Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL FAQS

HOW MANY PRODUCTIONS ARE THERE EACH YEAR?

There is one main stage production open to any student at Thoreau Middle School. There is usually a smaller production, produced by student members of the International Thespian Honor Society. In addition, there is the Voices of Now production, produced by Arena Stage and the Advanced Theatre Arts class students' end of the year production showcase.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN STUDENTS WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

Numbers

Do we have the right number of actors and techs - do we have too many?? Do we have too few?? 

Skill

Who can handle this part or job? Who has the range to sing this role? Who has the knowledge or previous experience? Who has the maturity or the comedic timing? Who has the physical qualities required? Who is right, in a variety of ways for which part? 

Gender

Is there an acting requirement  - does the script require a role to be a specific gender? 

Team Work

Do these actors/techs fit together? Will they be able to work together well? 

Schedule

Both YOUR schedule and the schedule of the show (both rehearsals and performances) play a HUGE part in casting. Often, we may want an actor for a part, or a student for a tech role, but they are only available once a week, thus taking that student out of the running for the role. Availability is a major factor.

WHAT ASPECTS ARE NOT CONSIDERED FOR STUDENTS WHO WANT TO BE INVOLVED?

I have paid my dues...

If you are participating in the program, we assume you are doing your best and working to improve your skills, so you can grow as an artist and best serve the production and program. Everyone has "paid their dues".

I was in the production last year, so I deserve a role/job.

This is not possible. No one is entitled to receive anything. Any role or job someone is assigned, they earn. There are no guarantees.

My friend got a part and I didn't. That's not fair.

Sometimes there simply aren't enough parts for everyone. That's the reality of theatre. 

I'm in 8th grade, so I deserve to be involved before I leave Middle School.

No one is cast, or given a job based on their grade. They are assigned a part entirely based on the strength of their audition or interview, what roles and jobs are needed and who is best suited for this production.

WILL THE PRODUCTION TAKE UP A TON OF MY TIME?

The time you spend on the production is based on the size of your given role or job. Students very often exaggerate the amount of time needed to complete a production when speaking to their parents because they love to hang out with their peers while the production is underway -- whether they have actually been scheduled to work or not! The amount of time a student spends can seem like a lot but often, their presence is not being mandated by the production itself. 

HOW CAN I BALANCE ALL MY RESPONSIBILITIES?

Many students do their work during Eagle Time, on their "off" days from rehearsal or when they are not on stage or working during rehearsal time. Think of it as the ultimate multi-tasking and good training for the hectic life of high school and college. While it is difficult to keep up with all of life's other responsibilities if you are unorganized, you will quickly learn to balance your schoolwork and theatre responsibilities. If you are in 7th grade, talk to an 8th grade theatre student for advice on how to keep up! 

WHAT IS THE SHOW FEE?

All students who participate in the mainstage production are required** to pay a $50.00 participation fee. This money covers the show royalties, performance needs, a production T-Shirt, a script, and one pizza dinner between performances. This fee is non-refundable, should the student choose to, or be asked to leave the production. Checks should be made out to Thoreau Middle School. 

**No student will be denied participation in the production due to financial restrictions. If your family is in need of financial assistance, please contact the director.

WHAT DO STUDENTS GET OUT OF BEING INVOLVED IN PRODUCTIONS?

Oral Communication Skills
Many students find that theatre helps them develop the confidence that's essential to speaking clearly, lucidly, and thoughtfully. Acting onstage teaches you how to be comfortable speaking in front of large audiences. Furthermore, work on crews can teach you that clear, precise, and well-organized oral communications are best. 
 
Creative Problem Solving Abilities
Most people expect theatre students to exhibit creativity in such areas as acting, design, playwrighting or directing. Theatre experience also helps you learn creative problem-solving techniques that are applicable to many jobs. Tech theatre work--building scenery, hanging lights, making props, running the show, and so on--is a particularly good way to learn how to think on your feet, to identify problems, evaluate a range of possible solutions, and figure out what to do. The same is true of almost every aspect of theatre. Directing. Design. Acting. Playwriting. Management. And more.
 
More than "get it done"
Theatre students learn that just "getting it done" isn't enough. Not at all. It goes beyond that. You learn to do it correctly. In theatre we learn that merely "getting the show on the boards" is pure bush league and totally unacceptable. Whatever your theatrical job--tech, performing, research, management--it has to be done right . You learn to take pride in doing things at your very best level.
 
Motivation and Commitment
Being involved in theatre productions and classes demands commitment and motivation. We teach each other that success comes to those who are committed to the task at hand. Few other disciplines you study will so strongly help you develop motivation and commitment. The complexities of a theatrical production demand individuals who are willing to voluntarily undertake any task that needs to be done in order for the production to succeed. In theatre, we're all self-starters. We learn how to take initiative, to move a project from initial concept to finality--and to do it well.
 
