What is the purpose of PAC Educational Theatre? Are we just paying for our kids to be in a play?
PAC Educational Theatre’s program is not about putting on performances. When you look at our literature and the educational philosophy of this program, you will see we promote and encourage such things as self-esteem, focus, discipline, determination, imagination, creativity, social skills, memorization techniques, motor skills, and coordination. All of this happens through the act of coordination a live theatrical event. However, we do not set out to solely produce a show. We set out to educate.
Every week we will try to engage in creative theatre exercises that further allow all these many skills to be put into practice. Then we will move to the actual “rehearsal” time, which includes learning songs, dances, and staging for the show. This process further builds on our philosophy.
We will do our very best to make sure each and every single child goes on stage on opening night feeling proud of what they have accomplished. We hope they can feel good about mastering the dance step they struggled with for weeks, feel confident they finally hit that note without sounding sharp or flat, and know they are presenting themselves in the best possible way. In rehearsals, if even one child is not doing a dance step right, one of the members of our staff will help them so they can execute that step to the very best of their ability.
It will take months to get our cast to where they are when an audience sees them. The majority of the children who will walk through our doors will have absolutely no formal theatrical training of any kind. Despite this, they will be performing in front of hundreds of people throughout the run of a show. What the audience sees is the final arrival of what we hope to be a wonderful and exciting journey. Journey that will have taken lots of hard work, by both our staff and cast.
Are the cast members grouped by age or ability?
All of our cast members will be placed into age appropriate groups for their weekly workshops. An important part of this program is to develop skills that contribute to the socialization and the development of friendships they may never otherwise have if they were put in a school setting. We find that a child typically finds it harder to speak up or feel free to be imaginative and creative if they are in a group with children who are not their own age. Our theatre games are geared towards age levels. We cannot expect a nine year old to be as open to a challenging improvisation game that even a fifteen year old is hesitant to attempt. No matter how talented that nine year old is, we feel they have more of a chance to reach their full potential when placed with their peers.
In addition, every group needs to have some variety in age. The older kids in each group, whether they realize it or not, are directly helping fellow cast members in their group by setting the bar and encouraging those around them to strive to achieve. What would happen to a bee colony if all it had were worker bees. They need a queen bee and others to help set the standard.
Will my child be a star?
If parents are looking for their child to be a star, we strongly encourage them to go somewhere else, as it is not what we are about. Of course, parents often have a biased opinion of their children, and with good reason. Every parent sees their child as a star, and in many ways, they are. However, our staff will be in the room every week seeing how each child is progressing; working with them and seeing how they do with this dance combination or that musical phrase, seeing what happens when they are put under the pressure of performing in front of a large group. Many parents come to us saying, “But Little Angela sings the songs perfectly at home and in the car.” However, it is not uncommon for them to barely remember any of the words when they get in front of us. These are the things parents do not see about their children in the rehearsal room. They are different at home than when they are put to the test in front of other people. What will happen when they are put in front of an audience of three hundred? It is our job to ensure their success, not their failure.
How much stage time will my child have?
Our goal is to make sure each group is given at least three numbers in each show. Please keep in mind every show will be different. For example, a show like “Matilda; the Musical” has more dancing, while a show like “Into the Woods” emphasizes acting and singing, and “The Music Man” has a little bit of everything: movement, dancing, singing, and acting. We would like to make some analogies here, if we may. Go to just about any dance school’s production or recital of “The Nutcracker” across the country. There you will see each class may be in only one number, and often, those children perform that number in a costume where you, as a parent, can barely tell which child is yours. However, they are darn cute in that Sugar Plum Fairy or mouse or bear costume! What about sports games where your child is perhaps sitting on the bench the whole game? In this program, nobody sits on the bench! Our point is this: we strive to give all cast members as much stage time as possible. We also feel we know what each group is capable of learning in their given workshop time. Therefore, we ask you to please trust us. We would rather have each group in three numbers, looking absolutely fantastic, than have a group in seven numbers that look just mediocre.
How do you cast?
