Five "Do's" (and Five "Don'ts") for Running a Student Theatre Organization

April 19, 2019

In the first part of this blog, I discussed making the transition from a high school to a college theatre program. Here, I'll give you five "do's" and five "don'ts" to serve as guidelines for running and possibly creating a student theatre organization.

I had the opportunity to sit on the board for Temple University's Sidestage Season for two and a half years during my undergrad there. During that time, I was lucky enough to be able to watch the organization grow from a ragtag group of disgruntled theatre students into a campus-wide presence that received yearly funding from the university and from outside sponsors. It started with a simple premise: the creative needs of the students are not being met by the university's season alone, and therefore it needs to be supplemented. What can we do to feed the creativity of our program? What can we do with the resources we currently have, and how can we expand those resources?

While there are a lot of minutiae that go into producing a play, I will not go into them here for the sake of redundancy. YouthPLAYS has set up a lovely and extensive website on how to do just that which can be found here. Instead, let me leave you with these thoughts on setting up and running a student theatre collective, as developing these skills will prepare you for the professional world regardless of your chosen discipline.

1) Do not be afraid to reach out to your school. Chances are high that your university has a program set up to grant funding to student organizations, and chances are also high that it's being underutilized because student groups don't want to take the time to investigate it. Sidestage was able to secure thousands of dollars in grant funding simply by taking the time to apply for it.

2) Listen. Check your ego at the door and make sure you are hearing the voices that need to be heard. Art is often intensely personal, so keep a professional attitude in the front of your mind.

3) Start small, but start proud. There is a fine balance between biting off more than you can chew and going off half-cocked. Don't be afraid to say no if it means protecting your own sanity, and dole out responsibilities accordingly. College students want to be involved, so if you need help, ask.

4) Plan ahead and stay organized. Difficulties will snowball if you wait until the last minute. I'd suggest nailing down a space to work in before even planning a season. And before either, budget. On that note...

5) Get creative! With your space, props, set, and casting. We did Othello on the steps outside the theatre building in May. Everyone had a blast and it turned more than a few heads. That's why we do this, right? Believe me, people will notice.

On the other hand, here are a few don'ts:

1) Don't antagonize the school, the faculty, or the staff of your program. Running a program like this is much easier with the support of the faculty. You want your group to complement the department, not run in opposition to it.

2) Don't UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES cut corners when it comes to paying writers for their work. Pay for your royalties. Period.

3) Don't compromise your artistic integrity. If you feel threatened or disrespected, communicate that for the good of the group. Nothing can upset the fabric of a student organization like backdoor disrespect.

4) Don't assume that your friends are the best folks for the job. Prioritize working with people you trust over working with people you like. There's no better way to burn two bridges at once than to put an irresponsible friend in charge of something that affects the organization.

5) Don't worry. You can do this. It's only the beginning! 

Post Comment

Please login here to leave comments.


Be the first one to post a comment.