Do You Need a Big Show to Give Students a Rewarding Theatre Experience?

A big show like Marat/Sade offers young theatre artists a lot of opportunity.
A big show like Marat/Sade offers young theatre artists a lot of opportunity.

In this article, we’ll focus on theatre training and working with students of just about any age. The title of this piece is a clear indication of the question at hand. Should doing a big show, one with a lot of production values, awe-inspiring special effects, and major production numbers, be your goal as a teacher of theatre? This is a question that we can ask ourselves for any level of show experience, from grade school presentations through university training.

The Really Big Show

Play readings give actors solid experience in working with new shows.
Play readings give actors solid experience in working with new shows.

Big shows, such as Les Miserables, Oklahoma!, and Into the Woods, are audience pleasers and also very exciting for students performers, technicians, and stage managers. The audience appeal of these shows is unquestionable. But doing a huge show may not always be the best idea, especially for your students or for you as a teacher.

If you don’t have the necessary budget to get the type of support you need to do such a show, then you can end up with a production that meets no one’s expectations and that compromises any teaching and learning that may have occurred.

Solid Script, Acting Values and Rehearsal Blocks

Simplicity in production can be stunning.
Simplicity in production can be stunning.

Depending on your situation, it may be better to do a show that does not require major production values. This is especially true if such values will not allow for students to have a quality theatrical experience.

You may be better off opting to find a solid script that will challenge your actors. That is one that has few production values and may be done effectively with minimal technical requirements.

Finding Balance

The point is to not totally reject doing shows with big production requirements. The point is, however, to make sure that you choose your show in accordance with what you can achieve. One effective and relatively inexpensive manner of creating impressive scenery is projection technology. However, in order to use projections you’ll require a theatrical designer who is trained in such. Thus, the issue of budget may, as it does with a production that utilizes hard scenery, becomes important in your ability to get the job done right.

In the end whatever productions you choose to do should be picked in accordance with what your budget, resources, and students have to offer. Also, you need to weigh what will be the best learning experience for those engaged in the theatrical process. Bigger is not always better, but when the circumstances are right it can be.

  • Author Spotlight

    Paul Mroczka

    Paul Mroczka has served Theatre By the Sea as associate director and playwright-in-residence. He has directed for companies including North Country Center for the Arts, Pontine Movement Theatre, The Theatre of Newburyport and the Palace Theatre. A former National Endowment for the Arts fellow in playwriting, he has also garnered a Shubert Fellowship, the Jason Miller Award and has received grants from the New Hampshire Council for the Humanities. His plays have been performed at New York’s La MaMa La Galleria, Nat Horne Theatre, and Manhattan Punchline Theatre, among others. His interactive planetarium show, Pathfinders, is running at the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, NH. Recent directorial assignments include Good People, Steel Magnolias, and The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) at The Barnstormers Playhouse in New Hampshire, and Rumors, Orpheus in the Underworld, and The Glass Menagerie at PSU. This summer Paul finished an initial draft of his new play, Smart Money and is working on numerous other projects. Read Full
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