How Do I get Portland Drama Club into my child’s school?
We hope to provide you with all the info you need to bring this idea to your principal, PTA, or whomever else may need to make these decisions at your school. Please click here.
what does the production schedule look like for the program?
We start out with theater games and getting to know each other. Then we learn some vocal technique and the music for the show. We cast it (usually on Day 2 or 3 for camp; after 3 classes for a one semester class; and after 6 weeks for our year-round classes). We practice the music some more now with our soloists. We dance. We block (put the scene on the stage and tell the actors where to go) and then we put it all together with sets and costumes. The show comes up fast - even for the year-round programs.
do you offer a refund if my child doesn't like it?
Each class will have varying refund policies with specific dates. Please understand we can offer no refunds after our shows are cast (that is, no refunds once camp starts; starting usually around the 3rd week in a semester program; and the 6th week in our year-round program). If you decide to remove your child from class before casting has taken place, you will get a refund minus the classes in which your child has participated plus a $65 administration fee. Though very rare, we do reserve the right to remove any child from class if he or she is a danger to other classmates or interferes in the enjoyment or learning process of our cast as a whole. In which case, you will be issued a refund minus the classes taken and a $65 administration fee.
i just learned about your program and you've already started - can i join? do you offer a pro-rated price?
Once summer camp has begun, we do not take any new students. We move very quickly with the production of a show, but you can join right up to the first day if there is space!
Once our after school classes have started, you may join at a pro-rated price per class missed. Once we have cast the show, we usually do not admit more students unless there is still room in the chorus. We usually cast after 3 weeks in a one-semester program and 6 weeks in a full-year program.
how does casting work?
Oh boy. Casting seems to be the most stressful and misunderstood aspect of our camps and classes and can often cause hurt feelings, stress and disappointment. Anyone who signs up for our classes and camps is in the show. There is no formal, traditional audition in most of our production classes. We do daily assessments of the kids before deciding on roles. We have found the nerves and fears that crop up from having to prepare a song to do on stage for the teachers gets in the way of fun and learning. We are a supportive family. We play theater games, we watch behavior and how kids treat each other, we sing songs, we move, we discuss roles, and finally, when it's closer to casting time and kids are more comfortable in the group, we ask if individuals would like to sing for certain parts. Typically, the older or more experienced kids will be cast in larger roles and the younger or new kids will be in the chorus. This allows for older kids who might not normally get a large role over an uber-talent triple threat younger kid to have a chance at a bigger part. Still, this is not always the case and is only a guideline. It will always depend on the group dynamic and the show we are doing. I prefer to cast someone who tries hard and has a good attitude over someone who has been trained with the best jazz hands in the west but isn't a team player. Understanding, of course, that we have varying levels/abilities as far as attention and focus is concerned at this age. Some kids who may not always be able to sit still in the same way as others will still be eligible for bigger roles provided they stay respectful and engaged in their own way. Theater is for everyone. We want all kids set up for success. We want them to feel comfortable and finish the show feeling proud and having had a fun time. Some kids are ready for big challenges and some are not - no matter their age. We often split the roles creating more opportunities for kids to play lead roles. We blind cast. Many girls will play male roles. This is a class in which to learn by doing. It is not a star maker class. So very many things are considered when casting, but in the end a decision has to be made. Since we've been at this a long time as teachers, directors and actors ourselves, we ask you to please trust and accept our decision. Your child will do better with your full support. We will not change roles after casting is complete unless we have a student emergency.
my child is only available for some of the days - can she still sign up?
Because the purpose of the class is to put on a show, attendance is important. We work as a team. In order to put on a successful show the team has to be united. You can't play a great basketball game with four kids on the court. I would ask that a child not miss more than 2 rehearsals in a semester after-school program or their role could be given to someone else. Our after-school programs meet only once a week and often the things learned in class are forgotten by the next week. As you can imagine, being absent can confuse your child and the rest of the children in class and will reduce their ability to perform confidently. Making sure your child attends all of our summer camp hours is important since things move so quickly and we can not go back to repeat.
we will be out of town for the shows, but my daughter wants to be in the class with her friends. can she still sign up?
Your child must be available for the shows. The purpose of this class is to put on a show and we cast and start rehearsing very soon into the process. She would be very bored and bummed sitting and watching her friends work without the chance to do it herself.
my child is shy but loves musical theater. should i sign him up?
Some of the very best actors I know are shy and quiet people. You don't have to be the life of the party to be on stage. I have seen some miracles happen onstage with young kids who have not yet used their bodies and voices to express themselves. It can be scary onstage. We do occasionally have tears, but I have never had a student not end up doing the show and feeling proud. Here is a testimonial from one of my former student's parents: "My daughter participated in Caroline's drama program for six years starting in elementary school. It was a transformative experience for her! When she started, my daughter was shy and would hardly speak a word to anyone she didn't know well. She had a difficult time participating in class. Caroline was kind, patient, and really encouraged her to grow. Six years later, not only was she playing and singing leading roles in drama productions, she was selected to speak at her middle school graduation... to 3000 classmates and their guests! Caroline's program was not just fun for my child, it provided discipline and skills that she will use well into adulthood."
how do you handle stage fright?
