Subject: 2020 One-Act Theatre Festival Season Update

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Dear Theatre Advisor:

I hope this message finds you and yours staying safe and healthy. COVID-19 has brought us extraordinary circumstances, and will impact the entirety of the 2020-21 school year.  For a variety of reasons, WHSFA is joining other states in taking all of its performing and communication arts programming online, to ensure safety and equity to the greatest extent possible. 

In order to plan ahead for the upcoming One-Act Theatre festival season, we have made some important decisions for facilitating participation, so you can plan accordingly:

  • Partnering with the statewide CESA network, WHSFA has released to all superintendents/district administrators advocacy information for how Theatre activities do NOT need to be cancelled, are important, and how schools can participate through WHSFA online opportunities. If you are in a school that is not allowing theatre during the fall semester, I am happy to contact your school/district administration and explain how we can help facilitate theatre in a virtual manner.
  • All one-act entries must be video submissions of performances. This may be done as a recording of a videoconference (such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, BlueJeans, etc.).  We are awaiting final results from a University of Colorado-Boulder Aerosol Laboratory study specific to stage-style speaking and singing to determine guidance for what extent to which directors may gather students in-person, and masked, to record a performance. We expect to release that guidance by mid-August.
  • Directors should consider versatile material, and creativity in structure and format is encouraged. Readers Theatre-style, series of monologues, Vaudevillian-style variety shows, etc. will be accepted, and the Theatre Advisory Committee will devise evaluation formats to address different formats.  Until August 9, you can see what American Players Theatre has done with their "Out of the Woods" series of play readings. Works in the public domain, such as Shakespeare, or student-written works will be easiest; if you wish to produce a work that is copyright-licensed, contact the licensing company to determine what video and/or streaming rights are needed (see the next bullet for details on performances). 
  • The season is delayed and extended. The district and sectional level will be statewide and standardized to best streamline the process, since no in-person festivals will be held, and to allow more time for directors to develop virtual productions. The deadline for district entry submissions will be Tuesday, October 27; the deadline for sectional will be Tuesday, November 17; and the deadline for State will be Thursday, December 3. That also allows about three weeks between each level for directors to work with students to adapt to earlier criticism and feedback and re-record. The district and section levels will be asynchronously evaluated by adjudicators with no public viewing of shows; the State Festival will involve public streaming of shows as is customarily done, which may impact the license needed. Schools will be encouraged to arrange a public viewing of a show for their own communities prior to State as many already do, and directors will be able to invite other schools in their WHSFA districts and sections, who might otherwise see their shows at those regional festivals (bearing in mind, a school must pay for streaming licenses for any public performance for copyrighted works).
  • Each school may submit multiple one-act performances. This is a special dispensation to allow for smaller cast works done by either videoconferencing or in-person recording if and when allowed (see the first bullet).
  • Fees will be reduced, but directors will be expected to adjudicate. The district and sectional entry fee will be just $25, but each school's director will be responsible for providing adjudicator(s) who will assess three (3) shows for each show the school enters (a school that enters 3 one-acts must cover adjudication of 9 other shows in the festival). Alternatively, a school may pay a $100 fee for each play not covered by an adjudicator who will assess three shows (and WHSFA will hire an outside person).  All adjudicators will be asked to complete a FREE and fairly brief -- and entirely online -- training course to ensure all adjudicators are fair, educative, and mindful of socioeconomic differences. 
  • Specific details of how to enter shows, platform to be used, etc., will be announced by mid-September.
  • The State Festival will still have complete programming, including Thespian Excellence Awards (formerly, "Individual Events"), auditions, workshops, vendor/university exhibits, and streaming of one-acts. This programming will happen in live time, December 10-12, in a safe and secure online platform already tested for large-scale interscholastic events with middle and high school students. 

I understand you probably have more questions as we embark in uncharted territory. Some of the WHSFA's most celebrated directors have agreed to collaborate on developing recommendations for best practices, and along with the work of the Theatre Advisory Committee this month, we expect to release extensive guidance and protocols for directors to consider as they begin the school year. 

In the meanwhile, we invite all directors (theatre teachers and non-theatre teachers who are directing shows or advising students in shows) to attend the Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Education's Conference on Wednesday, August 12, 2020. Sessions will center around making adaptations for virtual performance and health and safety precautions for working with students in-person. 

In closing, as we keep hearing in popular media, we will get through this. Together. WHSFA is an association of educators and artists who provide students with important outlets for expression. We are more committed than ever to fostering these opportunities, as they are more important than ever as a way to keep students engaged in socio-emotional facets of their education. 

In solidarity,
Adam Jacobi, Executive Director
Wisconsin High School Forensic Association

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