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Hi - newbie here with quesiton re: HS Tech Theatre directors

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by saxophonegal, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. saxophonegal

    saxophonegal Member

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    Hi - the reason why I joined this organization is to get a poll going of what you think are important characteristics of High School Tech Theatre Directors. My guess is that many of you here either ARE high school tech directors or have at some point in your lives been under the direction of a high school tech director.

    So -
    1) what are the top FOUR qualities necessary to be an inspirational HS tech theatre director?
    2) what qualities, or lack of a quality has personally turned you off when working with a HS tech theatre director?
    3) other comments?
     
  2. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Welcome to the Booth, [user]saxophonegal[/user]. I'm moving this thread into the Education forum, as many members don't read the New Member Area.

    I'll (sort of) answer your questions, although my only experience pertinent to your question was with my HS TD in the 1970s. Suburban HS with enrollment of about 2000 students 10th-12th grades. The "Drama Coach" served as adviser to the Thespian Society, and taught a Film-making class as well as several low-level English classes. No drama classes were offered. He also chose all the plays and directed them, except for the musical that was directed by the chorus teacher. Looking back, I'm not sure of his technical abilities, as he was spread quite thin, although he did graduate from the college I later attended. At the time, one primary purpose of the college Theatre Dept. was to train people to become HS Drama Directors.

    I think the best anyone can hope from most HS programs is to make students aware that Theatre can be a viable major in college. With the way budgets are being cut, the HS TD is becoming an endangered species. As it is, I suspect most districts still operate as mine did, with only one Theatre person on faculty, who must also teach a "real subject" to be justifiable. Many others have an English or History teacher, who may have seen a play once, as the adviser to the Drama Club, for which they get maybe an extra $500 or $1000 per year, which considering the hours involved, works out to less than minimum wage.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2009
  3. theatre4jc

    theatre4jc Active Member

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    1. Patience, patience, patience, and passion. I have only worked as a guest TD for 2 high school productions which gave me 1 years as an unofficial adjunct teacher at the school. Rather weird situation but it was fun. Basically because I had a passion for what I do and I gave the students chances to make mistakes (using every safety precaution I could) the students picked up on my desire. To build the sets and take my classes the students volunteered weekend time and after school 2 days a week, till tech week. We would spend 3 months building 1 show due to the limited work days. The first month of the first show I had a large variance in how many came out, but after they figured out I was for real and I actually cared about them and the show it got to a point where I had to many people and not enough work and tools. Huge blessing.

    2. Over dramatic personalities. Yeah I know that means I shouldn't be in theatre but I love the job. I had a college TD mentor me while I was in HS and he helped TD a show as a favor for me. After he taught me all he could (his words) while I was in HS I decided to go to a larger university with a better program. The hissy fit the 60 year old man threw would put a 2 year old to shame.

    3. Students today want genuine people. They want someone to care about them through their crap. They want to feel loved. The best teachers in any field are those that truely love their students. The passion for the kids and for their work is what inspires students. I still remember the teacher that did that for me and it forever changed my life and stared me in my passion for theatre and for teaching. Oh by the way I'm not a certified teacher, and will probably never teach in a public HS because I don't want the hassle of the administration.
     
  4. theatretechguy

    theatretechguy Member

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    1)

    a. A high school tech director must be dependable. He must not be a "flake" (leave that title to the directors, haha).

    b. As others have mentioned, patience is very important, since you're in an education setting, you're teaching as you're going, and while your end product may be lacking, the experience and teaching that goes on is much more important than any performance.

    c. He must be able to interact with students and staff in a personable manner. "grouchy" tech guys are no fun for ANYONE to deal with.

    d. He must have a good knowledge of safety in the theater, wood shop and equipment. He needs to know how to troubleshoot when things don't go according to plan.

    2.

    a. Arrogance. A general feeling that if this guy/gal had the chance, they'd leave at the drop of a dime and you simply aren't worth their time or energy.

    b. Tries to create alliances or "cliques" within departments, pitting techs against techs, instructors against instructors. Playing "favorities". Perhaps even creating situations where there is likely to be drama and hurt feelings.

    c. Unprofessional behaviors. Dresses sloppy, theater is always a mess, blames others for his own inadequancies. If you don't enjoy your job, QUIT and find another. It will make everyone around you happier.

