As a busy teacher and director, having a great artistic team is essential to a successful school production. Having a great team in place means that you have a supportive, enthusiastic group all working together to create an amazing experience for your students. It also takes the pressure off of you to have to run the entire production by yourself!
The earlier you get your team selected and committed to the production, the easier it will be on you. It’s not just a matter of getting a “warm body” in the position—it’s imperative to get the RIGHT person in the position.
Here are five things to consider when selecting your artistic team for your next production.
1. Establish what core artistic team members you need.
Sit down and make a list of all the core artistic team member roles that you will need to fill for the production. For any show, you will need a stage manager and at least one assistant stage manager. Ideally, you will also want a producer, to assist with things like budget, acquiring rights and royalties, helping with publicity, etc. You might wish to take on an assistant director. Which roles will be filled by students and which ones will be filled by adults?
If you’re doing a musical, you will need a musical director and choreographer. You’ll also need to decide whether you will use pre-recorded backing tracks (if they’re available), or if you will use a band/orchestra (which will require more team members during the run of the show). (Check with your musical director to determine whether you or they are hiring the musicians!)
Depending on your show’s specific needs, you might also need to think about design, technical, and specialty team members right away. For example, if your show includes a lot of stage combat (like The Three Musketeers or Treasure Island), you will want to hire a fight director as one of your core team members.
2. Passion for the project.
Are your potential team members excited about the title you have chosen? Why are they excited about it? Are they just doing it because they are required to commit to an extracurricular activity or because they are getting paid? Or are they genuinely excited about contributing to this particular production? The attitude and enthusiasm of the team members will directly impact the attitude and enthusiasm of the students involved. You want to ensure that your team is just as excited about the project as you are!
You might have the most excited team members on the planet, but they are useful to you only if they can attend the rehearsals. Will you set your schedule first and then hire team members that will fit the schedule? Or will you hire your team members and then fit the schedule around their availability? Are you willing to create a rehearsal schedule for a potential “part-time” staff member? For example: Let’s say your show rehearses Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but your choreographer has a prior commitment on Mondays. Can you get away with having your choreographer only available for Thursday and Friday rehearsals, or do you need a larger time commitment from them?
Be aware of performance dates, as well. Are you expecting the team members to be at every performance on top of all the rehearsals?
It’s a touchy subject, but it must be addressed–is the role a paid or voluntary position? Be very upfront with potential team members as to whether or not the position is paid, and (if it is a paid position) how the payment works. Will the team member be paid an hourly rate or a lump sum? When will payment be received (on a weekly basis, or after closing night)? Does the team member need to sign a contract?
On a related note… If you hiring an artistic team member who is not part of the school system, that person will most likely be required to provide a police background check. (Note: If this person is a minor, then most likely you can substitute the police background check with a vulnerable sector check.) The costs tend to be different depending on whether or not the position is paid or volunteer. You will want to check with your school board and police station to find out the requirements and costs, and whether or not the potential staff member will be required to pay for it themselves or be reimbursed. Ensure that this is taken care of before work begins with students!
5. The right mix of people.
This is one of those things that is harder to gauge but can really affect a production. If at all possible, get the whole potential team together before auditions so you can see how everyone mixes with each other. Have your team members worked together before? Do your ideas blend together, or are people trying to talk over each other? If a conflicting idea is brought up, how is the conflict resolved? As the director, do you want to be the boss of the production, or do you want a more team-oriented approach? These are all important things to consider. Also realize that different team members will work well with different people. Just because Choreographer X did an amazing job on their last production, doesn’t mean that you will work well with that person, or vice versa.Click here for a free checklist to help you select the right artistic staff members for your team.
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer, and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.