We all want our students to have something great to strive for, work toward, and be a part of, especially when you are from a small school like the one where we teach. I am sure if I taught at a large school, I might feel the same way but for different reasons. At any rate, bringing a group of like-minded kids together to work towards one goal is something we all enjoy watching.
At our school, we have a small drama club with officers elected by their peers. Years ago I realized that every other organization in the school had a club and officers, except us. So, just as easy as it sounds, I talked to the kids, we came up with a few by-laws, voted on officers, and we were a club! Since then I have tweaked the by-laws a little, we have designed t-shirts, and we meet regularly.
The basic things that caused us to create a drama club were unity, promotion, and reward. I felt like if the science club could have officers, cool meetings, and field trips, so could we.
The first thing that caught our eye was unity. I wanted our group to feel like a family. It is relatively easy for your One Act Play kids to build a family unit because they spend hours and hours with each other each week. So those kids have already bought into what you are dreaming of….but the rest of your theatre kids in theatre one, costuming, etc. need a home too!!
I noticed that FFA had what they call a Greenhand group of kids. Although I am so far removed from anything in the Ag department, I could figure out that that group was comprised of freshman and kids new to FFA. It was a way to indoctrinate them into the program while pairing them with others that were in the same boat. I really liked this idea. So now I have a plan for veterans in OAP to pair with newbies and freshmen. Joining those groups together and making them understand and want to be together is the next step.
Theatre is the greatest vehicle of empathy, so strategically joining students on opposite ends of the spectrum will teach them to relate to others outside of themselves. Once you figure a way to get them together, they will find their connections and they will make life-long friends. I would suggest holding a few pizza parties or ice-breakers in class to get the ball rolling.
Next, we wanted to promote ourselves. Not only do we as theatre people need to promote ourselves, but it is also good for the kids' self esteem. It looks good on a resume or application to say you were the president of the Drama Club. But back to promoting ourselves.
As you know, especially in a small, Texas school where athletics are king, you have got to do something to promote your arts department. It helps if your school hasn’t won a football game in years, but if they have, you must stand out and draw kids in.
The best type of promotion is simply exemplifying why you're group is necessary by doing cool things. Drama Club kids can be in charge of the drama bulletin board out in the hall. If you don’t have one, I strongly suggest getting one. I just put in a maintenance request for one, and it happened!!
Then I make sure that cool theatre quotes are always out there, pictures from our shows, head shots, etc. It will be the most interesting bulletin board in the school, no doubt. Once you get it set up in August, let the kids take over. Our theatre kids are so creative. They will make you look really good.
Another aspect of promotion outside of just getting the drama club out there, is to promote your shows. These kids can be in charge of pictures, getting information to the local paper, writing copy for the daily PA announcements, Twitter and Facebook posts, etc. In a small town it makes a HUGE difference when you do a little advertising with kids before your shows. Promotion is also important with your administration. They LOVE programs that work together with the community, make a reputable showing, and programs that are successful. This will be so advantageous for your program.
I also nominate my drama club to help the administration put on skits and little bits of entertainment during inservice. Around the holidays, I work with the drama club students to round up our best singers and perform at nursing homes and Pilot Club meetings. Get to know your town and its events! Everyone needs a bit of theatre.
Lastly, I wanted my kids to feel rewarded and acknowledged for their efforts. We work hard just like all of the programs at our school. Lots of programs at our school take regular field trips to museums, amusement parks, and on and on. There are so many field trip opportunities for theatre kids that are so educational. While the kids are bonding and having fun, they are learning a lot about people, how to act in public, how to act at a live theatrical performance, etc. No matter where you take theatre kids, they can learn things about their craft. You can always assign them to watch people, write reviews, etc. as proof that your field trip was both fun and educational. I love to take theatre kids to live performances. I always keep up with our local community theatres, junior colleges, and performance centers to see which shows are coming up. It is such a great experience for kids to see live performance. There are also those rare opportunities when you are doing a fall musical and a movie version of that musical is in the theatre!! Awesome field trip!! Also, there are movie opportunities to teach costuming and time period that are extremely educational. **hint hint** Check out our post on the best movie costuming inspiration here! Another great field trip for theatre kids is to take them to a great costume shop. In our area, I suggest Rose Costume in Denton, Texas. They have a great store that is really kid-friendly and their employees are very willing to teach as they show kid around the store.
A drama club can be a huge motivator for kids, a great promotion tool for your department, and a great way to get your kids involved and bring your group together as a family that will support each other and work well with each other throughout their years in high school and beyond.