Willingness to Work Cooperatively
Your work in theatre companies teaches you how to work effectively with different types of people--often very different types! Theatre demands that participants work together cooperatively for the production to success; there is no room for "we" versus "they" behavior; the "star" diva is a thing of the past. Your colleagues will usually let you know when you violate the team spirit of a production. In theatre, it's important that each individual supports the others involved. 
 
The Ability to Work Independently
In theatre, you're often assigned tasks that you must complete without supervision. Crew chiefs. Directing. Putting together this flat, finding that prop, working out characterization outside of rehearsals. It's left up to you to figure out how best to achieve the goal. 
 
Time-budgeting Skills
When you're a student, being involved in theatre forces you to learn how to budget your time. You need to schedule your days very carefully if you want to keep up your grades while you're busy with rehearsals, work calls, and the other demands that theatre makes on your time. Tardiness is never acceptable in theatre because it shows a lack of self-discipline, and more importantly, a lack of consideration for others. Being late for a rehearsal or a work call or failing to finish an assigned task on time damages a production and adversely affects the work of many other people. Theatre demands that you learn to arrive on time and meet scheduled deadlines.
 
Adaptability and Flexibility
Theatre students must be adaptable and flexible. You need to be willing to try new ideas, accept new challenges, and have the ability to adapt to constantly changing situations and conditions. In one production you may be a member of the prop crew; in the next perhaps you're in charge of makeup, publicity or the box office; in a third production you might have a leading role.
 
The Ability to Work Under Pressure
Theatre work often demands long hours. There's pressure--often, as you know well, a lot of pressure. It's important that everyone involved with a production be able to maintain a cooperative and enthusiastic attitude under pressure. The ability to remain poised under such tensions in an asset that will help you cope with stress.
 
Acceptance of Disappointment--And Ability to Bounce Back
Theatre people learn to deal with dashed hopes and rejection on a regular basis. Who hasn't failed to get a role he or she really wanted or a coveted spot on a tech crew? You learn to accept that kind of disappointment and move on. You try again. 


Enjoyment -- "This is Fun!"

 
AUDITION FAQS

HOW DO AUDITIONS WORK?

Each auditioner must sign up for an audition slot. Each slot will be a total of 5 minutes. For musicals, each auditioner should prepare the equivalent of a 32-bar cut solo (45 seconds to one minute) from either a theatrical musical or Disney movie and should memorize and block a one minute monologue. For non-musicals, each auditioner should memorize and block a one minute monologue.

When you arrive you will check in with the stage manager at the table by Gym 1. You will be assigned an audition number and have your photo taken. You will need to confirm with the stage manager that your audition form is complete. Please be clear and honest about any conflicts you may have with the rehearsal schedule, and about which roles you would be willing to accept.

At your assigned time, you will be taken into the cafeteria for your audition. The director will welcome you and take your form. You will go on the stage and sing your song and perform your monologue. You may be asked to sing through your vocal range (how high and low you can go) or try your memorized piece again with some small directions. The director may ask you several questions to clarify information on your form.

Once all of the auditioners have been seen, the director, the choreographer and the music director will decide which actors they would like to call back. Callbacks will be posted on our homepage.  Once callbacks have been completed, the director will decide the final cast. The cast list will be posted on our homepage and welcome-to-the-cast emails will be sent to each actor and their parent. Actors are asked to respond to the email to accept their roles. 

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

This is a hard question. We are looking for the right person for each role, which can mean very different things. In general we are looking for people who have confidence, a certain amount of talent, a willingness to try things, an ability to follow directions, a positive and supportive attitude, a certain something that seems right for a character, and someone we want to hang out with over the next few months​.

DO I HAVE TO BE IN A THEATRE CLASS?

No, any Thoreau Middle School student can be involved in our mainstage production. However, we don't have a lot of time to teach you all the things you need to know. This may include audition techniques, stage directions, how to score your script, etc. Also, if two students both fit a role equally, the role will almost always go to the student taking the theatre class because they are currently learning the skills needed for a production and are investing themselves in our program.

DO I HAVE A BETTER CHANCE IF I CHECK "I'LL ACCEPT ANY ROLE" ON MY AUDITION FORM?

No. If there are roles in the show that you know that you would not accept, please indicate that on your audition form. Directors never think badly of an actor who is honest from the beginning. If, however, an actor indicates that they would accept any role, and then declines the role that they are offered, directors tend to take it personally.

I'M NOT REALLY SURE IF I HAVE ANY CONFLICTS, SHOULD I SIMPLY INDICATE "NONE" ON MY AUDITION FORM?

One of the most important places to be honest, clear, and knowledgeable is in regards to any conflicts you may have with the rehearsal process. A director can work around a small number of conflicts. Conflicts with performances or tech or dress rehearsals are not something we can work around. Conflicts revealed after the cast list has been announced are another thing that director tend to take personally and remember for future castings.

