Last month I wrote an article about one school with which I work endeavoring to produce its first musical. I promised to keep you updated on our progress in this process new to the whole school community. The last installment went over how the production team generated interest in the show, and reported that nearly half of the students (totaling nearly 200 students) in the school expressed interest in attending the auditions. I had remarked that if even half of those students returned the audition permission slips, we would be set up to have a great show.
It turns out that over 90 of those K-5 students not only returned the audition slips, but braved the auditions, and stood before a panel of teachers to sing solo, and speak about themselves. 45 of those students returned for a callback to sing, read some dialogue, and do some movement all by themselves before that same panel. For students who tend to be shy or reticent to read/speak, and for whom English is a second language, this was an amazing demonstration of courage and commitment. It was truly remarkable.
The next test of the dedication of the students and their families was the parent information meeting that followed the auditions and callbacks. The meeting was advertised as the final requirement to being officially cast in the musical. If the parent or guardian and the child attended the meeting, and signed a form to attest to their commitment to the show, the child would be given a role.
Tardiness and absenteeism are huge issues at this school, so having the students come back in the evening with an adult was a true test of their commitment. As of the first full cast rehearsal, the cast is comprised of 55 dedicated students. We expect there may be some attrition as we progress, since this is when the hard work really starts and the show is months away, scheduled for the end of June.
However, there is one thing the production team is hoping will help the students appreciate why staying dedicated to this project is worth it. Back in November, the school applied for a grant that would pay for the cast members, and an adult to attend a musical together. Unfortunately at that time, we did not have a sense of how large the cast would be so, although we were awarded the grant, we will not be able to take the whole cast. However, we will be able to take the students cast in the principal roles, and some of the supporting cast along with one adult per child. This is a professional show, and that was important to me.
I rarely get to live theater myself because the cost is so often prohibitive, but I recently was treated to a professional show and relished the experience. It is incredibly uplifting and motivating to watch people do something I love, and do it to that level of mastery. This is what I want most for those students. I want them to have what could prove to be a life-changing experience.
I want them to taste what hard work and dedication can produce. My hope is that these students, and the adults who support them, will walk away from this experience with a better understanding of what can be done when people love what they do, and work together to make it happen. I hope that seeing this performance will inspire them to invest in this process, and create a show they can be proud of come June. Stay tuned!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.