One of the great things about being a high school teacher and a playwright is that I’ve been able to fuse the two. For quite some time now, I’ve been able to create my own workshop environment where I write and direct a play for teens, using their help throughout the entire run.
What are the benefits?
Admittedly, I get a play out of the deal, which will hopefully be published and performed by others. But the bigger rewards come with process itself. Here are just a few:
1. Teens are honest and, if you create an environment where they feel comfortable enough to speak their mind, you’ll get all the constructive feedback you’ll ever need and more.
2. Teens are creative AND smart. I’ve found that the vast majority of students who are involved in speech and drama are usually the top students in their class. They are there because they LOVE theatre and want to contribute in any way. It’d be a different story if you were directing a show with students who didn’t want to be there.
3. Your actors connect with the show on a deeper level. Why? Because they’ve been there every step of the way and know what every line means and what the thought process was behind it.
4. The play only gets better over time. The benefit of hearing the same lines over and over again in rehearsal is that you can change them if it doesn’t “sound” right. Plus, the students begin to play around the dialogue or actions, which can result in some wonderful additions to the show.
5. Theatre is collaborative process. While you are certainly in charge, you don’t have to be the dictator either. Be open to all suggestions that lend to the overall vision.
6. You are contributing to an under-valued market. There are so many plays being done by high school students that should not be done by high school students. One reason is that they’re playing adult roles they can’t connect with. Another reason is because there isn’t a whole lot out there that’s specifically written for teens. Your work helps change the tide. - Forrest Musselman