Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How to get the best out of a visit from a theatre company to your school.

We hope that this blog will help you to get the most out of the expensive event that you are setting up. Presented are some of the situations that regularly occur.

Prepare for the visit.

Let the whole school know we are on our way.

Tell the staff, teachers and assistants, the parents, non teaching staff (caretaker, site manager, cleaner, administration, bursar’, breakfast club, dinner ladies and supervisors) and in some cases tell the pupils.  You can choose to tell them when, where, what and for who. Often the top year understand a show is being set up and then they work out that they are not to see the show and then feel left out.

The more the pupils are informed of a performance arriving at the school and how the group event works, the more relaxed and ready the children will be for the presentation. Hence the more they will get out of a performance and this will help with follow up work.

Tell them the name of the production or show them the poster. It often leads to an understanding of what to expect. Many times in our experience the audience are told a show is coming but it is not named or tied to a topic. It becomes an unnecessary mystery and mostly a puppet show even though no one has mentioned puppets.

Is the performance a treat?

Often a performance is presented in school as a surprise or treat, so this will affect who knows what.

However this should not be a reason to ignore the performance afterwards. Talking about it and recalling an event allows the audience to understand what has happened. This is very important for children that have not seen much theatre. Some children do not understand the format and are at a loss as to how to react to a live performance. We have heard of young children asking for the show to be rewound and played again.

Time of year

If a performance is near Christmas it is thought to be a ‘Panto’, otherwise it automatically assumed to be a puppet show, especially if the set has long flats that suggest a booth as opposed to a back drop. Hence informing the audience what they are to see reduces the confusion and helps the children to focus.

What is it about?

Talk about the topics that are covered by the show. You don’t have to tell the whole plot. This will spoil the surprises. But let the children know that is has actors, set, props and participation and what direction the story takes, whether traditional, non-traditional, comical, serious, fiction or non fiction or a combination of stories  etc.

For example in our ‘Alan in Wonderland and the 3 Goats Plus…’ the story does not have a traditional Alice, but is often assumed to include her. BCT’s Al-Ice is a troll with a Christmas pudding body, because she was trapped at the Mad Hatters Tea Party and ate too many cakes..The plot is a mixture of traditional tales and even more.……..as suggested by the ‘Plus’ in the title.

Display the poster in the school.

The posters for all Booster Cushion Theatre performances show some of the elements of the story. For ‘Alan in Wonderland and the 3 Goats Plus….’ we see 3 goats pulling suitcases over a bridge, crossing a river full of teacups, cakes, fishes and an enormous Troll’s foot.

The written outline of the performance clearly details the scenes so that teachers can prepare pre and post work, with the various themes mentioned. We recommend that you read it, it is short, just a side of A4. It does not take more than a few minuets, just like this blog.

Keep in touch

Always remember to contact the group if you have any items to discuss. We at Booster Cushion Theatre, phone to check details before the performance and ask how the production is to be used and offer ideas. Often this is lost on the administration assistant asked to make the booking and is not passed on to the relevant teacher.

This is just an outline of considerations that can easily be forgotten in a busy school day.

We have experienced all of this and more. As have most other theatre companies working with schools.

Please talk to us at Booster Cushion Theatre on:
Tel: 01727 873 874 

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