How to Start Your Own School Drama Club
Drama is a form of artistic expression and storytelling that has existed and been celebrated for centuries. It entertains, teaches, shocks, and delights—both for those onstage, backstage, and in an audience.
If your school, church, or community group is lacking a dramatic outlet for its students and members, you may just be the right person to fix that problem. A drama club can help build confidence, community, and creativity.
There are many right ways (and a few wrong ways) to go about starting up a club. Below, we've outlined one of many paths you could take to make your goal a reality.
There's an old saying that goes, "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission." This may be true, but it's definitely the wrong way to go in starting a new club—especially if you're working in the confines of a school. Before you start anything, get permission and approval from the higher-ups, whether it's a principal, a school board, a minister, or whomever.
When proposing your idea, go in prepared. "I want to start a drama club" is all well and good, but be ready for the big questions—why and how.
What is your reasoning for starting a drama club? What will your students get out of it? What will the school get out of it? Make sure to discuss the ways the arts can benefit kids, helping them learn kinesthetically while building their confidence and self-esteem.
You should also be ready to explain—at least in broad terms—your plans for budgeting, performances, rehearsals, and other meetings. If you're requesting a budget from you school, have numbers and the research to back those numbers up. Where will you hold performances? What kinds of things will you be performing? How will you prepare and pay for the technical aspects, such as costumes, lighting, and sound?
The more prepared and realistic you are, the more likely you will be to get approval to begin.
Chances are, if you've taken the steps to start a drama club, you've already got a few interested and willing participants. Don't stop there! Every person in any group brings a new perspective, new ideas, and new energy. Like any school groups, drama clubs can become cliques, and while it's great for kids to find friends with similar interests, sometimes it's up to you to encourage them to accept new people and make everyone feel welcome.
Before you get there, however, you need a club. Once you've got permission to start, find out what other clubs and activities are available at school and when they meet. You'll often find that interested kids are in other activities as well--if you can, try to avoid conflicts with choir, band, and art clubs.
Pick a day to meet--perhaps every other Tuesday after school. Stick to this schedule so that kids are able to expect it and plan around it. Advertise every meeting with posters around school and announcements over the intercom. If your school has a newsletter home to parents, make sure you write up and include information about your new club--parents, after all, are much better at keeping schedules than the average teenager. Encourage your regular attendees to bring their friends, extend an invitation to a shy kid in class, drag the class clown along.
Improvisation For The Theater
What to Do at Drama Club
You've got your approval, some members, and a place to meet. Great! What's next?
You're going to have some kids who come to drama club to really learn and get a sense of the art—perhaps they want to pursue it after leaving school, or maybe they're just really interested in the intricacies of the theater. Most kids, however, will come because they want to have fun with their friends. Make sure that your club meetings appeal to both sides.
Theater has existed for thousands of years, and there are thousands of ways to perform it. Probably the best place to start is with a little improvisation. If you do not already have it, get your hands on a copy of Improvisation for the Theater by Viola Spolin. Her work is widely considered the bible of improvisational theater and is endlessly applicable and adaptable.
Along with improvisation, you should consider bringing in local theater professionals—especially if your school has any alumni working in theater. Such speakers can inspire students while giving them a sense of perspective about the theater after school. Many civic theaters and auditoriums have educational outreach projects; pairing with such a group will help give your students a more well-rounded experience.
Even those students who only wish to perform on stage should have a solid understanding of technical theater; perhaps once a month, you could have a technical club meeting—one month, focus on basic makeup techniques; the next, cover lighting and color theory.
If you ever run out of ideas for what to do at club meetings, listen to your students—they'll gladly tell you what they'd like to learn and try!
Break a Leg!
Drama club can be a lot of fun, but sooner or later your students will want a chance to perform for an audience. Does your school have an auditorium or stage? If not, you may have to seek out other theaters in the area—perhaps rent a weekend at a local civic theater or large auditorium.
Figure out your technical capabilities, ask for volunteer help from parents, and find the right play for your drama club. Give your students a chance to shine onstage and off while instilling a sense of creativity and a strong determination and work ethic.
Staging a play is never an easy endeavor, but it can be a truly rewarding one. Make sure to stay energized, enthusiastic, and encouraging—and break a leg!