Dec-14 17:36:54

That's fine SetPhasers , I don't expect all the audience to enjoy it. Just keeping quiet and not complaining is great! grin

Whispers , what's the problem with saying 'lower quality'? I'm not kidding myself that all our school productions are works of genius!! But we do do one show a year that is of a high standard and that is open to the general public not just parents etc.
And I assume that the child with autism had been chosen because he was good, not because he has autism. Anyone can forget a line, especially at KS1. I wouldn't assume that he had been given some kind of preference for a part because of his SN, I expect he earned the part. A few years ago I had the most amazing Captain Von Trapp (Sound of Music) who was autistic. So, so talented though.

Fabulous46 Thu 11-Dec-14 17:40:05

And yes, it is often the same children - because there are a good number of very talented children.

This is just wrong on so many levels. Every child deserves a chance at lead roles and each child has their own talents.

You can't please all the parents all of the time. You learn to deal with the complaints and not take it personally. If you take the amount of children involved and the amount of whinges you received from parents I think you did pretty well. Look on the positives, the majority enjoyed the show. I will say it's very unfair if the same children are in leading roles year after year.

manicinsomniac Thu 11-Dec-14 17:41:47

TeenandTween - crossover school (KS2 and 3). And yes, I agree, the chorus should be key parts of a show and no child should be at the back of every dance.

I also agree that splitting class plays over several evenings would be ideal but, to be honest, I just don't have enough evenings available at the ends of terms to do that.

Pedlar - it's because there are so many good ones that the others tend not to get the speaking parts. It's not always the same children with the principal parts but the decent sized speaking/singing roles (say 10-20 parts on average) tend to go around the same group of children.

EvilTwins Thu 11-Dec-14 17:46:25

I'm a Performing Arts teacher too. I feel your pain!

With regards to the big school show - I find the same - often the same children get big parts. Not had any complaints though (touch wood) Fabulous46 would you have said the same if this had been about the first team for rugby?

Some children are very talented, as well as being committed and enthusiastic. Some children want to make performing a career. I make no apology for casting the best children in the biggest roles.

manicinsomniac Thu 11-Dec-14 17:47:39

I do understand why parents feel that way Fabulous But these shows happen once a year. For a talented and passionate child, as quite a few of ours are, having had a good part once in their time at the school is not going to keep their enthusiasm fuelled for the future. It's much easier to give every child a chance to play on the A team in sports fixtures (not that this necessarily happens either!) as they happen twice a week. If we didn't have other shows throughout the year where anyone can have a big part if they want to then I think there'd be a problem. As it is, this kind of limitation of genuine talent makes me sad. Maybe it's just something I should be learning to go with though.

I think I possibly suffer from having more of a performer/actress mindset than a teaching mindset.

sinclair Thu 11-Dec-14 17:47:39

How horrible for you after a huge amount of work.

Also have a wallflower and a diva, personally I think at 'event' productions - end of Y6 play, nativity - everyone needs a part and everyone gets as someone suggested a quick bit centre stage. Limit the time tho. Same applies to music concert - everyone must play (can be grouped) it is ear-splittingly bad in parts but you sit through and applaud the effort, as long as you get to see your kid and the whole thing isn't too long.

When it is the Spring Term musical ie interested parties only then you have to cast to abilities, same system as team sport. You can't imagine PE staff sharing round the opportunity to represent the school - it is 11 from a defined squad of 15 or whatever.

Do hope you get some more positive parental feedback in person tho!

Dragonfly71 Thu 11-Dec-14 17:50:44

Well, my child is very cute and funny ( obviously I'm not biased) and hasn't got a part this year because he didn't audition ( too scary?). Hence he told me not to bother coming as he will only be singing and he said "I'll probably be at the back and you won't even see me". I feel a bit sad although he doesn't seem bothered. He is usually quite confident and has performed with his friends in front of the class, they like to put together comedy sketches. Personally I am a bit disappointed in the school, he is year 6 so his last year. I would prefer a more inclusive approach.
I'm now not sure whether to go, I work full time and would need to arrange cover, but is it worth it to watch the "talented few" and maybe spot the top of my sons head?

EvilTwins Thu 11-Dec-14 17:54:26

I do think that at primary things should be inclusive. My DTDs are in yr 4 at a school where only the infants do a nativity. Yr R & yr 1 sing and yr 2 do the parts. Every child had an equal sized part - goodness only knows how the staff managed that!

I'm secondary though, and my full school productions are open to all but by audition. I've never left anyone out, but if I'm charging £5 for a ticket, it needs to be good. If that means that last year's Cosette is this year's Mrs Lovett, then so be it.