Our casting process will be a little different than most theatre groups. We will not cast solely one person in each role. Instead, we will offer more people opportunities by multi casting as many principal roles as possible. Most people might think we are crazy for this approach, but we want to be able to offer many different cast members a special chance to shine.
During the final week of the show, The Artistic Staff will make a casting chart. This chart is passed out right before we open and lets everybody know who will be playing which role at what performance. This process takes hours to complete as we will take many things into consideration. Yes, we know that it will be frustrating to not receive the casting chart until a couple days before opening. However, we will need to see how each student copes with being on stage, in the theatre, under the pressure of lights, sets, costumes, and seeing a sea of 300 seats in the audience. It is very different than being in the regular rehearsal space. There is a method to our madness and we ask you to please attempt to understand and trust why we do things this way. The alternative is one person in each role, frankly, we don’t think that’s any fun.
Your child will never be asked to audition in the manner that other groups do. We will begin looking at all cast members at our first meeting. We will never ask your child to stand at the piano with a piece of music and audition. Many children have the ability to sing and speak well, however when put on the spot, may not shine. This process will allow us to see, in a non-threatening way, who might be capable of handling a principal role. However, please keep in mind though that everyone is accepted as a member of the cast!
If your child is asked to study for a principal role(s), it does not mean they are guaranteed a performance. Your child (this pertains to adults in the cast also) is not guaranteed any specific performance as a principal. What it does mean is they have been given the opportunity to work towards a performance. They are to study, rehearse, memorize their lines, learn the blocking (where you go on the stage at what point), and attend all principal rehearsals (unless otherwise noted). Our staff will work with them and observe their progress. If they do not know a role or, in our opinion, they seem to be struggling with a role, it is possible they might not receive a performance. Believe us, we would love to see everybody get the chance to do a show in his or her role! However, we are not about to jeopardize either them or that specific performance by placing them on stage if they do not seem comfortable in a role. Simply wanting a role or performance is not enough; one has to earn it.
What will be expected?
Studying for a lead role is a wonderful opportunity. Keep in mind there will be many other cast members who would be more than thrilled to work towards a performance as a lead and will not get that chance. However, it is important you, as the parent, and your child, as the cast member, realize it also requires a great deal of commitment and responsibility. As previously mentioned, they must learn all the required lines, songs, dance, and blocking. We also take into account behavior and attitude towards our staff and their fellow cast members.
Another thing is the importance of attendance by all, but especially those studying for a principal role. It is a very frustrating thing when we are trying to block and stage scenes or musical numbers and key people are missing. If an excessive amount of people are missing, we will not be able to proceed as planned, and it will set the entire production behind schedule. We realize your child might have other activities they are involved with. While we are understanding of this and encourage their participation in these other activities, it is important they acknowledge and stand by the commitment they will make to our staff, our production, and their fellow cast members. Excessive absences can result in the loss of a principal role.
What if my child does not receive a principal role?
Everyone performs in every show and ensemble performance is mandatory for all cast members. First, every person in our program is on stage in a role. It may be a townsperson, an orphan, a pickpocket, or even Oliver. But our philosophy is even an orphan that may be in the back row is just as important as Oliver. Our staff absolutely is always disappointed when we hear a child say, “I don’t have a part.” Yes parents, this goes for you too. Please don’t come to us and say something like, “Well, since my child doesn’t have a part, I figured missing some rehearsals wasn’t a big deal. EVERYONE HAS A PART! Every single part is important. The ensemble is just as important as any lead. What would Les Miserable be without the peasants on the streets of France? What would Annie be without a stage full of orphans? When it comes down to it, performing is performing; no matter what role you are playing. We truly believer the old adage, “There are no small parts, just small actors.” Everyone in our show is part of the team and, therefore, everyone is important. If you disagree with this philosophy, or are here for your child to be a star, again we will suggest you try another company.
When you child is not scheduled to be a principal part for a specific performance, they are still expected to perform in the ensemble. We do not tolerate the “prima donna” mentality well and do our best to discourage such behavior from any cast member. Your child is getting a wonderful opportunity to perform on stage and we hope to teach them the value of that. Not many people can say they ever got a chance to that in