I just came back from an end-of-semester drama presentation at a local elementary school. If you run a drama program, you’re familiar with this opportunity for parents to come and see what their kids have been working on.
Parents are excited to see their kids, kids are excited to have their parents see them, and the drama teacher is nervous making sure things run smoothly and everyone walks away happy and appreciative.
Having led hundreds of these myself, I started thinking about what I feel are some helpful tips that will make your drama presentation as successful as possible:
This may sound like common sense, but it’s so important that it needs mentioning. Parents don’t want to see a fumbling teacher, and kids will get antsy if they don’t have specific direction. Make sure you have thought through and written out the exact order of events, and how much time you expect each event to take. Within each event make sure you’ve written who will be participating, the order of participation, etc. If you’re playing drama games, plan in advance who you will call up for each one, and let them know in advance. If you’re feeling more adventurous, put every student’s name in a hat, and explain to the audience that you will be choosing students’ at random from the hat for the different games until all the names are called.
Keep it short
Keep your welcome greeting under a minute. Cover how excited you are to share what you’ve been working on, the goal that the class has been working toward, what they’re about to see, and a short personal tidbit about the program. Let the activities, games and scenes speak for themselves as much as possible. Keep the activity descriptions to a sentence or two, or better yet if you have older kids ask them to introduce each game (let them know in advance so they can practice).
Keep it positive.
Don’t ever apologize for things not being as polished as they could be because of lack of time or resources. Instead mention how impressed you are with what the kids accomplished in such little time. If you know a particular activity or scene is going to be a little rough, introduce it just as you would any other. Then jump in and give the kids support as they need it.
Make sure the kids know what to expect.
I highly recommend having a full dry run-through of the “sharing day” either one session ahead of time, or before the parents arrive. The kids should know the order of events and when it’s their turn to participate. Consider printing a few copies of the “itinerary” and posting them stage right and left where the actors can see them but the audience can’t.
Have clean transitions.
The moments after a high-energy activity are the most crucial moments to maintain control of the environment. Simply telling your kids as their laughing and talking “please go back to your seats” does NOT cut it. Instantly regain their focus, then give them specific timed instructions. “Everyone take a breathe in, breathe out, silently head back to your seats in 3 counts. 3… 2… 1. I’d now like to introduce… “
Harness the silly/Harness the talking
Along the same lines, make sure the kids know it is not OK to talk during a game or activity unless specifically instructed to do so. When parents are in the audience it is natural for kids to want to be little hams, cracking jokes with friends, going for easy laughs. It’s the biggest challenge of the drama teacher to focus this energy into creative character/acting choices. There’s more leniency for this when the kids are very young (K-2nd grade). However as students grow throughout your program their acting should noticeably mature. These sharing presentation are a great way to demonstrate that to the parents.
Make sure every kid has something special to do.
If you are doing scenes, and kids have individual lines, the first thing a parent will do after hearing a few kids speak is anxiously wait for his/her kid to speak. It’s completely acceptable to give the older, more advanced kids bigger roles in the presentation, but make sure every child has at least one moment to be in the spotlight.
Finish with a bang.
End the presentation with a game, activity or song that you know will have everyone leaving with a giant smile on their face. Even though you may be in an informal environment, choreograph a clean simple bow by the ensemble at the end.