By Christina Katz

When most parents think of school theater programs, they may think of their child on stage in the spotlight. But theater programs offer many more opportunities than what an audience sees up on stage.

While dramatically-inclined kids can certainly benefit from acting from a young age, students can find many ways to contribute to a production beyond acting, even without prior theater experience.

Kids can crisscross back and forth as they explore a variety of ways to contribute to theatrical productions. And maybe all this theatrical experience and know-how will help your child prepare to stand confidently in a spotlight of her very own some day.

Long story short: most directors frown on kids who act like the spotlight has been reserved for them and them alone. Theater is a complex art and it takes a village to make a show happen. So why not count all the ways your child might become involved? There are likely more opportunities than you even realized, including ways to spend time volunteering with your child.

  • Audition for a part. Actors may seem to have the most glamorous jobs in any show, but acting is a big time commitment and tons of work, especially for the show’s leads. If this is your child’s first theater experience, aim for supporting or chorus roles, which are less pressure and more fun when a student is joining a production for the first time.
  • Assist the director. Sometimes an actor does not land the role wanted. Instead of leaving a show altogether, why not ask the director if you can assist? The student director can learn a lot about theater from the director’s vantage point and these insights will likely help an actor on the next audition.
  • Be the dramaturge. Research-lovers will enjoy the role of dramaturge. This person researches the historic and cultural aspects of the show, as well as the play’s setting.
  • Light the show. During dress rehearsals and performances, the light board needs to be operated and spotlights may need to be run. With training from the technical director or the lighting designer, students can manage these jobs just fine.
  • Run the sound. Full productions often involve the use of microphones, music, and sound effects. Typically one student is trained by the sound director or technical director to run the sound board.
  • Dress in black. Those folks who dress in all black and scurry around the stage between scenes have a name: set crew. Their job is to reset the stage during dress rehearsals and performances for the coming scene with sets and props.
  • Aspire to stage manager. The stage manager ‘calls the show,’ meaning oversees all tech positions (set crew, light crew, and sound crew). In fact, the stage manager coordinates the timing of the show from backstage, communicating the timing of technical aspects for the actors.
  • Build and paint sets. Is your student handy with a hammer and a paintbrush? Then they can help bringing the world of the play to life. Set builds often take place in the evening or on weekends in spurts of several hours at a time.
  • Gather or make props. Remember that everything on the stage must register from the audience. 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.
  • Assist with hair and makeup. When the pressure is on, actors usually need help getting hair and makeup done in time, especially if wigs or quick changes are involved. Maybe your fashion-conscious child is willing to work in the dressing room during dress rehearsals and performances.
  • Play in the pit. Does your student play in the school band? Can they play an unusual instrument or multiple instruments that might add drama and entertainment to the musical score? For rock-centric shows, even an electric guitar is sometimes needed.
  • Volunteer to usher. A great way for students to see the show for free is to usher. Ushers stand at the doors of the theater, take tickets, hand out programs, and help attendees find their seats.
  • Manage the house. House manager prepares the house before the show and trains the ushers. This person is the liaison between the box office and the stage manager, communicating when the audience is ready to begin the show.
  • Help with the program. The director’s note needs to be included. Bios need to be gathered from the cast. Sponsors may submit ads. All the contents of the program must go through layout and design and get printed before each show. Another good job for a student and parent team.
  • Film the show. Several camera operators are usually needed to film a show in one or two takes. This team is typically led by an adult professional or volunteer, but students with an interest in filming or film editing can also volunteer.
  • Organize thank-you gifts. As you can imagine, once a show’s run is complete, there are a lot of folks to thank. If your student is thoughtful and likes to shop, maybe you could work together to line up gifts from the cast and crew for those in professional and leadership roles in the production.

Christina Katz is a journalist whose husband has been a high school theater teacher for over a decade and a half. She has seen many plays and musicals and always enjoys them thoroughly



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