    3. Don't talk trash on other theaters, designers/actors and technicians in mixed company. Don't use bad language around your students. Don't teach your technicians that actors are totally useless (even if this goes against your own beliefs).

    I guess that's about it.

    I'm curious, are you putting together interview material? I would never give these answers in an interview setting. Interview-speak would consist of words like "progressive", "teamwork" - "student achievement" - "college readiness" , etc.
     
  5. saxophonegal

    saxophonegal Member

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    I am a music teacher/musician/sometimes actor/tech nut and have run into many different styles of tech directors. Though I no long direct the musicals (and am VERY happy about that, now I just get to watch!) I am involved in many aspects of putting on the show (hiring, scheduling, budget) and there is ALWAYS some kind of drama other than what's going on on stage. Some of this is generated by the kids, but some of it is also generated by the adults involved. Since I also "oversee" the adults involved, I want to help them in a constructive way create a better atmosphere for the kids that includes a higher level of professionalism and a sense of passion as a means of getting your point across. I want to generate a list of qualities for them to latch onto, rather than a list of what not to do as a positive way of doing this. I'm actually looking at the negative responses and putting a positive slant to them. Wish me luck!
     
  6. misterm

    misterm Active Member

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    I agree with everything here. I'm a high school drama teacher and have to serve as director/designer/tech director/etc.... and believe me, PATIENCE is the key. Another good trait to have is the ability and readiness to ask for help. A know-it-all tech director who messes up something key because they refused help is one of the worst things I've ever seen. Not only should they know who to ask and where to look, but also be able to communicate these things clearly to other members of the production crew, mainly the director. Good communication skills are extra important in an educational setting.
     
  7. draco17315

    draco17315 Member

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    I am a High School Tech Director for 2 schools currently, a total of 7 years now, I try to Tech Dir. by several rules:

    1) safe and reliable.......first and foremost, should have a clue as to what they are doing and how to do it safely. Not saying they need to be a carpenter or anything, I myself am not one, but I have used tools since I was 5 and have a safety minded attitude.

    2) It is not my job to build the set, it is my job to work with you (the students) to teach you how to build the set.

    3) Patience and understanding are very key as others have mentioned

    4) Treating your tech crew as equals to you (on a personal and human level), leaving your doors open to others who may have ideas on how to do something. I always tell my students "Here is the set design for this show, now lets go over my ideas and see if any of you want to improve on them or add your own ideas if they are within reason". I have found by doing this, the kids get more into the entire process and take more pride in the work and give me more respect for respcting and trusting them. Which leads to number

    5) treat, respect and trust others and you want to be respected, trusted, and treated!!! the golden rule!!!!!

    6) would have to be knowing where the line is, even though you don't want to be tough on these kids (young adults), they still want to have guildlines to follow, it is ok to be and show a little tough love, don't let them get away with everything and anything, set rules and allow them to have "safe" fun while at the same time learning and working hard. I actually have a "contract" that the kids and I all sign, this lets them know what I expect of them and what they can expect from me....I have even had parents thank me for this contract many times since I started using it.

    7) let the kids know you enjoy being there, that you are there for them, not just in words, but by your attitude and your actions.

    8) I think the success of our program, growing from 5 or 6 steady Tech kids my first year to 7 years later having 20 or so steady crew members and 6 or 7 graduates that come and build with us on a regular basis is due to all the above and the fact that I try to get them to bond outside of crew as well and I take part in these functions, it might be paintball or flag football or going to see another show that is not ours and then discussing it, and we have a yearly Tech Picinic where we all bring food and tings and I give out awards that we call "The Techie" that the kids all vote on who gets what, this year with the help of a local scouts leader, we may even go on a weekend camping and white water rafting trip.....team building things, Theatre and Crew is the only thing that some of these kids have!!! Just remember to check with your school Administration to see what the limits are. We do most of these functions as a "volunteer" basis and I personally get approval from all parents of kids involved so there is no "grey" area. In general, we just have a good time, these kids are my second family!!!! We even started going to other HS Theares and Summer Theatres in the area and started helping out build crews that don't have as much help as we do. 2 years now, My Kids from both schools have volunteered (this was their idea) to help each other out for one to two build days a season at each others schools and then over the summer we went to another local HS and helped their summer theatre build the set for Willy Wonka for the Make a Wish Foundation!!!! It was awesome and nothing feels better than stepping back and watching these young adults help eachother out and get along and give up thier free time to do good!!!! Well, hope someting here helps you.....best of luck.

