Archive for Budget


Three weeks ago, we closed our musical, Godspell. I know some of you reading this are jealous because you are either in the middle of musical rehearsals or beginning them and I am done! We put up our musical in six weeks from auditions to opening night. No, we did not cast in May and allow the students to work on the music in the summer; we literally began the first week of school. When my choir teacher, Chris Yurasek, and I decided to tackle this “beast” in the first six weeks of school, we knew it could be done; but we did worry about the quality of the work in such a short time period. It was an intense six weeks, but one I would do over again. We discovered several benefits of directing a musical in such a short amount of time.

First, the benefit of having a commanding image, or directing concept, from the onset of rehearsals was valuable to the success our production. I knew before we started that we would direct Godspell “a la Breakfast Club.” That drove every decision we made from set, choreography, musical choices, and costumes. I am usually hesitant to make decisions, but my commanding image drove all of my choices and helped me articulate the design process to my choir teacher and students. I do not have an assistant director, technical director, etc. I have a choir director, my students, and a choreographer that I hired for a day. Being able to share my commanding image from day one was crucial to getting everything done in a short amount of time.

Another “first” for me was having choreographers come in and teach all of the choreography in one day at the beginning of the production process. I was blessed that Larry and Sue Wisdom agreed to come out and teach all of the dance numbers that day. Honestly, I was a little skeptical at first. When I posted the first Saturday rehearsal to begin at 8:00 a.m, and end at 10:00 p.m., I thought most of my company would find something else to do that day. I was wrong, not only did the actors and chorus show up, so did the crew. All of them arrived that morning bringing food and great attitudes. It was a great bonding experience to start out the production process. In fourteenhours, they learned all of the choreography for the entire show. One of my students set up cameras to record it all. I hope to continue to find choreographers who are willing to commit to one intense day of teaching all of the dance numbers. This allowed us to focus on the rest of the show. We had a few rehearsals specifically to clean up the dances, but many chorus members would meet on their own and rehearse the numbers together in small groups. One of my students was the dance captain and she watched the videos and coached the others throughout the rehearsal process. It was nice to not have to stop and learn the next dance number or have the kids forget the earlier one. Learning them all from the beginning allowed us to focus on the numbers that were more difficult and just brush up on the easier numbers. Usually, I am frustrated by the time we learn the fifth number for the show because they forgot the first number. This did not happen when we learned them all the first day.

Another tip I have that made things easier was the website for meals the week of dress rehearsals and performances. My drama club officers set it up, which was one less thing I had to do. Parents and students signed up to bring various sandwich items. We had more than enough food and clean up was a breeze. This is the first time meals were hassle free.

The biggest take away I have is that a shorter time-span kept more students involved and excited. I normally spend 8-10 weeks minimum on the musical. When I do, I lose kids along the way because they get bored, find other things to interest them, fail, etc. During the six weeks, only two students dropped out. A shorter period kept them more focused, energetic and motivated. Would I have liked to have more time to polish, yes; but the trade off was we closed with kids still excited and involved. They are already asking what we are doing next year. And, next year, we plan to do the same process – putting the musical up in six weeks. Although, we have decided to cast in May so students can learn the music over the summer.

Not everything was a success. I learned some lessons the hard way, through failure. My biggest headache for the musical is always the program. It was again this year. I still have not mastered the most efficient way to put a program together. We sell ads to help with the cost of the program. I bought Playbillder this year thinking it would provide more guidance for my student. I thought it was done and ready to print and it was not. We finished it in time, but we had to be a little more creative than we had planned. We copied it at school instead of having it copied. It did not look as polished, but it saved us a ton of money. We cut the bios from the program and created a bio wall. I will do this in the future. The student’s picture and bio mounted on cardstock was a nice momento to give each student on closing night.

So, with the musical in the rearview mirror, I am moving on to the next two fall productions. It has taken a few weeks, but I think I have recovered from the first six weeks of school and am ready to tackle the rest of the school year.

Free Money

Heads up for unspent money! Heads up for future money!

Your school districts are quickly closing their accounting books for the 2014-15 school year. Unspent money may be available for your department needs. Know how to professionally request funds from your principal, fine arts coordinators, fine arts directors, and bookkeepers.

The assumption is that you, as the theatre director, have a professional and organized history concerning your accounting records, budgets, and history. An unorganized director who requests additional surplus funds lacks the credibility and support to justify the last minute “bonus” so to speak.

My advice is to group email all your direct supervisors with your request. I do not usually include my superintendent in this request. Your superintendent has hired others to handle this duty. In my school, I include my department chair, my principal, and my business office.

Include your bids or proof of costs in your request. Do the work for them, links to business sites, phone numbers, contacts or reps. I often rank my purchase items. “If surplus funds are available from the 2014-15 budget, I am requesting purchasing the following items for the theatre department: 1.xxxx 2.xxxx  3.xxxx 4.xxxx 5.xxxx  Bids and approved vendor information is attached. Thank you for supporting our program.” I try to meet with my principal in person to justify the need for the items I am requesting.

In addition to surplus funds, be reminded that Texas public education school districts will receive 100% of Instructional Material Allotment 100% of this money will be released to your school district late September or October 2015.

“A school district is entitled to an annual allotment from the state instructional materials fund for each student enrolled in the district on a date during the preceding school year specified by the commissioner. The commissioner shall determine the amount of the allotment per student each year on the basis of the amount of money available in the state instructional materials fund. An allotment under this section shall be transferred from the state instructional materials fund to the credit of the district’s instructional materials account as provided by Section 31.0212.”

Senate Bill 6 requires districts to annually certify that all materials purchased through the IMA meet 100% of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

The Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA) can be used to purchase instructional materials adopted by the State Board of Education or the Commissioner of Education. The IMA can also be used to purchase instructional materials that are not on the adopted lists as well as technology services and technological equipment.

This means that if you need it to teach your class you can buy it under the definition of “instructional material”. This money is not just for a classroom set of books. You can purchase our book because it serves as “instructional material.” You can buy a portable lighting system, if you teach lighting. You can purchase sound mixing equipment if you teach sound. You can purchase apps, computer programs, smart boards, even magazine subscriptions if they serve as “instructional materials.”

Begin the conversations now with those in charge of this money coming to you and your students.