All Loyal Heights students were invited to participate in our production and all who auditioned or signed up were guaranteed roles, resulting in 45% of the student body in our company. Cast members were asked to pay dues which covered the cost for each to receive a company t-shirt, cd of the score, and a costume to keep. Each cast member received quality music, acting, and dance training over the course of 12 weeks and the opportunity to perform in front of live audiences. Production crew members were asked to pay dues which covered the cost for each to receive a company t-shirt, and cd of the score. Each crew member received hands-on theatre production experience over the course of 12 weeks. Scholarships were available for any company member so that all students interested had the opportunity to participate. We had four shows, performing to more than 1,900 audience members in two days. Subsidized tickets were available for any Loyal Heights family so that anyone interested had the opportunity to attend.
Including every interested LH student in this production resulted in a very large cast, which required renting an appropriately sized venue. Costs related to such a venue include lighting, sound equipment, A/C and custodial services as required by the district, and other mechanics of a stage. The LHPTA generously donated $2,500 to the project, which covered the cost to rent the venue for our production. By renting a venue owned by Seattle Public Schools, 100% of those funds stay within our school district and directly benefit the Ballard High School Drama Program which provides quality theatre arts experiences at the high school level. Every effort was made to keep costs down, including repurposing materials from past years' sets, resurrecting abandoned A/V equipment, and making all but two of our costumes & costume patterns from scratch. Discounts and donations were procured for as many materials as possible. All design and fabrication services for sets*, props, costumes, and hair/makeup were donated. All costs related to the script, sets, props, A/V, hair/makeup, and programs were covered by ticket sales for the sole purpose of creating a quality, relevant theatre arts experience for company and audience members alike. All money collected through dues, tickets and product sales went directly to the LHPTA to pay for production costs. Production costs were less than the money collected. All excess funds will be forwarded to next year's musical theatre production and education at LHE. This project was accomplished with 100% donated time.
*All sets and props were either returned to their owners, donated, recycled, or are being stored for future productions. The two large set pieces made for this production will be repurposed for upcoming community events in Ballard this summer.
School & Community Outreach
Having received a donation from the LHPTA, we wanted to support other goings on at our school and in our greater Ballard community. We sent dedicated emails to our company promoting the family dance, 5th Grade fund raiser, and LHPTA auction. All of our local committee members attended the auction and three items were donated on behalf of the Wonderland cast and crew:
-four front row seats to the performance of choice (winning bid sold for $650)
-two original, framed pieces of artwork, used as our backdrop (winning bids sold for $175 collectively)
-one 3-tiered, Alice in Wonderland-themed, fondant cake (placed in the Dessert Dash, $400 estimated)
We suggested & supported two fund raising opportunities to this year's 5th Grade Committee, selling Wonderland posters (100% funded by the Wonderland project) and flowers, that raised approximately $1,000 towards the Camp Orkila trip and Legacy Gift. In addition, our weekly committee meeting the day before auction was cancelled and all hands were asked to help with auction needs. A portion of our budget was designated towards the repair and upgrade of audio visual equipment at school. After resurrecting as much abandoned A/V equipment as possible, a new DVD player was purchased and donated to the Gym, which will benefit all LH students. We also invested in microphones to eliminate the need for renting them for future productions. This system is compatible with existing A/V in the Lunchroom, Library and Gym so that it may benefit all LH staff and students. Another community outreach program tested this year was to invite a home school family to participate. Enrolled in Seattle Public Schools and members of our local Ballard community, they were thrilled to participate in this enrichment opportunity that otherwise wouldn't have been available to them. We also requested donations for the Darrington/Oso Relief Fund at our performances which resulted in $700 worth of contributions. Overall, this project helped generate over $5,935 in financial contributions to other programs!
A complimentary program was offered to each attendee at our performances. Beyond walking our audiences through our play, the programs served as mementoes for the company. Every company member was included by name and photograph in the program. As a display of gratitude, all volunteers who contributed up to performance time were listed by name as well. Each company member was also included on a poster which was displayed at our performances. All photography and graphic design services were donated and we received substantial discounts on printing (83% discount or free of charge).
