The first thing to do is to assess your school’s ability to deliver sets, lights, costumes and sound. You’ll need to know what level of production values your department can bring. If your school has a tech theatre department-great! If not, don’t despair. You’d be surprised how many talented folks are willing to volunteer time and talents to get involved in showbiz!

Once you’ve done your technical assessment, it’s time to look at your pool of actors. If you are doing a musical, then look at your pool of singers, actors and dancers. Some shows demand certain skills like tap-dancing or certain vocal ranges. Some shows are more suited to the mere mortals who want to try their hand at acting. Honestly assess your available talent and make your best decision from there. While you may have certain actors who you feel would be perfect for a given role, wait until auditions are over before committing to any casting. You’ll always have some ‘finds’ at auditions. A ‘find’ is that kid you never really considered for a role who really steps it up at auditions. They are out there!

Once you have a handle on your talent and technical needs, look at the space you will be rehearsing in and performing in (not always the same space). Is it a proscenium/traditional theater with curtains, a fly rail, light grid and orchestra pit? Or perhaps a theatre with moveable seats and a re-configurable stage? Or a ‘black-box’ style theater? Looking at the entrances/exits available, the size of the stage and other practical factors will inform your decision as to what title to choose.

Finally, READ MANY SCRIPTS! You can order reading copies of musicals and plays from any of the licensing houses. You can find a listing of these companies under Scripts in this Resource section on StageNotes.net.

There are only a handful of companies that handle rights for major shows. They all have websites or catalogues you can access from their websites. Find links to all of them on our Scripts resource page.
What’s viewed as appropriate in one class may not be in another. When looking at age appropriateness, many factors should be considered before deciding on a title. Some existing classic Broadway musicals have been edited by licensing companies so as to be more appropriate for the younger set. Both Music Theatre International and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization have specially designed versions of some of their titles to work in elementary and middle school environments. Theatrical Rights Worldwide has a dedicated catalogue of newer Theatre for Young Audiences titles. Samuel French, Dramatists Play Service, Playscripts.com and Theatrefol.com also offer many more titles specifically written for younger actors and audiences.
Dramatic works such as plays and musicals are the intellectual property of their authors. The writers and their estates make their livelihoods from granting the rights to their works. The fee you pay to acquire a performance license for a dramatic work is called a royalty. Authorized performance materials supplied by the licensing company are the only scripts and scores you may use for your production. This is because authors must be guaranteed that their work will be performed only in authorized editions. In this way writers are able to have confidence that their creations are being performed specifically as they were written.
There is no easy answer to this question. The licensing fee varies based on several factors. Be sure to explain how you intend to use the production materials in your request for licensing. Will admission be charged? If yes, will it generate a profit or simply cover costs? How many performances will you give? What is your total expected attendance? The more details you provide, the better the service provider will be able to meet your needs.
Each licensing house provides at the very minimum the scripts and scores that you will need that comprise the ‘authorized performance materials,’ along with your performance license that gives you permission to produce the show. Some shows include performance accompaniment tracks for musicals, cross-curricular enhancement guides, customizable posters and other promotional items and more. Check with each individual licensing house to inquire on what elements are provided or are available for the title you’d like to produce.
Nearly all performance licenses specifically prohibit any changes to the script whatsoever. Any changes to a script must be APPROVED BY THE LICENSING COMPANY that issued your performance license. These requests are frequently not approved in deference to the artistic integrity of the material. Some requests for very minor changes that are deemed by the authors and/or their representatives to be not detrimental to the artistic integrity of the show MAY be approved. Each individual case must be reviewed. If you must request changes to a script, request them WELL IN ADVANCE of starting your rehearsal process and be prepared to have your request denied.
When using copyrighted material, it is important to remember that schools are subject to copyright laws. Before a school produces a musical or play, it must obtain permission from the copyright owner or his/her agent. Failure to do so can result in fines or a legal action. Permission to reproduce an audio or video version of the production is also required and must be granted by the licensing company on behalf of the authors. In general, schools do not have the permission to reproduce any or all component parts of the copyrighted work.