How to thank colleagues in public after a school production

This is a post to explain why we thank colleagues for the work they have done in public for a theatrical production and how to do it.  This might seem incredibly basic but the important word is “public” and I have seen in recent years this is getting ignored in schools because of a variety of different reasons.

In a theatrical production there are three main groups of people.  The performers, the organizers and the audience.  They know different things.  Sometimes the organizers will not see the performance and don’t know how good it is and they may not have seen how many smiling faces are in the audience.  The performers know what some of the organizers have done but don’t know about the majority of the work that has been done behind the scenes. The audience can see how wonderful the performers are but will probably have little idea what the organizers have done. If you do not have an opportunity in public to thank everybody, then you are not acknowledging the hard work that people have done.  You cannot outsource this responsibility to a show program and you cannot postpone this to a staff meeting.  It has to be done in public so everyone is included.  This means that a leader must stand up and give a speech.

Some leaders are very nervous about giving speeches.  They are scared they might miss somebody out or give too much praise to one person. They may be uncomfortable about giving staff praise if they think it is something that is in their job description. There are even some in a school setting who say praising staff in public distracts from the children’s performance. Some give health and safety excuses or time constraints – we can’t leave the children on stage for another ten minutes because they will get fidgety so let’s not thank people in public.  There are some who are scared that a leader might get a bit over-exuberant and say something that might discredit the school so they should be discouraged from saying anything.  They think they are making things safer, easier, better managed and more professional.  But the reality is that you are simply not giving an opportunity for well-deserved praise. This results in upset staff, staff feeling used, unappreciated, disrespected and possibly even angered.

So this is how you make a ten minute speech to thank everyone for their work.  You do it on closing night.  You get all the organizers, the performers and back stage all on stage and turn the house lights on.  You begin by saying how fantastic the performance was and say something personal, perhaps comment on your favourite bit or say something humorous.  Keep this to about two minutes, no one wants a leader to drone on.  Then you thank people.  There are twenty main categories of people in a theatre production but this is not an exhaustive list: Director, Producer, Stage Manager, Music Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Technical Director, Costume Designer, Front of House, Backstage, Wardrobe, Makeup, Administration, Facilities, Catering, Artists, Actors, Dancers, Musicians, Choir Members.  Some will be individuals and some will be teams.  Spend about twenty seconds for each individual or group and say some of things they have done, especially the things that have resulted in staff spending a lot of their spare time working on the production.  You should give each organizer a card and a present.  It is traditional to give flowers but if you are uncomfortable with this, most people appreciate a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. You also need to thank the performers and this is why on closing night, after thanking the audience for coming and being amazing you bring out a massive cake so all the performers get something too.  This expenditure should be included in the budget for the show.  If you have next to no budget then go with homemade cards. If you have the budget put on a party. The after-show party is often the stuff of legends, and it is actually very important.  That’s when ideas bounce off from person to person and this is one of the ways that young performers start to get a sense of identity as a theatre kid.  The social intermingling of young people after a show with a common love of theatre is very powerful.  The next show is sometimes planned in the after-show party!

I hope this is useful to people putting on productions.  For some leaders who know next to nothing about theatre I hope you can use it to show how much you do appreciate the work that staff do and celebrate this in public.