Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tips for Student Organizations that want to do Theatre

When I was in college I was heavily involved in two student organizations that did regular theater productions as well as Alpha Psy Omega the theatre honor society. While I never held an executive board position I did direct and act in most of the shows and were friends with all of the leaders. I've seen great things that work and some things that don't. So let me give you a rapid fire session of tips for for those guys that want to branch out and try their own stuff.

I got one of my first great roles from a Student Organization


  • Be general in your mission statement: I was in one organization that did different style productions throughout the year. I also in one organization that did only children's theater. Once all the people in the latter organization that were really gung ho about children's theater graduated were were left with a dedicated core but none of the general assembly were true believers. When people stop showing up to meetings you're dead. 
  • Be reasonable in your expectations: I'm supposing that you started this organization because you wanted to get to do the shows or opportunities that you can't get anywhere else. You're not going to be able to beat your department's mainstage at it's own game. Start out with creating an atmosphere of experimentation (like a lab setting). When we started trying to get bigger sets and bigger production value from our shows we started burning people out...the very same people who were giving their all in mainstage shows. 
  • Be department neutral: The first organization I got in on was very hostile to the department faculty. They had a valid point (there were no opportunities to use the skills they learn in class) But they took the wrong way to go about it. They often tied up theatre classrooms in rehearsals and let their homework slide as they spent countless hours on rehearsal. They even had anti faculty style meetings right next to where the faculty offices were located. What ended up happening was that the faculty ended up resenting the organization and after the graduating class that ran it left they did everything they could to squelch it...even three years later when someone wanted to bring it back up. The next organization that came up started holding meetings and rehearsals in a different building and even had a non-faculty advisor. That makes all of the difference.
  • Embrace the temporary but plan for the future: Other than Alpha Psy none of the organizations that I talk about here are still around at my alma mater. You have to understand that after the cult of personality that surrounds the founders dies off when you leave the interest will dwindle unless you do something to keep people interested. Just remember that you started this to bulk up your resume and portfolio. The theatre department you're in is where you should be really focusing. Have fun but realize the degree and the job reccomendations from faculty are what's going to last in the future. 

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