As the school year commences, you may look for new components to add to your theatre curriculum. Along with teaching passionate students about the many tenets of acting, you should consider introducing crew and technical work into the mix. 

Along with adding a dynamic new facet to your class, getting students involved with technical work has various other benefits. On The Stage explores why you should implement tech/crew work into your curriculum and a few ways to do so. 

Why You Should

It Creates Well-Rounded Theatre Professionals

Any great theatre professional has a wide breadth of information about their craft. This means that along with well-honed acting, dancing, and singing abilities, they are knowledgeable about lighting, sound, costume, and set design.

Knowing about more than one facet of theatre creates a competitive edge. In a heavily saturated theatre market, one needs all the skills they can to make an impression. This will do just that! 

It Helps to Gain Appreciation for the Craft

Learning more about any discipline lends itself to a greater respect for the craft at large. Actors who are incredibly passionate about being on stage will benefit greatly from learning more about the work that helps them shine.

In short, actors can gain empathy, respect, and more understanding of the complexity of background work by engaging in it themselves. 

It Can Open Doors to More Opportunities 

Let’s be honest – landing a role in a major production can be a monstrous feat. Say a student didn’t get cast in a community theatre or professional production but still wants to be involved backstage. Having a knowledge of tech and crew work means he or she has a greater chance of getting a spot in that department. 

And in the professional world, getting any kind of gig in a show is laudable. By knowing more about the inner workings of a backstage craft, job opportunities can double. 

It Can Spark a New Passion 

Perhaps you have a few students in your class who aren’t particularly jazzed about getting on stage in front of an audience, but they need this credit to graduate. Most educators have encountered this type of student – unenthusiastic about “the theatre” in general. 

Instead of relegating them to the ensemble, why not try to encourage them to find an interest elsewhere in the world of theatre? Crew and tech work could spark a passion they didn’t know they had – and they’ll have you to thank for helping to discover it. 

How to Do It

Introducing crew and technical work to your students doesn’t need to be incredibly complicated or long-winded. Depending on your time, budget, and equipment, you can keep it simple or go for the whole shebang. 

Pull from Other Media

Have all your students find a clip online – from a TV show, movie, commercial, or filmed theatre production – where an element outside of the acting was particularly compelling. This could be using light, sound effects, costuming, or set design.  

Have each student explain what drew them to their clip and how their selected element truly elevates the show. Discuss the semantics of how they think the effect was created and how you could recreate it in your classroom.

Bring in the Experts

If you have the time and budget, consider hosting a workshop for your students outside of classroom hours. 

Bring it pros from community theatres or professional theatres in your area, and have them get into the nitty-gritty with your students. (Psst – this could also be a potentially smart way to fundraise!) 

By bringing in experts, students can get firsthand knowledge about careers in the industry outside of teaching and acting. Win-win! 

Get Hands-On

Let all the students take turns sitting at and controlling the lighting and sound equipment with your theatre after your workshop or after a few basic lessons. Perhaps you can work through small scenes with simple cues and allow each student to take a swing at nailing them. 

Additionally, you can get experimental with lighting and sound exercises, allowing students to get creative and have some fun. Light a scene using only found lighting within the space – overhead lights, cell phones, flashlights, lights from a projector, fake candles, natural lighting, etc. How can you make it work?

For some sound exercises, work to create a soundscape with found objects in your classroom. You could also encourage your students to make playlists for shows with thematically appropriate songs. The sky’s the limit! 

Create Dioramas and Mood Boards

Creating dioramas and mood boards combines creativity and analysis. When you’re studying the ins and outs of set design, have your students create 3D scale models of your set using shoe boxes and found objects like popsicle sticks, magazine cutouts, and other craft materials.

If you want to get more conceptual, encourage students to create mood boards for the shows you’re working on. These can include color palettes, costume swatches, character studies, and other visually interesting items. 

You can also have students design makeup looks for your current play or musical using a blank face template. Don’t be afraid to get your hands a bit dirty! 

Link Up with Other Teachers

The beauty of the school ecosystem is that there are various experts just down the hall. Consider collaborating with educators in visual art, computer science, graphic design, woodshop, English, and others who might have valuable insight into technical or crew work.

You can have art educators teach your students how to paint on different materials; graphic designers teach students how to navigate simple design software, or woodshop pros teach students how to navigate power tools for set design safely. Collaborative learning is a great way to get everyone involved!

How On The Stage Can Help 

On The Stage can introduce you to thousands of theatre professionals nationwide – meaning you have greater chances for connections, collaboration, and learning opportunities. Whether you want to help your students learn more about the many aspects of theatre, sell more tickets, improve your fundraising and reporting efforts, or elevate your theatre in general, On The Stage can help. Book a personalized demo today to get started.