Okay, so I’m in the middle of putting together the very first Middle School Production at the Overseas School of Colombo. I’m very fortunate to work with a great group of students, staff and parents on this, but inevitably there are frustrations.
Most of which are due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts and the nature of middle school minds. They really are very forgetful and socially awkward. We were all there at one point. It’s just that stage of development and I have had the joy of living through it over and over again for the past 10 years of my life.
Fortunately, I also have the sense of humour to go along with the role. My students never cease to make me laugh, and I will never be able to keep a straight face when someone says “Hold onto your balls” in a fitness class.
Below I have comprised a step by step guide for staging a middle school production.
One year before
Find an entertaining script and then get plenty of rest while you still can.
Four months before
Design a comprehensive practice schedule. Post it on a website. Put it in the announcements. Email it to all the students and their parents. Give a paper copy to each student at the first rehearsal. Then remain calm when students inevitably come to you one by one and say, “Can I get a copy of the schedule?” or “I didn’t know we had a rehearsal today.”
Three months before
Have students memorize their lines and work through the blocking scene by scene. This is the fun part when a lot of experimenting can take place and the students develop their character identities. It’s also when you will need to consider hiring a really intimidating security guard to keep the students in the audience watching quietly while the others are performing.
Two months before
Send out a notice to gather props and costume items. Delegate the responsibilities to the appropriate students. Set a deadline of one week later to do an inventory. When one week later arrives and you don’t have anything, try again. Don’t give up. Nag. Nag. Nag. Eventually the majority of the items will show up and you’ll have a good idea of what you must go out and buy.
One month before
Hopefully you are still nagging about the items and feel like a broken record, otherwise, you clearly aren’t doing your job. “Middle school students need to hear a direction a minimum of five times for it to register and an additional two times for them to actually act on it” (Cobbledick, Scientific classroom findings).
Two weeks before
Cross your fingers that you can now get onto the performance stage. Block the scenes according to the new space. Add in all the props and don’t lose it when most of the props have been forgotten.
Stay calm! Try to maintain your composure. When someone asks how the rehearsals are going, smile and say, “It’s organized chaos at this point, but it will all come together. It always does.” Do not let them detect the panic that underlies this statement.
One week before
Run the show at least twice with sound, lighting, costumes and makeup. When someone asks how rehearsals are going, it is best to keep your answers brief. A quick “really well, thanks for asking” will suffice. Anything more will clearly give away the impending sense of doom you are feeling.
One day before
Give the students a good pep talk. They truly have worked hard. Remember that bad final rehearsals are like rain on wedding days, extremely lucky. Or at least tell yourself this because there is nothing you can do at this point.
Introducing the performance
Be sure to stress all the hard work the kids have put into every aspect of the show. Emphasize how proud you are that they will be doing everything by themselves tonight. This way if it is a success you will get all the credit for teaching such a large group of students an invaluable skill set and will be forgiven for anything that goes wrong because after all, “they are only children and they are trying their best.”
Depending on the results either bask in the glory or flee the country!
Wish me luck.