If you write plays because you just want them to be liked, you have to lie too much. People like theater that is safe, generally speaking — things that are easy, that are not too deeply troubling. In other words, people want to go to the theater and waste their time.
When it’s time to select a play or a musical, I look at my list of possible scripts and ask myself six basic questions about each of them:
1. Do I like it?
There are many plays that I might enjoy watching— once. But in rehearsal, I am going to watch it several dozen times. If I am willing to do that, then the play is worth considering.
2. Can we do it?
There will be shows that are too complicated or too technically involved.
3. Can we afford it?
There are many ways to stage shows, but if there is an expensive aspect that can not be eliminated, I don’t consider doing it.
4. Can we find the performers?
I ask myself: “If I had to cast this show from only students I have used before, could I do it?” If the answer is yes, then chances are good I will find a good cast, even when some actors have graduated or others don’t audition. I don’t mind living a little dangerously, but only a little.
5. It is hard enough?
I am a teacher as well as a director, and I have a responsibility to stretch my performers and production crew. If I can cast a show with people who can play all the roles simply by doing what they’ve always done, then I shouldn’t be doing that show, any more than I should be doing it if there is no hope that I can ever find a competent cast.
6. Do I want AHSTS associated with it?
When I select a play, I am deciding on the image of the program. Every play projects a message to the performers, to other students, and to the community at large. Theater in schools should be education. This goes back to our philosophy of our productions, that AHSTS is successful and meaningful because we give members a valuable experience by producing challenging and accessible productions.