frequently asked questions
...well, they occurred to us...
Why did you form Teen Voices?
After looking over the theatre offerings for young people in the North Dallas/Plano/Allen area, we noticed some patterns:
Most of the opportunities seemed to be geared towards children between the ages of five and twelve. While that is awesome for those kids (and we’re sure there are plenty of grateful parents out there), it means that there are fewer opportunities for older students to have what we consider to be a meaningful theatrical experience. Even if a production has a wide age range (e.g., 5 to 18), because younger students are involved, the subject matter is, quite understandably, kept rather sanitized (hence the “Jr.” versions of many musicals and plays). We want to give older students the opportunity to tackle some challenging plays and explore issues that they simply cannot examine when they are working with younger students.
A lot of the local theatrical offerings for students (especially older students) seem to be musicals. Even in school, the “big production” is usually a musical. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, but we want to offer a different experience – one that gives students who cannot sing and/or dance (and those that can sing or dance but can do other things as well) the opportunity to have a substantive and meaningful role in the production.
Youth theatre is often more about the product than the process. That is not to say that things like character and context are never explored during rehearsals, but because of time constraints, the presence of younger children with short attention spans, having to learn songs and choreography, etc., rehearsals often devolve quickly into “move here,” “say it this way,” “think about your character at home,” etc. We only do a few productions per year, but we build in enough time in each to really delve into a play and experiment with different ways of staging and developing character. We want the students to make as many decisions as possible and feel like they have creative ownership of the ultimate product. We also offer classes on creating theatre from scratch, and they are almost all about the process.
Bottom line, Teen Voices was formed to give teenagers the opportunity to find their own creative voice and have a different theatrical experience than they can get at school or in some of the more traditional extracurricular drama offerings.
I’ve heard you all hate musicals. Is that true?
Not exactly. Musicals are fine – we’ve even been involved in a few as actors, director, producers and designers. But as we said above, this part of town has plenty of places (including your own local middle or high school) where kids who want to sing and dance can do so. For the students who don’t want to only do musicals or who do not have the voice or the movement skills to be in them (and who always wind up in the ensemble with such compelling roles as “Man Crossing Street” or “Woman Wearing Hat”), we want to offer them the opportunity to get more involved and really contribute.
And most of the places that do musicals (some almost to the exclusion of anything else…) do a really awesome job staging them. They have the facilities, the staff and the money to really make the productions slick and fun to watch. Being a new and itinerant theatre company, we simply cannot compete with that. So we don’t try to.
So, Teen Voices will never put on a musical?
Well, we’ll never say never! If an interesting and cost-effective musical with parts for singers and non-singers came to our attention, and it was not being done in every other theatre in the country, we might give it a go. But that’s a lot of ifs!
The more likely scenario is that one of the pieces developed within our Collaborative Theatre Project could have the students creating a musical from scratch. If the entire class gets behind that idea and wants to put in the work to make it happen, we will do what we can to bring it to life!
We also do not include in the definition of “musical” plays that have some singing in them. If the main focus of the production is the acting, and it has a few songs, we’re fine with that!
What the heck is "Collaborative Theatre?"
Quite simply, it is theatre put together almost entirely by the students, working collectively and using their diverse skills, backgrounds and viewpoints. Our Collaborative Theatre Project gives students the tools they need to create a piece of theatre, and then they go do it! The classes always culminate in some sort of performance, whether it is a free, invited performance of short scenes (Phase I) or a full-length, publicly advertised production at a professional venue (Phase II), we make sure the fruits of student creativity and hard work do not go unnoticed.
We say, “put together almost entirely by the students” because in addition to teaching them theatre-making skills, we also serve as a check on issues related to the appropriateness of content or staging techniques, costs, health and safety, legal issues, etc. We also serve as creative sounding boards, ready to offer suggestions when students get stuck and always ready to give feedback designed to allow the piece, and the students, to evolve.
For a synopsis of the 2020 Collaborative Theatre Project, click here!
I've heard your Company described as "edgy." Are you?
We don’t think so! “Edgy” connotes the idea that we are off staging inappropriate material or stuff that you would only see in an off-off-off-Broadway theatre, when that is simply not the case. Every play that we stage or any theme that we use in a Collaborative Theatre class will be completely age appropriate and will likely have been staged or used by teenage theatre students in other parts of the world.
That being said, we realize that varying cultural, political, religious, or familial backgrounds or beliefs may mean that some students/parents are not comfortable with things like strong language, violence or the exploration of certain social issues in a theatrical environment. While we will rarely subordinate or compromise our artistic or educational vision to those beliefs, we do promise to inform you of any potential issues before you audition for one of our shows or enroll in one of our classes. If there is a way to mutually resolve the problem (e.g. – casting a student who is uncomfortable swearing, but does not mind hearing bad language spoken by others, in a role that does not use any profanity), we will do everything we can to make it work. If not, then hopefully we’ll see you at our next audition or class.
Do you charge tuition to be in your productions?
For the moment, yes. The reason is two-fold. First, we are a brand-new company and simply do not have the cash flow to pay all the expenses associated with doing high-quality productions. As we find our footing, and can apply for governmental or private foundation grants, we can hopefully reduce tuition to a more manageable level, although we will likely never get rid of it completely. Which brings us to the second reason why we charge tuition to be in productions – skin in the game. With the mind-boggling number of choices available to kids these days for where they spend their free time, it is a little too easy for them to decide to drop out of one production if a better opportunity comes along. While we would never forbid anyone from doing that, the tuition does serve to make students and parents think twice about breaking a commitment to the show.
We will, however, offer tuition discounts. If one of our past students brings in a new student that we have never worked with before (and the newbie gets cast in the production), we’ll knock $25 off the past student’s tuition for the show (up to $75). We also plan to run surveys and registration drives where the lucky winner, chosen at random, will receive a discount on tuition for one of our productions or classes. We also offer rebates on tuition if the student sells a certain volume of tickets to the production – the more he or she sells, the bigger the rebate!
Tuition fees will always include a script and show t-shirt!
Who chooses the plays you produce?
For the moment, plays are selected by Eric and Stacy based upon the level of the challenge, cast size, cost, issues presented, suitability, etc. However, we want to hear what plays you young people are dying to do, and we will occasionally host “play reading parties,” where students can read through plays under consideration and give us their thoughts (no charge – but bring snacks).
Ultimately, if Teen Voices really takes off, we would like to have a teen council of some sort that reviews and makes recommendations for the plays we do.
Have any other general questions about what we do or why we’re doing it? Email them to us, and we may add them to the FAQ!