Even without prior theater experience, students can provide important help to their school shows. Theater is a complex art and it takes a village to mount a show. Set design, lighting and stage management are just a few of the options below.
1. Audition for a part.
Actors might seem to have the most glamorous jobs in a show, but acting often requires a major commitment and tons of work. For your child’s first theater experience, aim for supporting or chorus roles, which often come with less pressure and more fun when a student joins a production for the first time.
2. Assist the director.
Sometimes a child does not land the desired acting role. Instead of leaving a show altogether, why not ask the director if he can assist? As an assistant director, a student can learn about theater from the director’s vantage, which will likely help on the next audition.
3. Be the dramaturge.
Kids who enjoy digging into a subject often enjoy the role of dramaturge. This person researches the historic and cultural aspects of the show, as well as the play’s setting.
4. Light the show.
During dress rehearsals and performances, someone must operate the light board and spotlights. With training, students can manage these jobs.
5. Run the sound.
Productions often use microphones, music and sound effects. Typically a student runs the sound board.
6. Dress in black.
The set crew often dress in black and scurry around the stage between scenes. They reset the stage during dress rehearsals and performances with sets and props for the next scene.
7. Aspire to stage manager.
The stage manager “calls the show,” overseeing the set, light and sound crews and coordinating the timing of the show from backstage.
8. Build and paint sets.
Students handy with a hammer and a paintbrush can help bring the play to life. Set builds often take place in the evening or on weekends in spurts of several hours at a time.
9. Gather or make props.
If your child has a knack for decorating or crafting, making props might be the perfect job. Props can be bought, borrowed, embellished or built from scratch.
10. Sew costumes.
Most theater departments can use as many nimble fingers as they can recruit. On large productions, even a person with basic skills may be able to contribute substantially.
11. Assist with hair and makeup.
When the pressure is on, actors can need help getting hair and makeup done in time, especially if wigs or quick changes are involved. Productions welcome a student willing to work in the dressing room.
12. Shoot photographs.
Publicity shots are often needed to promote a show, a good role for a student who loves photography.
13. Publicize the show.
Press releases need to be sent to regional media. Posters have to be displayed. Email announcements must be composed and sent out to the theater’s email list. Students and parents can help with this job together.
14. Design the show’s poster or T-shirts.
If your child has art talent and poster-making experience, he or she can offer to help the director create these items.
15. Accompany the singers in rehearsal.
Is your child a confident pianist? Most musical productions need a rehearsal accompanist, who typically joins the band to play during performances.
16. Play in the pit.
Does your student play in the school band? Can he or she play an unusual instrument or multiple instruments? Check whether your school’s musical director is assembling a band for the show.
17. Volunteer to usher.
Ushers stand at the doors of the theater, take tickets, hand out programs and help attendees find their seats.
18. Manage the house.
The house manager prepares the theater before the show, trains the ushers and communicates when the audience is ready to begin the show.
19. Help with the program.
The program often includes a director’s note, actor bios and sponsor ads. The contents must be laid out and printed.
20. Film the show.
Filming requires several camera operators. This team is typically led by an adult professional, but students with video filming or editing experience can participate.
Christina Katz is a freelance writer and wife of a high school theater teacher. Her latest book is The Art of Making Time For Yourself, A Collection of Advice for Moms.