It can be scary to get up and speak, sing, and dance in front of people. We rehearse SO much that by the time the show comes up, kids are eager to show the world. I tell them the best way to not be nervous is to be prepared. They are reminded often that the audience is on their side and out there rooting for them. We visualize the pride coming from them as warmth from the stage lights. It feels good. In addition to creating a supportive environment where everyone can make mistakes and be goofy throughout our time together, we practice breathing techniques to help calm and soothe. Every child in my class knows it is A-OK to be scared - bravery comes from doing it anyway. I've had many tears that I've had to hug out, but I've never had someone not get on that stage.
my son really wants to do this, but none of his friends are interested. he says boys don't do musical theater. how can i convince him to do it anyway?
Does he know that Wolverine is a song and dance man? Does he know that Spiderman can do a lot of his own stunts because he’s a trained dancer- who was in West End and Broadway musicals before landing the Spiderman gig? Does he know that Captain America grew up a shy guy with anxiety who loved acting? Does he know how many muscles you have to use to dance like a pirate? Does he know football players practice ballet moves to increase their flexibility on the field? Musical theater is for every type of human. If he doesn't join, then a lucky girl gets to play Captain Hook, Jafar, Baloo, Willy Wonka... the list goes on... and they'll gladly do it! Don't let them miss out. Boys need to express themselves, too. There is freedom in it.
i've heard there is down time during class where my child might not be doing as much as other kids. why is this and what can they do to keep themselves busy?
The purpose of our class is to ultimately put on a full-fledged show for an audience. This means that each week (or day if it's camp), we will have new scenes, new songs, and new dances to learn before we can put it all together. Once the show is cast, we will break up rehearsals. Sometimes, depending on your child's role, they will not work much that day on the stage. Each class, though, we do a group game or exercise together before getting to work (but shhh - don't tell your kids - the games and exercises are work, too, and they are learning valuable life skills!). It is important that your child attend each rehearsal whether they are scheduled to be busy or not. It is part of being a team and working together to support each other. Your child will learn from observing as well. Often, we have absences and have to change our schedule last minute, which means your child's scene or song could be placed on the schedule for that day unexpectedly. In the downtime, we encourage the kids to take the time to help each other memorize their lines and songs and review their notes. It is our hope that they will learn to maximize their time in class so that they do not need to use too much time at home to work on their roles. It is this "down time" that helps teach your child personal responsibility, accountability, and time management. Your kids will also be kept busy with other staff members. These staff members will supervise them as they learn to create character bios (and share them with the group) and in some cases, may be working on props and costume pieces as the program moves along. Kids might also have a chance to decorate banners, posters, and their own postcards to invite their friends and family to the show. There is always something to do, but if your child is comfortable with their preparation for the role(s) and still has down time, we invite them to browse our many theater-related books. Depending on location (and weather), there may even be a chance to play outside and run off some school day stress from time to time! Closer to show time, your child will be asked to "wait in the wings." This teaches your child patience and respect for their fellow actors. When your child watches a part of the rehearsal, they witness their friends making mistakes and new discoveries onstage. They watch them recover. They watch them beam with pride. When it's their turn, they will feel brave enough to make their OWN mistakes and new discoveries and their friends will know how to support and encourage!
do you charge for tickets to shows?
For most shows we do not charge for tickets, but will ask for donations at the doors. Those who can give a little can give what they want in place of the cost of tickets. Our ticket fees or requested donations allow us to place some of that money back into a scholarship fund. These shows are wonderfully produced specifically for little minds and bodies by Music Theatre International, Inc. We buy the rights to the script and the music and to put on the performance- it's not free. Depending on our venue, we will also bring in extra lights and sound - all of it costs money. Your tuition pays for the rental of our rehearsal space, teachers, the script, and the costumes. So much more goes into putting on a show and after working really hard on their roles, kids deserve the hoopla surrounding a "real show." It is a huge pay off for them. At some point we may need to supplement by charging for tickets, but we do not see this happening on our near future.
will i need to pay for an expensive costume? what are the hidden costs?
Unlike many dance/performance classes, we do not charge for costumes/attire. Costumes are included in the tuition you pay. We might ask if you have an item at home -usually a specific type of shoe. We don't want this to be a financial hardship, so if there is ever an issue, we will work things out. Also, we have a pizza party on our show day and you may be asked to contribute $ toward it for your child. For some classes and camps, we will charge a small amount for tickets to the show (see the previous FAQ). In this case, you will receive two free tickets per child in the class. Any other tickets (invited friends, family, community members) will need to be purchased.
how can i get involved?
Thank you for asking! Typically, we don't need volunteers until closer to show time. I don't know if you've ever tried to get a group of young people to do something in an organized fashion, but it can be like herding cats. Add nerves, sets, lights, costume changes, and it can be a recipe for disaster without proper help. Parents who are willing to help a little before the show with costumes and makeup help to create a sense of calm and safety that is needed for the show to go on. If you're interested in putting in a little time, we'd love to have you. It's crazy, but it's fun!
my child has special needs. can she participate?
Please talk to me about your child before ruling out our classes and camps. Theater is for everyone. I've taught kids on the spectrum as well as kids with physical disabilities. Please know, though, that my staff is not trained in working with kids with special needs. We are trained in teaching kids theater and that will always be our focus. We do play some games throughout the camp, semester, or year that are physical and fast and other games that require fast thinking that can be stressful for some kids. Our music is loud and we sing sing sing. Also, our venues do often have stairs and are elevated off the ground. Some accommodations can be made, but you know your child and their physical abilities best. If they are physically unable to navigate on their own an aide would be needed to stay for class with them. I will work with you and your child to create a space for him/her. For the most part, though, in my class everyone must be involved in as many ways as possible and try things that may feel out of their comfort zone. This is how we grow in theater. Your child will be expected to do the same in his or her own unique way with as little parental or aide help as possible.