Seeking the perfect show
The counselors are asking the fine arts teachers for the upper-level class lists already, so I'm working on cobbling together my Advanced Theatre class for next year. As usual, I'll be girl-heavy. Right now it's looking like fifteen girls and six boys in the class.
I rehearse my competition play out of the Advanced class. Last year I knew I had the perfect Romeo, and so I selected the show based mainly on him. I'm trying to find the right show for next year's kiddos, and I'm drawing a blank.
First, some words about the competition. The rules limit each cast to fifteen actors (doubling is fine, the rest of the kids will be understudies and crew). Though I am allowed to do a show with as few as three actors, I prefer larger shows so that I can get more kids involved. Not to mention that the judge for this year's contest was flabbergasted when she found out that about three quarters of my kids were 7th graders. "You're going to be a powerhouse next year," she said.
I tend to divide most theatre into two categories: director-centric and actor-centric. Director-centric shows have more intriguing concepts, staging conventions, blocking, and tech. Actor-centric shows are no-nonsense, people-in-a-room-hashing-it-out realistic theatre. I greatly prefer the former, but the latter tends to do better at competition (my flashy and awesome R+J was beat by a simple show with honest, good acting). Dramas usually fare better than comedies at competition.
Though my six boys will be solid, they're green. Only one of them was in R+J, and he's not very good. The other five boys, all 6th graders this year, are fine, but no one I can build a show around. They'll work fine in supporting roles, but I can't pick a Cyrano or any show that rests entirely on one boy's charisma. The girls are experienced and capable. Most of them are probably better suited to comedy, but there are a few who could easily carry the right dramatic lead.
So, in addition to "what show should I do?", I have another question. How much do I pick the show based on the contest, and how much do I pick what I think is right for the kids? For instance, I want to do a show with a larger cast because I like working with so many of the kids, and I don't want to have to say "no" to some of my favorites. But what if I find a great show that'll do well at contest, and it only has five actors? What if I think The Diary of Anne Frank will impress the judge, but my kids would grow more by doing a wacky farce, which the judge might think is too light?
Competition is what it is. Debating the usefulness of competitive theatre is kind of pointless, since I know that I have to do it. But as I weigh what's best for the school and what's best for my particular kids, I find that those things aren't always in agreement. I doubt a football coach would play a less talented kid in an important game just because he knows that kid will grow as a result. Is it silly of me to pause over a similar option? How can I remain a serious competitor and look good to my bosses while still being true to my kids?