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Drama/musical theatre groups (not /amateurvoluntary)

(21 Posts)
Cantores Sat 17-Jun-17 09:17:40

My daughter has joined a local drama group. It's not cheap and has just one person doing all the different skills (the owner of the business). They're working towards a show next month and I've been amazed at all the requests for help from parents - chaperoning rehearsals, making props and scenery, help with teaching the songs.

To me, this is what an amateur group would do, where no-one is getting paid for their time or expertise. But is this normal? If your child goes to a profit making group do the parents get heavily involved in it like this?

2014newme Sat 17-Jun-17 09:21:28

My children go to stagecoach. They have different teachers for singing, drama, dance. We never get involved in any way. There is not scenery. But it is expensive, perhaps your teacher is trying to keep costs down.

Hulababy Sat 17-Jun-17 09:31:35

Dd goes to a theatre/drama group. It's a small business run by one owner and then paid staff. She's been going for about 10 years now. It's nothing like stagecoach etc. which is what we wanted. She goes for two hours a week - an hour singing (that only started a couple of years ago) and an hour drama. Think we pay about £9 a week in total.
They do shows but they are not all singing, all dancing huge polished performances like the big companies have - the children decide them themselves and are heavily involved with all aspects.

However parents do not have to be involved and helping.

Dh and I are directors of the company as we were asked a few years ago. This involved 3-4 meetings a year for an hour. But even then it involved very little, just a sounding board, a bit of advise or suggestions etc based around our professional skills ( it drama related.) I've taken photographs at some of the shows for them as an amateur but that's it.

Other than that it is ensuring they get there each week (not now for us as Dd gets there herself) and pay on time, ensure she has the right clothes for show (almost always simple clothing items, no fancy or expensive costumes to buy or make), ensure she gets to shows (always local), go and watch and support, and take her to extra stuff they put on if she wants to be involved (she's in a local professional company's show this week as part of her drama group as supporting cast.) but those are also optional.

But we don't have to pay up for other stuff (bar show tickets) and give up time to help run the company.

LIZS Sat 17-Jun-17 09:39:30

Are you sure it is a business set up? Many drama groups charge a show fee but that only covers basic running costs like rehearsal and performance venue hire, costume budget etc not people's time, so the adults involved run it on a voluntary basis. Even if ostensibly part of a franchise.

taxi4ballet Sat 17-Jun-17 09:55:21

My dd used to go to a dance school owned and run by one person. She had another teacher as well, but when it came to show time, parents were called upon to help out as much as possible, as there is a limit to what one person can achieve. When you have large numbers of children rehearsing or in a theatre, then you do need chaperones, it is a legal requirement. Professional chaperones are very expensive, so parents would help with that. Also with making & altering costumes, sourcing props etc. The owner called on family and retired industry professional friends to do scenery, lighting and sound. During the show parents would also help out in the auditorium, selling programmes, checking tickets, selling refreshments, the lot. Backstage two or three parents would be needed in each dressing room to chaperone and help with hair, make-up and costume changes, there would also be a 'runner' (often me) making sure that everyone was ready and called into the wings at the right time.

Putting on a performance is a massive undertaking, and to have all of those helpers replaced by paid staff would cost the earth, and would put the fees up by a huge sum.

Hope this helps.

Cantores Sat 17-Jun-17 09:55:25

It is part of a very small franchise, but is definitely run as a business.

I think coming from the world of amateurs myself and having heard how things like Stagecoach are run (and seeing their ads looking for teachers of singing, dance etc) I thought all drama groups would be run the same, with a different teacher or time slot for each skill. I pay £8.50 per week in blocks of 10. DD is enjoying it though and several of her friends go.

Cantores Sat 17-Jun-17 10:22:03

The chaperoning I understand and helping out during the shows. It's the getting parents in to teach songs etc, that doesn't quite sit right for me.

dodobookends Sat 17-Jun-17 10:55:56

£8.50 per week is cheap, believe me!

Do you mean that parents are helping their own dc's practice the songs at home, or that they are expected to go in to sessions and help to teach?

Cantores Sat 17-Jun-17 11:18:44

Dodo, they're expected to go into sessions to teach.

dodobookends Sat 17-Jun-17 14:24:04

Parents are expected to go into sessions to teach? Er... are any of them singers, or qualified to teach? Or DBS cleared, come to that?

How old is your dd? And the other children - is it a big age range?

2014newme Sat 17-Jun-17 15:37:40

Stagecoach don't do big all singing and dancing shows. They do a workshop to parents each term they ate not perfect and glossy, they don't have costumes beyond a few essentials, it's not glitter and tutus. There are many children with confidence issues or behaviour issues, there are no 'stars' or prima Donnas. Often the children will write their own drama and have a lot of creative input. Ours have j st done a drama based on some verbal histories they took from old people in a local home.
It's dance schools that do the perfectly polished and costumed productions

TheatreTaxi Sat 17-Jun-17 16:04:35

As a parent, I've provided backstage/chaperoning help for DS's dance school shows. As dodo said, chaperones are required for perfomance licences and professional chaperones are expensive, so parent help keeps show costs down (as well as being an interesting experience for parents!).