TheFallenMadonna Thu 11-Dec-14 17:59:39

I think doing both sounds about spot on really.

jimmycrackcornbutidontcare Thu 11-Dec-14 18:00:04

I love a school production as I love seeing my little one happy amongst his friends and involved in something. I don't care if he has any lines or not. I wouldn't go to even a good quality one that did not involve him as at best even a good school production is just very amateur dramatics. I'd rather see a professional production. I go to school shows to see my son enjoying himself on stage and to think he was wonderful singing songs or dancing or whatever he is doing.
I would not listen to people complaining. I wouldn't complain if my child wasn't in a show I just wouldn't go.

bigTillyMint Thu 11-Dec-14 18:00:06

Well, I love primary school productions.

The school they were at ensured that all children had a part, whether it be speaking, singing, dancing or whatever. With the exception of one year where there was really only one main character, lots of children had a chance to shine. Mine were never main parts, but that was fine as they are not really into acting and still got chances to do other things. I loved watching all their little friends do their bits too.

It sounds like you are doing a great job, OP. Some parents are just way too precious.

Fabulous46 Thu 11-Dec-14 18:06:03

manicinsomniac I work in Education (Primary). I wouldn't tolerate any teacher giving lead parts to the same "talented" children every year. Every child has the right to inclusion and to have a lead in a school show. In fact, I very much welcome children with various disabilities to take part in school shows. I find it awful that the same children are chosen year after year and others are deemed "not good enough". What message does that give to children? That only the most "talented" get the best parts? That is so wrong. A Down Symdrome child was cast last year in our yearly school show. What an uproar that was! How dare I insist that a child who was desparate to perform be a lead. Each and every parent that dared complain was shown the way to my office. All of them left with a lesson in inclusion.

As a Performing Arts teacher you should know that not all performances need to be "perfect". It's about the enjoyment of actually performing NOT how "talented" you are. As a said inclusion is a wonderful thing.

EvilTwins Thu 11-Dec-14 18:10:30

Fabulous do you think the same for secondary age children as well?

LaurieFairyCake Thu 11-Dec-14 18:11:37

You're clearly a very dedicated teacher and the parents who complained are idiots.

Having said that grin they are always dreadful, even the bloody 'A' level shit by people who want to be actors is truly terrible.
I have never seen anything remotely bearable as an actual performance and don't expect to - we're there for the children and to encourage them.

But God they're so bad compared to well, anything. Even compared to am-dram which can occasionally be ok.

Mousefinkle Thu 11-Dec-14 18:12:45

Well in our primary school everyone got a part but there would also be the 'main parts' basically given to the kids with the biggest voices grin of which I was one... I regularly got the role of narrator because I could project my voice clearly, ahem. I did drama lessons as did the other two kids who got the main parts constantly. Nothing personal there at all, every child got a part but we got the biggest parts because we were the least likely to piss our pants with nerves (yes, a few unfortunate souls did that), get all shy, forget the words and the audience would understand what was being said. Plus we enjoyed being centre of attention. I know it pissed some parents off though, for sure.

Secondary school we didn't do shows until the last two years when everyone in those classes had opted to do drama so we all got pretty equal parts because we all wanted to be there and were focused, interested in performing arts etc. When drama was compulsory for all in the first two years we didn't do shows, they would have undoubtedly been a disaster with stroppy 11-13 year olds not wanting to 'look stupid' or whatever. At least when we did do shows we all wanted to be there.

Personally I'd prefer to watch a quicker show with a higher level of talent. Sure, I'd like to see my kids having a part just like any parent but I also wouldn't want to sit through 2 hours of other people's kids, some of which are dismal wink, just to see my kid speak for a minute iykwim. I'd just accept performing arts wasn't my child's area of expertise and still enjoy the show watching fairly talented kids!

Summerisle1 Thu 11-Dec-14 18:16:07

I think you are striking a pretty good balance in an imperfect and complaining world, OP.

And I have experience of seeing both sides of the story. DS1 who hated performing and really didn't want anyone giving him a speaking part, regardless of inclusion. Unlike DS2 who went on to take a drama degree.

Hatespiders Thu 11-Dec-14 18:18:47

I was a primary school teacher for 26 years and must have put on hundreds of School Assembly plays, Christmas productions, religious plays, musicals, pantomimes and so on. I wrote nearly all of these myself, sewed the costumes and played the piano for many of them. Some involved the school orchestra and some had taped music. We even put on a Staff Comedy Show (in costume) at the end of every year.
The one thing I learned is that old cliche, 'You can't please all of the people all of the time.' As long as your aim was to give the children good learning opportunities, include all the children in some way, and provide good entertainment keeping in mind the limitations of age, facilities and time, you can do no more. There'll always be some parent/s who demand something different, who think their child has in some way 'missed out', who may think 'it was utter crap' (I once had a man say that to me!) but you have to be a trooper and take it on the chin.
'Keep a-troshing mawther!' as we say in Norfolk, and don't be disheartened, Manic. It isn't bloody Broadway, it's a school.

WipsGlitter Thu 11-Dec-14 18:19:56

DSs nativity this morning. He didn't have a speaking part but I was proud of him all the same. One kid had led the show the past two years but she's obviously very confident and can remember the lines.
Another parent was saying how their child kept yawning but I hiestky only had eyes for my child!

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