Your theatre program is probably the most visible program your school has after its sports programs. After all, you have an auditorium, and you fill it up over and over again. Even during COVID, digital performances and other innovative solutions have kept your productions running as key events for your community. To maintain its positive trajectory, here are five key things you can do to enhance and grow your audience and support for your theatre program.
Build Up Your Students
The benefits of being in school theatre are second nature to you. While your students are in the midst of their experience, point out the things they’re learning that support their success in acting, stagecraft, and beyond.
Intangibles include self-confidence, poise, adaptability, active listening, and the ability to articulate and project. Tangibles include skills in carpentry and construction, design and sewing, and working with audio and lighting equipment.
Remind them that thanks to their theatre experience, they are developing their skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. These are well-known soft skills that will serve them no matter what field of interest they pursue. With the confidence your student thespians gain working with you, they will become your theatre program’s best brand ambassadors.
Increase Promotion Efforts
After all the time, effort, and passion you and your students have put into your production, you want the whole world to know about it. Or at least your whole community. And you can tell them. This is where marketing and promotion, especially outside the school comes in.
Start off with creating merchandise promoting your show. Have students wear show shirts to school for a month. Take their pictures in their shirts and use them on the website, in social media, and in newsletters.
Here is the most important information to tell people, besides the show title and performance dates and times:
- About the show’s background—why you chose it for your students, what about it is important;
- Highlight information about the students in the cast and crew;
- Include technical details such as what is unusual about the sets, costumes or lights;
- Thank the boosters who sell refreshments, the vendors, and the advertisers and sponsors.
Here are the 4 most important ways to reach out and tell them:
- Put that information on the website of your theatre program or your school. Keep it updated with new photos and 30-second video clips from rehearsals.
- Send emails with excerpts of that information and links back to your web page. If your school or district sends a newsletter by email, include an article in it at least two weeks before the show. Even better, get permission to have them send a dedicated email just about your production.
- Post regularly and frequently on your theatre program or school’s social media pages. Remember the different audiences for each and select the appropriate information. More parents (and grandparents) are on Facebook, and Twitter, and more students and their friends are on Instagram and TikTok.
- Get your show included in community calendars and covered by the news media. About 30 days in advance, inform local newspapers, radio, TV, and online community news sites about the show title, dates, times, prices. About 21 days in advance, send them a news release with the who-what-when-where-why-and-how. Tell them why this show was chosen; who’s who in the cast, and why the community won’t want to miss it.
Develop Self-Funding Initiatives
Fundraising activities like bake sales and car washes might raise some money but they also distract students from their theatre work. Instead, add revenue, while teaching front-of-house skills, through directly-related efforts in advertising, sponsorship, and increased ticket sales.
A great way to showcase the stores you patronize buying your costume fabric, show t-shirts and set-building materials is through ads that promote their support of your program. It’s a win-win opportunity; if stores can’t afford paid advertising, maybe they can provide support through in-kind donations of supplies in exchange for sponsored space in your programs.
Get Involved and Build a Network of Theatremakers
Collaborate in your productions with other schools in your district, other school districts, or even community and independent theatres. Need a big crowd scene? Recruit from them. Do they need a big crowd for a scene? Volunteer to be part of it. Have a unique prop? Share it! Now, you can cross-promote your production with them! This works at the community and regional level, too.
By developing these shared relationships, you grow more awareness of and regard for your theatre program. A dedicated network of your peers is a key resource for everything from props and costumes to sharing what has or hasn’t worked in their theatres.
Seek New Opportunities for Growth
Have your students consider becoming involved in local community theatre productions? They could participate in summer programs devoted to sharpening skills they don’t have time to focus on during the school year, like choreography or playwriting.
Or they can role play being the educator at summer camps for younger children and pass on the skills you have taught them. These students are the epitome of brand ambassadors for your program, demonstrating to other families in the community who don’t have students at your school, the benefits of participating in school theatre.
Some school programs might opt to take the show on the road and participate in state or regional, or even international festivals and competitions. Events such as these often include opportunities for college auditions and/or scholarships for the participants.
There are learning and scholarship opportunities for theatre educators, too. Explore online and in-person workshops, seminars, and conferences developed exclusively for theatre educators ti help keep your skills sharp and growing. Often, the costs of these programs will be covered by your professional development budget.
Growing your theatre program’s following is one of your top priorities. Let On The Stage help with our easy-to-use solution for ticketing, promotions, seating, streaming, and more, available at no cost to your district.