Parents being asked to teach singing is very odd, and I wouldn't be at all happy with this. You are paying the teacher for their expertise - if the parents are expected to do it themselves, they could organise a group singalong for free!

corythatwas Sat 17-Jun-17 16:13:36

Chaperoning and costumes would seem normal, possibly some help with props and photography. But actual teaching???? never heard of that.

Cantores Sat 17-Jun-17 20:49:08

From what I can gather, this group has never done big musical shows. They've always worked on acting, stagecraft, scripts etc., but are now trying to compete with other fee paying groups that do musicals.

Sorry to drip feed but the owner of the business approached me to help them polish the songs for their upcoming show (I'm a conservatoire trained classical singer who now teaches singing). She worded it as all the parents muck in and help out where they can, and made it sound like she expected me to do the same - for free. No mention of a fee!

Even if she'd said she'd waive DDs fees if I went in and helped would be something. Plus, she's asked me to advertise in the programme and sponsor the DVD!

I can't help but feel that she is really taking the piss.

Cantores Sat 17-Jun-17 20:53:56

I just wondered if many drama/theatre groups worked like this or if I was being unreasonable and selfish to not want to give up a couple of hours every week.

I have weddings to sing at over the coming weeks anyway so was able to use that as an excuse for not agreeing.

Zodlebud Sat 17-Jun-17 23:23:25

I think she is taking advantage of your skills and experience and trying to get a freebie!!!!! It does sound rather amateur.

I am a professional chaperone but offer my services for free for my daughter's performing arts Saturday school whenever they do a production (not Stagecoach). I am happy to do it as the children, not just my own, really benefit. I also expect to help with costumes and props as needed but if they asked me to go along every Saturday to "help out" then I would tell them where to go.

Honestly, these things cannot happen without parents volunteering, and it frustrates the hell out of me when they reckon that just because they pay their money that the commitment ends there. A few hours here and there really makes a difference but I would only do it in the capacity of any other parent, not as a singing coach.

Hulababy Sun 18-Jun-17 07:43:50

2014 - one near is does, in proper Theatre etc. and one near my nieces do too, inc performances in London theatres.

Witchend Sun 18-Jun-17 10:07:25

I am part of an amateur panto that has around 70 people on stage and around 30 behind the scenes in various roles, including 3 children's chorus groups.

It always has been asking parents and other connections if they can chaperone rehearsals, make props, etc.

We're moving on to a situation where we are going to be saying that if your child is involved you will (barring exceptional circumstances) do something.
For example the last three years I have washed and put away the entire costumes for the cast. We've put out appeals to help and very few people come forward, I think it was 2 people one year, 3 on the other years. Out of 100 people.

The same people end up doing multitude of tasks. Some parents are very helpful and always willing. Others will do anything to avoid it. For example we asked 3 years ago for the older children's chorus we said we'd ask each parent to stay and help for one rehearsal.

Out of 12 children, 8 parents "couldn't". Excuses varied from "It's my night to play netball" through to much weaker. So those parents were offered the chance to do other things (like wash costumes) that could be done at home. One parent said they would and did it. Two others said they would and didn't, and the others just said that they hadn't time.

We do take advantage of known expertise. I think that's reasonable. Sometimes we offer a free ad in the programme (eg our scene painter has one).

It irritates me that parents are very happy to bask in the benefits of their children being in it, but very reluctant to actually help. Because so few are willing to help, I end up being committed far more than I would like to be at times. Our house is taken over with costumes, and costume making, we can't go away at the weekends-the children have missed things they want to go to simply because if I don't chaperone then the rehearsal can't go ahead.

errorofjudgement Sun 18-Jun-17 21:26:24

My DD has been going to our local Stagecoach for 6 years. They perform a big musical each year, in full costumes at a local theatre. The older group (Further Stages) put on a full musical, again with costumes, at a larger theatre and this is open to members of the public.
In 2 weeks time it's the bi-annual summer showcase involving all the students.
Students also work on devised theatre pieces to perform (and be judged) at the local festival.
None of this is cheap, but the quality of the teaching (different teacher for each discipline) is excellent.

Cantores Sun 18-Jun-17 22:53:03

It's not that I don't do voluntary work. I give up most of a day every week singing and leading singing groups in nursing homes. It's far more rewarding than a lot of my paid work. The difference here is that nobody is profiting from my work in nursing homes. The money just isn't there to employ me. I've also helped out at DD's school when the teacher responsible for music was on maternity leave, and at other things in the community.

If she'd asked me to help out chaperoning or similar then I'd have agreed without a second thought, and would probably have put myself forward anyway as I'm already a licenced chaperone. After I told her I had engagements for the next few weeks, she hinted that maybe I could help out in the autumn term. I'll have my hourly rate ready to quote her next time she asks!

Minimusiciansmama Tue 20-Jun-17 20:20:40

Chaperoning, costumes, props and helping with rehearsals are all things I have and would always agree to do. I now have a chaperone licence from doing so for the professional pantomime too. I would draw the line at teaching, like others have said

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