We encouraged participation from company families as well as from our LHE community. There were many volunteer* opportunities, none of which were obligatory, and all adults interested were welcomed. Signups were available in person on two separate occasions on campus, anytime on the Wonderland Blog, and through multiple requests via company correspondence and through the LH ListServe, inviting not only company members' families but our entire Loyal Heights community. LHE parents/guardians generously volunteered professional, in-kind services such as graphic design, photography, videography, art, costume design & fabrication, hair & makeup styling, choreography, and stage and music direction. We also reached out to the greater Ballard community and received donated or deeply discounted services and resources. All of the time it took to make this production a reality was generously donated by over 240 amazing LHE parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends and local businesses.
*All volunteers were required to submit a background check form to the school office.
The script was chosen for several reasons but three [self-imposed] goals were determining factors:
-The script must be able to accommodate a large ensemble cast.
-The script must include acting, singing and dancing to provide a complete musical theatre experience.
-The script originated as a book*.
The first goal was established to include every interested student in our project. Most scripts are written for a cast of about 30. 135 roles were seamlessly added to this production to actively accommodate our large cast. The second goal also supports our mission statement of providing a relevant musical theatre experience. The final goal was created to encourage love of reading to our cast and crew.
*A three-year running tradition within our project has been to obtain vintage copies of the book to use as props for performances, which are then donated to our LHE library on behalf of the cast and crew. This year a lovely copy of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was donated, a small legacy gift from our company to our school in hopes that students may enjoy this timeless story for years to come.
Our Wonderland Blog was the heart of our company communication. It included everything from our mission statement, bios of our committee, a list of character descriptions, audition procedures, volunteering opportunities, and our project calendar, to name a few. The blog and, in particular, the project calendar was posted prior to auditions so that families had the opportunity to fully understand the commitment and decide, in advance, if it was right for them. Cast Correspondence was emailed out each week. This included weekly Wonderland News, notes of encouragement from our producer, director, and music director, and the rehearsal schedule for the following week. This information was also provided on our Wonderland blog and a tangible copy of the weekly schedule was posted on the Wonderland board at school so that all would have easy access to it. There was also weekly information offered in the LH Listserve and monthly in the BeaverTales, specifically to advertise auditions, volunteering opportunities, ticket sales, and Raves to the LHE community.
Our Dream Team met on a weekly basis for six months to make this project possible. For three months we held simultaneous music, dance &/or acting rehearsals on weekdays, scheduled before school as to not conflict with cast members' extracurricular activities. A dedicated team of music, dance, and acting directors and coaches met with the cast daily. There were also production crew work parties on weekends where our student production crew made sets and props for our production with guidance from our dedicated Production Crew Chair. Name tags were used at every rehearsal and work party to keep track of attendance, ensuring every child was accounted for. Follow up emails to those absent were sent daily, assuring each child that they were missed. By performance time, our directors and team of vocal coaches spent 210 hours of quality and relevant rehearsal &/or production time directly with our cast and crew members in 12 weeks.
Secret Guest Stars
We invited three LHE faculty members to be our "Secret Guest Stars" this year. Their identities were kept hidden until the day of performances, adding excitement to the cast. Their involvement endeared them to our LHE community.
Dance Captain Program
Our Dance Captain program encouraged responsibility and respect. This was designed to maintain a calm and functional environment at rehearsals and backstage. One or two students from each casting group that showed superior character qualities were asked to serve as Dance Captains, and accepted the following responsibilities:
-Attend all rehearsals and performances.
-Attend a Dance Captain training meeting.
-Lead morning warmups and help with name tag distribution/collection daily.
-Keep their group together at all times, during rehearsals and performances.
-Listen for their cues from the Backstage Manager and respond accordingly.
