Contrary to popular belief I do not throw darts at show posters to pick my season, nor do I pick out of a hat. Traditionally I do send a desperate plea to Mac, our former theatre teacher and Mr. Bowers for ideas. Finally I talk to Wayne, and let me tell you, he is NOT helpful. His current suggestion is Pokémon…
I should talk to more theatre teachers about this.. how do other people pick their seasons? In the past I have been apart of season selection committees, watched groups let the directors pick the show they want to director and I’ve seen people choose based on the company members they have. My senior year of undergrad was filled with theatre classes and one theatre education class where I sat in my Department Chair’s office every week to discuss all the lessons I’d written, talk about what I was stage managing and finally put together a hypothetical 4 year season plan… Let me tell you, it was so easy picking seasons for hypothetical teenagers. The idea for this 4 year season plan was that when I did become a high school teacher I’d have a ready made plan… ha…ha..ha… Nope, that list was tossed out the first year I started teaching.
Picking a season for a high school has both been easy for me and extremely difficult. Two seasons ago, I had my entire season planned by May, it was simple. Most years things do not fall into place that easily. As an educator I try to pick plays that over four years will have taught the students something from freshmen to senior year. We go through the different musical styles every four years, I try to do classical pieces intermixed with modern plays, we create physical theatre and do straight plays. This is all wonderful to talk about, but picking plays which fall into these categories that also work for a high school, is difficult.
What I think about when picking a season:
- What haven’t we done?
- How many characters are in the play?
- How many men/women are in the play?
- Is there a good ensemble?
- What are the tech elements? Will it challenge Stage Crew?
- Do we have multiple students who could play each role?
- Will the public want to see this show?
- What is the educational value?
It’s arduous to find the perfect shows for that year of students. They don’t make many challenging large cast, female powerhouse plays anymore… what am I saying? They haven’t ever made many of those plays. Sadly theatre is a male world, but high school theatre departments are filled with more female actors than male actors. Our fall show last year had 4 men and 15 women (who ended up playing male characters). In the past I’ve written my own plays just so I can get more female characters, or rewritten male parts to females. Some plays you can do that, and some plays the playwright has expressly forbidden any change. See my challenge?
Why was this year so difficult? Probably because I’m extremely indecisive right now. We had our musical chosen in late June and I didn’t settle on a fall play until this Friday. It’s Sylvia by A.R. Gurney. I first saw this play in undergrad and remember laughing so much. As I reread the play about a man, Greg who brings home a dog, Sylvia he found in the park that day, I could see the actors I first saw performing their lines and running around the stage. A human woman plays a dog, so seeing dog actions portrayed through human motions is captivating and wildly hysterical. I was unsure about the fall play for I had to find a small cast for the Black Box production we will put on this October. When I say small cast, I mean 4-6 people small. Finally I found it in Sylvia.
Traditionally the musical is the most difficult for we can’t find a show that has amazing female roles, a great ensemble and intricate music for the pit orchestra and singers. Both Ms. Winnie and Ms. Houge suggested Fiddler on the Roof and I said, “Really?” I never thought they’d suggest that musical, but it fit and I love it. Once upon a time… 17 years ago I played Tevya. I rocked the coolest beard! Fiddler on the Roof is perfect! Lots of female roles, a great ensemble and tough music for the pit orchestra. On the plus side for me, there is amazing dance opportunities in this show. Have you seen the 2015 Broadway revival?!
And finally I chose The Tempest by that English playwright. We haven’t done a Shakespeare since 2013, so no one currently in school has experienced the wonder that is being in a Shakespeare play. I promise you it is so much better than any of your English class experiences. This play will make a William Shakespeare enthusiast out of you. The spring play will be the big cast production where you can be automatically cast if you come to the workshops and audition. Also, I want to edit it and put aerial dance into it. This play is about magic and a storm. Aerial silks is perfect for telling the story. It also is an amazing show for tech to shine, Wayne, our Tech Director, is very excited to get his hands on this show.
While the 2016-2017 theatre season was the most difficult for me to choose, I’m very excited with the season. Each play deals with conflict and change, so the theme for this season is “Winds of Change,” whether it’s a husband who brings home a dog one day and almost ruins his marriage, a Jewish population forced out of their town, or real wind changing to create a tempest that washes enemies to shore, this season is filled with laughter, heartbreak, challenges and so much fun for those students who choose to be apart of the Theatre Department this year. Hope to see you all there!
By: Ms. Figg-Franzoi
Homestead High School Theatre Teacher