Now that you’ve sorted your budget and picked your show, the next step is picking your production team. So, where are you going to find all these helpful people who are going to make your awesome show that is going to change peoples’ lives? I recommend that your first point of call is to try and use teachers from the school; they know the students, they know the culture of the school and it’s easier in terms of payment and child protection.
Now you will need to formulate the team. Traditional project management strategies need to be implemented – everyone needs to be aware of roles and deadlines for tasks. As I have always said, no one person is larger than the production’s entire and so the cohesion of the production team is paramount because if the cogs don’t fit together they grind away at the productivity of the others.
So what are these roles you’re going to fill?
A producer basically looks after the non-creative aspects of the production. In a high school this is often a member of the executive staff, someone who is allowed to say “Yes, we can spend $5000 on one costume”. The producer also makes sure everyone is doing their job. So it’s up to the producer to delegate the other production roles and makes sure everyone meets their deadlines – they are the project manager. The producer also takes care of the logistics of the show such as; managing the budget, booking rehearsal/performance spaces, coordinate the production rights etc. And again anything that needs to be sorted out financially needs to go through the producer.
I know what you’re thinking, I’m the director right? Well currently if you’re doing all these jobs so far you’re actually doing the work of the producer. Generally in community theatre though the director takes on a lot of the producing responsibilities. However, the director is responsible for the artistic concept of the show, the blocking of scenes and the quality of the acting. The director should have a clear vision of what they want to see on stage, clear enough that they can communicate it to a team full of people as well as cast. Generally, the director also has final say of decisions to do with the production such as casting, cuts to the script and how a scene is staged. That being said, the producer can overrule if it concerns budget, safety or logistical issues. Generally the hierarchy of command should never have to come into play, there should always be a reasonable discussion had when making decisions.
An assistant director can have different meanings in a school environment. Generally, I delegate this role to a student who has demonstrated enough enthusiasm to get jobs done and enough maturity to take on a leadership role amongst the rest of the students. Firstly, then can do all the things the director can do, but only after being instructed by the director to do so. They can have creative impact on the show but only in a sense that follows the director’s brief/vision. The other aspect of this job may be that they do a lot of the coordination of cast, things like organizing the rehearsal schedule, running the warm-up or just managing correspondence with cast. Again, this may vary depending on the skills of the person you’ve selected and what you need help with.
This person takes care of the musical aspect of the show. They teach the students the songs. You need to make sure they rehearse songs with the cast before you start blocking it on stage – basically, the students wont learn the movements for songs unless they know the song first. This person also needs to coordinate the orchestra for the production – whether it is a hired band or one from the school. It requires a specific skill; this is not a job that anyone can do. Generally a music teacher from the school who can play the piano should be able to do this role, however, there are plenty of musicians around who would be able to MD a show if they were paid.
The choreographer’s role is up to the director. But essentially the choreographer takes care of the dance routines and to a lesser extent basic movement to music. Often, directors can choreograph as well, however, if the show is a dance based show it is best to have someone delegated to big dance numbers (plus directors aren’t always the most coordinated bunch). Unless you have a dance teacher at the school, it is best to just hire someone to do this role for the production.
The Stage Manager isn’t needed until the you get closer to performances. However, they are essential to the running of the show. The stage manager coordinates the stage-crew and practices the scene changes. This role is important for making a production look as professional as possible. It also ensures that your runtime is the length it should be without the audience getting bored. This person needs to be an adult as there are also responsible for the duty of care of all students during the show.
This aspect varies with every school. The two things that affect the set designer is the space you’re performing in and what your budget is. It is often best to find a parent who has building experience to help you construct and build the set. Again, this is a role that can be given to a student, but unless they are incredibly capable, you’ll need to keep them grounded with functionality and budget.
This person generally exists in the school already; it’s the teacher who controls all the AV equipment in the school. Running the equipment is generally something a student can do, but as you’re generally dealing with expensive equipment a teacher needs to be in charge. Another alternative is hiring people to take care of this aspect of the show, you will pay a lot more though!
Someone who can organise the costumes. If the costumes are being made by parents this person organises it, If the costumes are being hired they need to source them. Ideally their job should be done at least a month before opening. This person I often get to organise make-up as well, depending on the show will determine how many people you need on this. Again, this is a role where students come in handy.
Similar to costumes, the props coordinator needs to go through the script and list all the props needed and figure out whether or not they need to be made or hired from somewhere.
Within the school this should be someone who has contact with the local media. They should be able to setup interviews as well as coordinate the design of the advertising. E.g. posters, Facebook ads etc. This person should also be able to coordinate promotional photos of the performances and organise the program to be printed. SASS staff are often good for this job, just remember all publicity needs to go through the school.
Front of House Manager
This is often the producer; they coordinate ticketing, the canteen and ushers. This is a simple job, which doesn’t require a long-term commitment. This can be organised an hour before production.
So you’re looking at assembling about 15 people, these jobs can be halved and shared amongst various people, I mean, granted I have done school productions with splitting these roles amongst 4 people. Next I will look at the pre-production stage: casting etc.