6 Things You Should Do This Summer to Prep for UIL

We're so glad to be getting a break. That final home stretch of Spring UIL was killer. While relaxing and catching up on my DVR'ed shows are my top priorities, I'm also preparing for next year's UIL season. Here's what you should (and shouldn't) worry about over the summer. 

**Keep in mind I'm the OAP director, Prose and Poetry coach as well as the Academic Coordinator for my high school, so some tips may or may not apply to you.**

1. Read Plays

If you're a reading nerd like me, this shouldn't be a problem! I stock up on plays I want to read through the spring and once school is out, I devour them. Some are purely for pleasure, but most reading is done with One Act Play in mind. This is the best time to make notes, sketch set pieces and costumes and draw up casting options. You have time in the summer to go in depth with your planning! Take advantage of it. 

2. Read Books for Prose and Poetry

Yet another literary nerds dream! It can be hard to find books that will work for prose and poetry. But here's a few pointers I keep in mind when searching for books:

  • Look for recent books. 200 year old classics most likely will not fit any category requirements
  • Biographies, autobiographies and "coming of age" stories tend to have the best P&P content
  • Skim books for chapters. Some books are even a collection of essays. These are the easiest transition to 7-minute pieces. Can you imagine trying to cut an entire novel?
  • Look for good book titles. Yes, I am telling you to judge a book by its cover. But really, a great title with some clever symbolism or humor can make a piece memorable.
  • Bring the category breakdown with you. We wrote it all down for you! Just keep this blog post open on your phone while you peruse Barnes and Noble :)

3. Recruit Students

In our small town, I see most of my students over the summer by pure happenstance. Otherwise, I typically know their parents and can chat with any of them when needed. Start priming students for next years events. Talk to your English teacher friends and ask which kids were great writers. Use those kids for journalism and ready writing. Ask your math department which kids are exceptional with numbers. Those students will fill your math and calculator roster. Make an effort to talk to these kids, send them reminder letters for UIL over the summer, post on the school's Facebook about UIL sign-ups, or even discuss it with their parents. I've never come across a parent that wasn't happy to hear their kid is smart enough to be recruited for an academic team. 

4. Recruit Coaches

I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but it's definitely worth mentioning. This time of year, teachers are changing schools and schedules every day, so you have to constantly take inventory of who will be coaching your teams! Make friends with whoever makes your school's schedule! Make it a point to check in with them not only about who has been hired, but also what kids will be in your classes. Get a general idea of what coaches are staying put and who's leaving. From there, work your way through your school's staff to find the best options for the job. Keep your coaches happy by sending them UIL stuff early! Let everyone get a head start with a friendly reminder packer over the summer. 

5. Go to Conferences

While some stereotypes might say otherwise, Texas has one of the most robust theatre communities in the world. There's so many great options for conferences, exhibitions and networking events for anyone in the theatre world. 

We'll be at SummerFest 2016 this year! It has an amazing selection of workshops and lets hundreds (if not thousands) of TETA members make lasting connections. 

HEre's some other great conferences for theatre and UIL this year. While some aren't exactly in the summer, they're still worth noting. 


UIL Capital Conference

Texas Thespian Festival

6. Watch Other Forms of Theatre

This is one of the only times of year I have a free weekend night. Sometimes they're all booked up with a Netflix marathon. Others I try to fill with trips to the theatre. This includes live shows as well as movies. Some of the best inspiration I've gotten as a director has come from movies. See this blog post on amazing costume inspiration! 

With my daughter living in Austin, I make quite a few trips down to the state capital over the summer. They have an endless supply of theatre there. The Zach Theatre, Paramount, UT Austin Theatre Department and Hyde Park Theatre are my absolute favorites. I try to make it a point to see at least one show when I'm in Austin. The last one that really stuck with me was Zach's production of Mothers and Sons. The iconic Michael Learned starred as the mother and made the show breathtaking. Seriously, if you're in town and can get tickets, go see something at the Zach Theatre.

Not too hard of a list, right? I've been at it for over 25 years! I promise this is the best start you can make for your upcoming UIL season. 

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