What every high school musical should have.

I spoke to a group of educators earlier this week at the beautiful John Engeman Theater in Northport and I was asked what I thought we could do to increase student participation in the arts.

I hemmed and hawed for a few moments as I  thought back to my high school production of Anything Goes and I thought . . . how could we have had more students involved?  And how could we have more students from the other side of the cultural tracks involved?

And then I thought . . .

Why doesn’t every high school musical have a Producer?

I’m not talking about the kooky drama teacher that lets the students call her by her first name or the parent that did some summer stock in college, I’m talking about having a student serve as the Producer of the show.

Think about it . .

You could grab a kid who might not even be thinking about a career in the theater, but instead he or she might be planning on and attending business school.  What better way to learn about business than to do it?

By putting him or her in the Producer seat, he or she could learn about fundraising (they could organize fundraisers through Kickstarter, or old-fashioned but always beneficial car washes, etc.), or marketing (someone has to design the posters), revenue management (how much are we going to charge for seats and who counts the money and pays the royalties), and yes, what is the budget of a high school musical and how do we make sure we don’t go over that budget?

And most importantly, this Student Producer could be in charge of making sure all the departments were communicating effectively, which we all know is an asset in any industry.

Are you going to hand over the financial reins to the student?  No, not entirely.  But a Student Producer could certainly sit side by side with a Faculty Advisor and learn a heck of a lot, valuable resume experience, and gain exposure to the arts without having to sing or dance.

But wait a second, why stop there?

Why not have a Student Press Rep?  Someone has got to schedule interviews with the student newspaper, public access cable, local radio, and so forth, right?

What about a Student Marketing Director?

A Student Casting Director?

Yep.  Every show could have all of them.  This is my advocating that any position that exists in the commercial theater should also have high school equivalents.

What will this do?

  • Increase participation in the arts from students who might not normally participate.
  • Inform students about several different future job opportunities that they would never know even existed.  (I didn’t know what a Company Manager was until I worked on a Broadway show.)
  • Help train future Producers, Press Agents, Marketing Directors which strengthens our overall industry.
  • Give students a valuable resume credit for college applications, and future job applications
  • Sell more tickets to the shows, since you’ll have people focused on press, marketing, etc.  And we all know that the bigger the staff, the more tickets you sell to relatives, friends, etc..

If you can’t already tell, I love this idea.

You know why?  Yes, because it accomplishes all the bullet points above.  But the real reason I love it is because . . . it doesn’t require a grant from the state.

It’s free.

And, for those students that do sign up?

It’ll also be fun.

And that’s how you develop future theater professionals and audiences at the same time.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.