WHAT IF I'M NOT AVAILABLE ON ANY OF THE AUDITION DATES?

Email us at vlcunningha1@fcpsschools.net Occasionally, a director will allow someone to audition for the first time just before callbacks begin.

I’M REALLY NERVOUS ABOUT AUDITIONS, ANY ADVICE?

Sure! We don’t expect you to be perfect, in fact we like it when you mix something up, because then we get to see how you deal with it. We want to see you show us personality and FUN! We want to see that a small mistake stays small and doesn’t ruin your attitude or fluster you. Come prepared, practice a lot, and don't be afraid to ask questions about anything that doesn't feel right. Be ready and willing to work hard and try your best, but remember to also have fun and SMILE! 

WHAT IF I DON’T WANT A SINGING ROLE?

There are occasionally non-singing roles in musicals. However, there are always many roles that only sing in a group. While you may not feel confident as a soloist, as long as you can carry a tune, you will still be considered for the ensemble. You will still need to do a singing audition, but don’t let it scare you.

MAY I BRING A KARAOKE TRACK TO ACCOMPANY MY SINGING AUDITION? 

Sure! Please bring your phone with either a headphone jack or bring a blue tooth speaker. Make sure your music is ready to play BEFORE you come in to your audition. You may also sing acapella.

SHOULD I BRING A HEADSHOT AND RESUME?

We will take your photo on the day of auditions, so you do not need to bring a headshot, but you may include one if you like. Please bring a resume or fill out our audition form before your audition slot.

THE DIRECTOR DIDN’T ASK ME ANYTHING; DOES THAT MEAN THEY HATED ME?

Absolutely not! You’d be surprised how quickly a director can see if you have something they are looking for. In fact, many times a director will spend more time with folks who haven’t done as well in order to see if maybe they were just nervous and need another shot. 

WHAT ARE CALLBACKS?

A callback is a second audition to help the director and choreographer decide if an actor fits a particular role. You do NOT need to prepare anything for a callback. Usually, you will be asked to read from the script, and learn a dance sequence. Bring your dance shoes.

I DIDN’T GET CALLED BACK; DOES THAT MEAN I DIDN’T GET CAST?

No. Not everyone who auditions will be called back, and not everyone who is called back will get cast. Additionally, not everyone who is cast is asked to attend callbacks. Callbacks are a chance for the director and team can see something they didn’t see at auditions. If you have had a solid audition, they may feel like they know exactly where you’ll fit in the cast.

I DIDN’T GET CAST; CAN I GET SOME FEEDBACK ON HOW I MAY DO BETTER NEXT TIME?

This is always a hard question. Right after auditions is a super-busy time for directors, and therefore a difficult time to get them to focus on the actors they could not cast. Here are some reasons why actors do not get cast that come up again and again:

  1. Remember that all behavior can be part of your audition. Be respectful of the production staff, other auditioners, and the facility. Bad behavior, in the classroom, hallway or restroom, can factor strongly into whether you get cast. Supportive and generous behavior can get you cast!

  2. Great performers are not right for every show. You may have rocked your audition, but just not been right for any of the roles.

  3. Be energetic, confident, and willing to try anything that the director or production staff may suggest. Directors will test you to see if you can take direction, if you say “no”, take issue with a suggestion or just don't follow it, that tells the director that you do not take direction well.

  4. You may come across onstage as younger or older compared to the other auditioners. While we are a educational theatre company, the director is trying to create a cohesive looking show. That means that if the majority of actors she is casting appear to be 16-17, she may choose not to cast someone who appears to be 11-12 to play characters that the story requires to be the same age.

  5. CONFLICTS. A big reason why people do not get cast is that they have too many conflicts. Rehearsal schedules are always tight and dealing with conflicts is very difficult. If you have any wiggle room in a conflict, let the director know at your first audition.

  6. Previous behavior. Directors and teachers talk to each other. If you have a history of bad behavior in a previous production, or in a class it will likely be passed on through the grapevine. Most especially if that behavior involves having a lot of last minute conflicts that were not listed on your audition form, disrespectful attitude toward staff or other cast members, being irresponsible, or having a poor work ethic. If you feel the director may have heard about past behavior, but you know that you have changed and are willing to work hard, let the director know that at your first audition.

 
 
TECH TEAM FAQS

HOW DO TECH INTERVIEWS WORK?

Each student must sign up for an interview slot. Each slot will be a total of 10 minutes. Students should bring their completed Tech Team form, and prepare a presentation about the position (including the reasons the job would be a good fit, past work or examples) Students should also bring examples of possible work for this show (lists, plans, drawings, sketches, pictures, inspiration, etc)

When you arrive, you will go to room C107 and wait for your time slot. At your assigned time, the director will welcome you in and take your form. You will then give your presentation. The director may ask you several questions to clarify information on your form.

