Once the final performance of a show is completed, what comes next? It’s time to tear down the set, clean the theatre from top to bottom, and return the space back to its regular, unadorned, clean and tidy state. This process is called the strike, and it is an important part of the theatrical process. In professional theatre, strike is handled only by specific crew members, but in school shows everyone is needed to help!
It’s natural that after the final performance, everyone will be eager to get home (or, more likely, to get to a closing night party!). But the faster and more efficiently the strike is completed, the sooner everyone can get out of there. Moreover, since the full cast and crew helped to make the show, it’s only proper that the entire cast and crew work together to finish the process through the strike. Read on for four tips to help make your strike efficient, positive, and stress-free.
1. All hands on deck
From the very beginning, make it clear that every single person (students, teachers, parent volunteers, etc.) associated with the show is expected to attend strike. This is non-negotiable. Everyone – from the actors to the crew to the producers – needs to attend strike. The phrase “Many hands make light work” applies here in spades. Include strike in your schedule from the get-go, and make it clear that everyone is to attend for the duration, whether it be right after closing night or the day after. That way the excuse “I didn’t know about it” doesn’t apply.
As well, make it a rule that nobody leaves until everything is done. Letting some students leave early can create resentment: “Why did so-and-so get to leave early and I didn’t?” Everyone helps – no ifs, ands, or buts.
A few days before strike, make sure to inform the full cast and crew of what needs to get done during strike. Make specific lists and post them backstage. The more people who know what’s going on, the fewer questions will have to be answered later.
Separate students into groups and assign areas of responsibility to the groups. Think in terms of categories: set, costumes, props, technical areas (such as lighting and sound equipment), backstage areas, green room (if you have one), dressing rooms, washrooms, kitchen/food area, etc. Assign specific tasks to each student in the group. You could make a checklist and have students initial their tasks once they’ve been completed. Assign one member of the group to act as leader and have them sign off on the entire area once it’s complete. Once those tasks are completed, students should move to another group to assist them.
There are also those last particularly tedious jobs that get left until the end, such as sweeping or emptying garbage containers. Have a master checklist with those tasks that can be assigned once the major tasks have been completed.
4. Safety first
Be sure that students wear work clothes (as they will get dirty and sweaty) and sensible, closed-toe shoes. If necessary, provide personal protective equipment such as gloves, hard hats, or dust masks. Dismantling some large sets may require the use of drills, other tools, ladders, or lifts. Only students who have been properly trained and/or certified to use these items should use them. Students must not be assigned tasks that they cannot complete safely.
As well, have water and some small, healthy snacks available for your students. Everyone is generally hungry and tired after a show, and having something to nibble on can definitely help students work more effectively.
What are your best tips for an effective strike? Share them with us!Click here for a free printable tip sheet and sample checklist.
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.