The Easy Way to Start a School Drama ClubBy Christine Hennebury
You don't need to have an extensive theatre background to create a theatre group at your child’s school. All you need to get started is enthusiasm, a few good books or websites and, of course, this guideline.
Contact the administration
Contact the principal or administrator at your child's school and explain that you are interested in starting a drama club. You'll need to arrange meeting space, teacher support, the use of the school's supplies, and the kids may need permission slips to participate. The school administration should be able to help you with all of that. Remember, you'll be doing the school a favor, not the other way around, so be sure to ask for the support you need.
Put up some posters at school, get the school to put the meeting information on the daily announcements and get interested teachers to mention the new drama group to their classes. You'll end up with lots of kids eager to join your group.
Read and find resources
Check out the school library, the local public library, the university or college library and the internet to find theatre games and age-appropriate scripts. You can find some great theatre games in these books: Talia Pura's Stages: Creative Ideas for Teaching Drama, David Kemp's A Different Drummer: An Ideas Book for Drama and online at www.proteacher.com/080010.shtml and at www.humanpingpongball.com.
Plan your meetings
For your first few meetings, pick out a variety of games: some mime, some improvisation, some acting games, some very active games and some circle games. Make sure you have lots, because some games will fall flat and take very little time, and you don't want to go through your whole game list in half an hour. Make sure that you don't let the kids talk you into playing the same few games over and over; they need to challenge themselves.
Theatre games are designed to teach drama skills. As students play, you'll be able to see where each child's talent lies. Use that information to determine which type of performance you want to do (see below). Your early meetings will be mostly filled with games, but as you move towards a performance you'll probably use the games primarily as warm-ups to rehearsal.
Plan your performance
Putting on a show is one of the main reasons for starting a drama club. The kids and their parents will expect it, so you may as well start planning yours early. Be sure to consult with the school administration to find a performance date that doesn't conflict with the school calendar.
The next step is up to you: do you want to do a play, a variety show, or a theatre games showcase? They each have their merits, but you'll have to choose based on your time frame and confidence level.
Doing a play (or an excerpt from a play) requires the most confidence and the most time. You'll have to audition people from your drama group, and there may not be roles for everyone. Of course, it can be very comforting to work from a script, and some kids can design posters or sets or help with the lighting.
There's a great list of plays available for purchase at www.childrenstheatreplays.com.
A variety show falls somewhere in the middle of the time and confidence range. You need to have a real eye for what works and the ability to mix up the acts so the audience doesn't get bored. However, you can pull off a variety show fairly quickly and you can give every kid the chance to show off a little. A variety show can include everything from mime to audience participation improvisation to short skits written by the kids.
Theatre games showcases
A theatre games showcase is the easiest show to do. Just pick a variety of the games that you use at rehearsals and let the parents come watch the kids play. The only real challenge is in picking theatre games that are interesting to watch, since a lot of games are much more interesting for the players than for observers.
Relax and have fun
The important thing to remember about a school drama club is that you aren't trying to produce an Academy Award-winning show. Your job is to let the kids learn new things and then to show off their talents. So make sure you stay relaxed and go with the flow.
Kids who like to act tend to be a bit rambunctious, so you’ll need to have plenty of controlled craziness to help them work their sillies out before they can settle into some of the quieter games or be satisfied with memorizing lines and stage directions. Have fun, and as we say in the theatre biz: Break a leg!
© Christine Hennebury
Christine Hennebury is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. She is the founder of split pea productions, a community theatre group, and she writes and directs their performances. She is also the improv coach for O'Donel High School. More of her writing can be found at www.mombie.com.