Subject: Fall High School Theatre Season

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Dear Theatre Director:

We hope this message finds you well as we head into the summer break after an extraordinary spring semester. With the fall theatre season ahead, we wanted to share a few thoughts with you, so you can plan amidst the pandemic.

NFHS LogoFirst, we want you to know we have been communicating with the Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Education (AWTE), the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA), Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) as well as counterpart state associations who oversee one-act play contests. This has allowed us to gather best practices and contingencies. We also bear in mind that each school district will establish its own policies for the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, which will supersede any guidance provided by any of the aforementioned organizations.

WHSFA is committed to providing theatre opportunities this fall, especially the state festival, even if it is online. We’ll be attending the Virtual International Thespian Festival, as well as debriefing with Educational Theatre Association staff who are running that event, so we can learn ways to adapt to online programming. 

At this point, the UW-Stevens Point Theatre Department believes it will be highly unlikely the university will allow them to host the Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival, and in fact, the uncertainty surrounding trajectory of the pandemic, and surges in infection rates makes logistical planning practically infeasible for all stakeholders in the festival. Many counterpart associations in other states are planning for all fall programming to be entirely online, or are only allowing small contests in a highly localized manner (provided individual school districts will allow guests on their campuses beyond their own faculty, staff, and enrolled students). 

The NFHS is working with a consortium of performing arts organizations to commission a study with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Aerosol Laboratory to determine droplet spread among actors, singers, and other performers, to recommend best practices for safe distancing on stage, as well as for audience members sitting in front of the stage. It is hopeful results of that study will be available by the end of summer, which will further assist in developing guidance for performing arts activities.

In the meanwhile, this summer, the WHSFA Theatre Advisory Committee, and subsequently, the Board of Control will meet to discuss potential contingencies for the season. 

However, it would be prudent for directors to start planning performances that can be done with fewer actors and/or appropriate social distance between actors, as well as creatively adapting to readers theatre and/or choral reading formats of performance -- especially if a performance would need to be done as a recording of a videoconference on a platform such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. In schools where students would still be allowed to have a group perform on stage, inviting a local audience and videorecording the show with a single, stationary camera may be an option. 

Clearly, it is still too early to make definitive decisions, so we want you to weigh various options. However, we highly suggest adapting to find a way to perform to keep your program alive and vital. Some initial research being conducted shows high school students are exhibiting higher levels of depression from not having social contact provided by such avenues as extra/co-curricular activities. Along with strong recommendations from the DPI to continue fostering the “whole child” through programming beyond the curricular day, we must find ways to adapt to these extraordinary circumstances to make education as meaningful and fulfilling as possible. 

AWTE LogoSpeaking of which, the Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Education (AWTE) is moving its annual conference to an online format, and a month earlier, to assist directors and teachers in navigating the current new normal we’re all facing. More details will be posted in July, but the date is set for Wednesday, August 12, and you can learn more at

As we move forward, we invite you to complete a survey indicating your initial thoughts, and to offer suggestions. We appreciate you contributing in that regard rather than individual emails or phone calls, since staffing time is more limited over the summer, and it is better for us to collect information and questions in one place to share with the Theatre Advisory Committee.

Survey link: (please complete by July 5, 2020).

Thank you,

Adam Jacobi,
Executive Director

Ralph Janes,
Theatre Advisor

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This is an official communication from Wisconsin High School Forensic Association.

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