    Joe
     
  8. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    We just hired our TD several months ago here. An endangered species maybe, but not around this Center. He reports to one person, and one person only, which is this superintendent, and works with the building and grounds supervisor.

    Someone who understands safety is key, but is functional and reliable. There will be students who willbe ready to dive into anything, the TD should be prepared to do the same so that when new technologies enter the space, a graduating student does not become a crutch as the only person who understands something. We have a brand new facility, and still have subcontractors coming in and adding visual display systems, so our TD is now responsible for understanding the brand new lighting system (with a Congo Jr.), the sound system (which is three partially integrated systems under one power button), the display system (which includes having presentations ready for our plasma screen in the lobby, but also camera feeds to the backstage areas), and he has not only that on his plate, but is also the perso nin charge of policy, scheduling, getting things done, and getting prepared to make this a real roadhouse just in time for our upcoming season. I do not envy the amount that he has to juggle, but when students pick up the slack and graduate, he may have extra pressure at that time to deal with.

    It's especially important that the TD teaches responsible ethics and morals of professionalism in theatre. As a high school student employed at three arts centers, I treat every other student technician at my high school as people who may end up in the entertainment industry professionally. Right now I have a couple referrals who will be gaining employment in the next couple months at two of the centers at which I work.

    A major problem I'm seeing with students is attitudes. This is something that a TD should be able to work with and help develop properly. Many students are just fine, but I get a few in every once in a while that don't like change. That's a problem in an industry which thrives on things changing until the set is in the dumpster and/or the trucks are loaded up at the end of the night. Some students see the industry as what they learned in high school, which is that there's a schedule, the set is built, the lighting is set, and things happen without major conflicts, but that's just not the case in the professional world. Call times change, events get cancelled, the needs of a particular show will be ever-changing, and that curtain still has to go up on time.
     
  9. bhallerm

    bhallerm Member

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    +1 for pretty much everything said so far.

    1. Patience, humility, communication skills, flexibility, ability to learn quickly.

    -If you don't have patience when working in ANY educational setting you best find some or find another gig

    -Humility.
    I'm going to expound a bit on this one even though it has been touched on a bit in previous posts. Yes, you are given control of a lot, don't let it go to your head. In my position as TD I am responsible for lighting and recording 25+ concerts a year, maintaining one of our commons areas that is set with A/V equip, 3 full scale productions with musicals every other year (one not in the theater that we have to move everything to the gym) and two 1/2 hour assemblies per week that usually involve a praise band every other week or so. I also teach a tech theater class three days a week for 80 minutes. This is my first year as TD and it has been a good challenge.

    I knew very little about theatrical lighting when I came into this position. I'll admit that. I admitted that to my students. My formal education is in Audio and music. Soon as I was hired I started scouring the net for places like this and resources on lighting. Where have I learned the most??? from my students who have been doing this. I have a few kids who are VERY knowledgeable and I'm not afraid/ashamed/whatever to reference them. As a team, you need everyone to succeed.

    As far as the attitudes, yes, that can happen. The biggest thing is that the TD CANNOT be part of it. I was told of previous folks being part of the problem and picking favorites and all that. I told my students from day one that I'll treat everyone as a fellow professional. If I want drama, I'll get cable back and start watching reality TV.

    The fine line/double edged sword that a TD walks is the professional vs. educational. We are here to put on great productions and great concerts, but also to teach young adults how to do that. What is one of the best ways to learn?? Trial and error. Letting go has probably been one of my toughest battles this year. My students will attest to this. Many times I know I could make things happen, but that doesn't help my less experienced students. (at the same time, they can do some things better than me) They have to make the mistake sometimes to learn. Does that put part of a show or concert in jeopardy?? Maybe. But our building would say Minnehaha Theater on the outside and not Academy/High School.

    Our school is fortunate enough to have the resources to hire a TD close to full time. I'm very lucky to be the person selected for this job as well. As the time goes by, I hope I can build the tech program to be as professional as possible and give as many students as I can the most opportunities possible...and hope they gain some knowledge and experience.

    Brian
     
  10. misterm

    misterm Active Member

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    We have one award I borrowed from college called the "Golden Ratchet" award. I buy a cheap ratchet from Wal-mart and spraypaint it gold, but i may switch to a wrench this year as it makes more sense.:mrgreen:
     

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