How to Write and Produce Your Own High School Musical

You’ve got the talent.  You can make the time.  You just need a few tips on how to get started . . . or fine-tune the script . . . or run rehearsals . . . or mount the production.  How to Write and Produce Your Own High School Musical walks you through each step of the entire process.  Join the hundreds of other directors and instructors who have already used this powerful educational video in their theaters and in their classrooms! Order your copy from Films Media Group, Today!

Geared specifically to educators and produced by Dann Hurlbert, an actor, director, and media guru, this video offers practical, hands-on guidance for creating an original musical–for high schools, colleges, and professionals.  In just 38 minutes, viewers learn six essential components and ten key steps to writing and staging a production that entertains, engages, and boosts ticket sales! Designed for step-by-step viewing, the video is divided into two main sections:  Writing and Producing.

Educators need time, a writer, director, orchestrator and music director, and “unrelenting enthusiasm” in order to put on a high school musical.  Here’s are some of the issues we cover:

  • The Timetable: Before writing a musical, create a realistic timetable.  Keep work and personal life in balance when engaged in a production project.  Plan for 15-18 months for script, score, and production.
  • The Writing Process: The writing process can take many forms and has many steps.  We’ll focus on–and demonstrate–brainstorming, organization of ideas, and scripting.
  • Focus on Your Audience: Consider the audience during the entire writing process. An audience must empathize, like, and even care about the characters, particularly the protagonist.
  • Conflict: High school musicals should be spiced up with a mix of teen and adult humor as well as perspective. Your conflicts must create tension that holds the attention of the both groups.
  • Plot Development, Part 1: The six key points of the plot include a preliminary situation, initial incident, and rising action. Dramatic scenes from a Halleluiah, Hot Dish!, our original musical illustrate these points.
  • Plot Development, Part 2: These six key points of the plot include the climax, falling action, and resolution. Dramatic scenes from a high school musical illustrate these points.
  • Developing a Musical Score: The orchestrator must know the context of each scene, who is involved in the scene, action of characters, and where the song takes the characters emotionally.
  • Writing the Score: Rhythm and music can both enhance a character’s emotion or drive it.  This involves the director and musicians brainstorming melodic lines and choosing instruments that fit mood and character.
  • Scene Change Music: Taking a sliver from each song in the score, the composer compiles his overture.  Scene change music is often the last to be written, and often transitions from one mood or song to another.
  • Production: An inspirational director and the creative minds of young actors become the engine for the production.
  • The Production Schedule: Production time for most high school musicals takes around 2-3 months. Benchmarks for this 90-day timetable include securing assistants, reserving rehearsal spaces, preparing for auditions, blocking, set design and construction, rehearsals, and more.  
  • Audition Prep: Prior to actual auditions, build enthusiasm and develop the plan.
  • Block the Script: Blocking is like playing chess. Each move influences all the other characters. 
  • Auditions: At the auditions, the students read from selected scenes, sing a familiar song, and perform a short dance routine.
  • Master Audition Form: Students fill out a master audition form to provide contact information, time availability, role preference, preference for other types work associated with the musical such as the tech crew.  Here’s your chance to know how to plug students into spots they’ll be excited about–even if they aren’t the lead. 
  • Callbacks and Cast Finalization: Students rotate through three sets of auditions, one for speaking, singing, and dancing. Respective directors choose who to call back. After callbacks, post the list of cast assignments and set a date for the first rehearsal.
  • Rehearsals and Tech: Compile a list in a spreadsheet of setting, time, songs, and characters. Plan to rehearse scenes on the same days that contain the same actors.
  • Rehearsal Schedule: Blocks each scene with the actors. Staging and character will become second nature to the actors once they go off book.  Acts 1 and 2 should be memorized by weeks 4 or 5 respectively–leaving about 3 weeks of off book 100%.  That’s when the magic starts to happen.
  • Production Crew and Directors: Throughout rehearsal weeks, key members of the production staff are also working hard. These include the choreographer, vocal director, pit director, set director, costumes and props director, and stage crew.
  • Publicity: The publicity crew writes press releases, take photographs, and prepares and distributes fliers.
  • Tech Week: During tech week, actors get into their costumes and run through the entire show. Encourage students to step up, make decisions, and solve the problems without adult intervention.
  • Final Dress Rehearsal: Performing before a live audience pushes the cast to focus, boosts their energy level, and helps them with timing. Invite an audience for final dress rehearsal.
  • Opening Night: The show is officially out of the director’s hands. Students should come in early for make-up and costumes as well as vocal warm-up.
  • Culmination of Hard Work: High school students are capable of giving peak performances. After 2-3 months of hard work, both the students and the audience will be amazed at the quality of . . . Your Own High School Musical!

*Photos of those talented actors featured above were taken by Ted Hammond. In addition to our students, two of my incredible co-writers and directors also appear, Aaron Kapaun and Ed Schlueter.