Once all of the students have been seen, the director will deliberate and decide the final tech team. The tech team list will be posted on our homepage and welcome-to-the-company emails will be sent to each tech and their parent. Techs are asked to respond to the email to accept their roles. 

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

This is a hard question. We are looking for the right person for each role, which can mean very different things. In general we are looking for people who take initiative, are self starters, have a willingness to try things, an ability to follow directions, a positive attitude, a certain amount of talent, and someone we want to hang out with over the next few months.

DO I HAVE TO BE IN A THEATRE CLASS?

No, any Thoreau Middle School student can be involved in our mainstage production. However, several of the jobs DO require certain training. We also don't have a lot of time to teach you all the things you need to know in the time given. This may include painting techniques, procedures, how to complete a run sheet, etc. Also, if two students both fit a role equally, the role will almost always go to the student taking the theatre class because they are currently learning the skills needed for a production and are investing themselves in our program.

DO I HAVE A BETTER CHANCE IF I CHECK "I'LL ACCEPT ANY JOB" ON MY TECH FORM?

No. If there are jobs in the show that you know that you would not accept, please indicate that on your form. Directors never think badly of a student who is honest from the beginning. If, however, a student indicates that they would accept any job, and then declines the job that they are offered, directors tend to take it personally.

I'M NOT REALLY SURE IF I HAVE ANY CONFLICTS, SHOULD I SIMPLY INDICATE "NONE" ON MY FORM?

One of the most important places to be honest, clear, and knowledgeable is in regards to any conflicts you may have with the rehearsal process. A director can work around a small number of conflicts. Conflicts with performances or tech or dress rehearsals are not something we can work around. Conflicts revealed after the tech list has been announced are another thing that director tend to take personally and remember for future jobs.

WHAT IF I'M NOT AVAILABLE ON ANY OF THE INTERVIEW DATES?

Email us at vlcunningha1@fcpsschools.net Occasionally, a director will allow someone to interview on a different date, depending on the schedule. 

I’M REALLY NERVOUS ABOUT MY INTERVIEW, ANY ADVICE?

Sure! We don’t expect you to be a pro. We do expect to see initiative, maturity and responsibility. We need techs who are creative leaders, who take deadlines seriously, and are able to independently problem solve. We also want to see your personality! Come prepared - I didn't know, or I forgot make a very BAD impression. Practice a lot, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Be ready and willing to work hard and try your best.

MAY I MAKE A POWERPOINT FOR THE INTERVIEW?

Sure! Please share it with Ms. Cunningham on google drive BEFORE your interview @vlcunningha1@fcpsschools.net

CAN I BE PART OF THE TECH TEAM AND BE AN ACTOR IN THE PRODUCTION?

This is always a hard question. Generally no. Both positions require a big time commitment and many rehearsals for techs and actors clash with each other. Occasionally, a director will allow someone to be part of both tech and acting depending on the schedule, but it is rare. Please indicate on your form which you would rather do.

THE DIRECTOR DIDN’T ASK ME ANYTHING; DOES THAT MEAN THEY HATED ME?

Absolutely not! You’d be surprised how quickly a director can see if you have something they are looking for. In fact, many times a director will spend more time with folks who haven’t done as well in order to see if maybe they were just nervous and need another shot. 

MY NAME ISN'T ON THE TECH LIST; DOES THAT MEAN I DIDN’T GET A JOB?

Unfortunately, yes. Not everyone gets the job in life - for a variety of reasons. Right after interviews is a super-busy time for directors, and therefore a difficult time to get them to focus on the students they could not give a job. Here are some reasons why students do not get the job that come up again and again:

  1. Remember that all behavior can be part of your interview. Be respectful of the production staff, other students, and the facility. Bad behavior, in the classroom, hallway or restroom, can factor strongly into whether you get cast. Supportive and generous behavior can get you a job!

  2. Great students are not right for every show. You may have rocked your interview, but just not been right for any of the jobs.

  3. Be energetic, confident, and come prepared. Directors are looking to see how you would lead a team of students, how well you are able to follow directions, and how you fulfill your responsibilities.

  4. CONFLICTS. A big reason why people do not get a job is that they have too many conflicts. Rehearsal schedules are always tight and dealing with conflicts is very difficult. If you have any wiggle room in a conflict, let the director know at your interview.

  5. Previous behavior. Directors and teachers talk to each other. If you have a history of bad behavior in a previous production, or in a class it will likely be passed on through the grapevine. Most especially if that behavior involves having a lot of last minute conflicts that were not listed on your audition form, disrespectful attitude toward staff or other cast members, being irresponsible, or having a poor work ethic. If you feel the director may have heard about past behavior, but you know that you have changed and are willing to work hard, let the director know that at your interview.