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University of Texas at Austin
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A Play for All Seasons

Play selection is the most difficult task of the director in the One-Act Play Contest. It runs parallel with the process of building a quality theatre program. Secondary school theatre programs must strive to provide the finest theatre experience. The most educationally beneficial include theatre arts classes, co-curricular theatre activities and a yearly production schedule of one-act and/or full-length plays. Quality theatre programs advance the culture, taste and art appreciation of school and community.

Theatre arts teachers must excel at public relations. Gaining the cooperation, confidence and respect of the school administration, students, parents and community is best accomplished by quality productions. Quality productions attract the administration, and quality students as actors, technicians and business managers. Quality productions attract and build quality audiences. And quality productions emphasize the importance of including theatre as an area worthy of academic study.

Producing quality theatre begins by selecting plays of literary value and theatrical merit. The theatre teacher is responsible for choosing scripts worthy of the educational experience involved. If English students must study the best literature, so must theatre students and theatre audiences be exposed to the best dramaturgy. Theatre is a reflection of life. When students experience superior plays written by outstanding authors, they learn, through character exploration, of the physical, mental and emotional development of the human personality, of people’s motives, reactions, standards and ideals, all of which enriches the students’ lives and helps them gain poise, social understanding, self-awareness and self-esteem.

Plays worthy of presentation in secondary schools are plays which may be accorded a place in dramatic literature. Such plays are legitimate teaching tools for expanding the literary, theatrical and social horizons of the students, challenging the talents and artistic abilities of the participants and offering a vital and important message of social and redeeming value to the adolescent and adult community. Such plays help fulfill the objective of aesthetic education.

Numerous plays of literary value and theatrical merit can be performed well on the secondary school level. Some plays may be technically beyond the budget while other plays may have themes which are unacceptable and unsuitable for secondary school actors and audiences. Plays with acceptable themes may include elements which are offensive to the administration, student body or community. Some elements may be altered without changing the meaning of a script. Editing may be in violation of the copyright laws. Some playwrights and publishers will not permit alterations. The theater teacher should never present a play in such an altered state as to destroy the premise of the play or the intent of the author.

School districts often have standards as to what can appear on the secondary school stage. These standards may vary greatly from district to district. What may be acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another. Theatre teachers must be sensitive to the needs and standards of the community and must be aware of the philosophy of the school district and administration. Theatre teachers must never be satisfied with mediocrity and must educate the public and upgrade community standards through the consistent presentation of quality theatre.

The theatre teacher is the school’s resident theatre expert, but the administration has the ultimate responsibility for the public relations image created by the theatre department and must answer to all needs, tastes, backgrounds and prejudices of the community. The administration must have complete trust in the theatre teacher and delegate responsibility for the theatre program. The theatre teacher must earn this trust by working cooperatively with the administration and demonstrating teaching skills, theatre expertise, integrity and enthusiasm for working with students within the secondary school and community environment. The theatre teacher should establish with the administration ground rules on school policy and philosophy, budget, censorship, artistic freedom, expectations and standards of the school and community. An administrator should not have to read and approve a play for production, but should have confidence in the judiciousness of the theatre teacher to select material which will be of value to the theatre program, the school and the community. This confidence must be earned. The beginning theatre teacher should schedule times with the administration to discuss play choice, theatrical qualities, educational merits and what will be accomplished by producing the play. The theatre teacher should keep the administrator informed and involved in all aspects of production and might invite an administrator to attend an occasional rehearsal. The administration should also be invited to attend performances. The theatre teacher will win the support, admiration and confidence of the administration by keeping lines of communication open.

Quality theatre programs are developed over a period of time through the professionalism of the theatre teacher and the school’s commitment to excellence. An inexperienced teacher should select an established play of literary value that is well known to the public, not difficult to produce, involves many students and matches student talents. The theatre teacher should establish short and long range goals and objectives, striving to improve the school’s yearly production schedule by incorporating various types of plays and styles of acting (period, contemporary, drama, comedy, musical, etc.) and including a variety of theatre experiences (one-acts, full-lengths, children’s theatre, mime presentations, student-directed plays, reader’s theatre, etc.) for the students. As the program grows, the theatre teacher should expand the subject matter and upgrade the standards of the school and the community. Plays should be produced which have an inter-curricular appeal and can be studied in social studies, English classes, etc. The theatre program should involve members of the faculty as well as parents and drama boosters who are willing to assist with the school’s productions.