-Keep their group together while quickly walking between backstage and the wings,
making sure everyone was there and accounted for during rehearsals and performances.
-Help their group members. If someone in their group has an issue, they respectfully
notify an adult volunteer and accept directions.
-Keep their group calm and quiet.
-Show respect to the adults in charge and encourage their group to do the same.
-Keep up the morale of their group. Be a positive role model and leader!
Our Dance Captains were highlighted in rehearsals and in the program for their efforts.
"Gold Star" Incentive Program
Our "Gold Star" Incentive Program encouraged teamwork, responsibility, patience, initiative, kindness, and gratitude as well as theatre arts skills. Expectations for positive behavior were explained at Orientation and all cast and crew members were encouraged by receiving gold star stickers on their name tags for exerting these exceptional qualities. Recipients were highlighted during rehearsals or in cast correspondence. As a reward for their exemplarily behavior, company members who received the most gold stars received the photo posters that were displayed at performances. All of the name tags will be distributed to cast and crew members to keep as a memento of their Wonderland experience.
Students who displayed exceptional initiative and teamwork qualities as well as dance skills were invited to serve as Junior Choreographers. These students were asked to choreograph dance movements in four songs, which they then taught to the chorus, consisting of over 50 cast members. Our Junior Choreographers were highlighted in rehearsals and in the program for their efforts.
Assistant to the Director
One student who displayed exceptional responsibility was invited to be Assistant to the Director. This student attended all acting rehearsals for the duration of the project, took production notes, and supported the director and cast. Our Assistant to the Director was highlighted in rehearsals and in the program for their efforts.
Every Child A Star
Our "Whooo Are Youuu?" Wall, named after a song and overall theme of our play, presented a photo and short bio of each of our 191 company members, an effort to make every single student feel special and equally important regardless of their role in the production. This was displayed at all of our performances and the company members received their bios to keep at the end of the production as a memento of their Wonderland experience.
"Meet Ripley" Experience
Ten-year-old Ripley Sobo is the cousin of two Wonderland cast members and is currently starring as "Matilda" on Broadway in NYC. She took her camera backstage and filmed some of her musical theatre experiences for us which we presented to the company. After the video presentation, each company member was invited to write one question for Ripley. Two days later, we held a live webcam experience with Ripley. Wonderland cast and crew members were invited to interact with her while she answered a few of our questions from the previous day. As a thank you, we all signed a company poster to send to her. This was an exciting opportunity for our company to catch a glimpse into the life of a professional child actress. All of our cast and crew were invited to attend and participate in this experience.
Graduate Alumni Program
All students who have been in past LHE productions and have graduated from elementary school were invited to help backstage at auditions, Super Saturday rehearsals, and performances. Some of them also served as costume designers &/or fabricators and hair/makeup artists for performances. This allowed them community service opportunities as well as continuing, hands on theatre arts experiences. In addition, they served as positive role models for our cast members and, of course, we always love seeing their friendly faces!
The stage crew for our performances was completely comprised of students! Two LHE students served as assistant stage managers, two as supports, and two as prop mistresses. In addition, three Ballard High School students served as our lighting designers/engineers and one as rigging/grande drape operator. In all cases, the students received relevant, hands on theatre arts training and experience.
We would like to implement most if not all of the above programs in next year's production. In addition, there are hopes of creating a mentoring program, where younger students would shadow older ones to learn specific responsibilities (sound engineering, assistant stage management, etc.). There are also thoughts of creating student committees for costume and set design/production, involving training such as patterning and sewing classes. All of these would provide hands on training for the cast and crew while encouraging teamwork, responsibility, and initiative. In an effort to provide broader based theatre arts exposure, there is the possibility of creating before school enrichment courses, when rehearsals are not in session, on topics such as comic book writing, playwriting, theatre basics, or musical theatre appreciation. If you are interested in participating in the theatre arts at Loyal Heights Elementary, please visit our Volunteer Opportunities page or email [email protected]