Theatre Contests

One-Act Theatre Season 2020

The WHSFA is monitoring the evolving situation with COVID-19, and working in concert with state and local health agencies, as well as the DPI, WIAA, NFHS, and other similar organizations. For the fall 2020 one-act theatre season, the Board of Control has committed to determining by mid-August: if and how adjudication of one-act plays will happen. A variety of factors and options will be weighed. In the meanwhile, directors are encouraged to select versatile material that may allow for physical distancing on stage and/or virtual performance, and should consult with publishers regarding copyright permissions for online streaming.

Key Information: Open each to read more

Prop Firearm Policy

In an era where school shootings are commonplace, and several laws and rules have been passed regarding firearms — including props — for general safety and to mitigate panic, schools are discouraged from using prop firearms altogether. However, the following policy is in effect for schools who wish to attempt to use a prop firearm:

  1. All school district*, university*, state and federal laws must be honored at all times (*both for performing school and districts of any festivals it attends). Any festival host venue may refuse a school from using both a prop firearm and/or sound effect of a firearm being discharged. Individual festivals, including the State level, may impose additional regulations.
  2. The adult director/advisor must secure permission of both the principal and superintendent (or head of school for private schools) to use a firearm, and must:
    1. produce documentation of administration permission on school letterhead to the State Office before the school performs at the district festival, and also include:
    2. photographs of the prop firearm with a ruler, showing dimensions;
    3. specific stage directions describing how the firearm will be used on stage; and
    4. exactly what timeframe (minutes into the show, as well as how long) the firearm will be on stage, and exactly when it will be visible.
  3. No blanks can be used; all sounds must come from a recorded sound effect.
  4. Theatrical firearms should never be pointed at the audience (can be traumatic and may result in unpredictable reactions), nor should be pointed at someone on stage. Instead, the theatrical firearm should be pointed past the individual into a corridor of safety.
Contest Series – Registration Process
  1. High schools (grades 9-12) may participate upon joining the WHSFA.
  2. From September 20 to October 7, directors register online with play synopsis and publication information, technical needs, and an accurate roster of students names, certifying interscholastic eligibility (usually confirmed by an athletic/activities director or an administrator), and assigning students to specific acting roles and crew positions. During that same window, coaches may log back in and make changes to registration.
  3. As part of the online registration process, coaches rank their State Festival time preferences (Friday or Saturday, as well as time of day). These ultimately will be assigned given available space, with consideration given for schools traveling a greater distance.NOTE: Schools are encouraged to hold informal subdistricts with colleague schools or invite theatre educators to provide evaluation before the district festival, as well to give students practice with performing their production. Alternatively, a school could practice loading their set in and out of a different space in their school or community (e.g., gymnasium or commons area), and having an outside evaluator come in to offer notes.
  4. The State Office shares registration information — as well as a supply of evaluation sheets and other materials — with each district host, who schedules and prepares each festival.
  5. theaterfestivalAt the district festival, three adjudicators evaluate each play; at least two of the three must recommend the play advance for it to continue to the sectional level. Using SpeechWire, district hosts report advancing plays, which section chairs will subsequently use to schedule the sectional festival.
  6. At the sectional festival, at least two of three adjudicators must recommend the play advance for it to move on to the State level. Using SpeechWire, sectional hosts report advancing entries.NOTE: The State Festival is a tremendous learning experience, and schools who do not advance are still strongly encouraged to attend, where their students can watch other shows, and participate in other workshops and activities. Past non-qualifying schools who have gone to State report a renewed vigor by students, excited to push themselves further, the following year.
  7. Coaches have a brief window on the Monday-Tuesday following sectionals to confirm State participants online.
  8. At the State Contest, if two of four adjudicators make a recommendation, schools may earn awards for: individual acting, ensemble, crew, directing, and Critic’s Choice.
Recent Rules Changes

The following additions were made to the handbook for the 2019-20 season:

  1. Rule #3 pertaining to the use of prop firearms added in “Rules and Policies for Theatre.”
  2. Evaluation sheet and adjudicator instructions revised with more streamlined criteria and a numerical rubric (see Adjudicator Guidelines to the right).
  3. Directors may opt-in to have adjudicators consider lighting and sound choices as part of their evaluation and to include adjudicators’ recommendations to advance/stop, as well as awards at the State Festival (p. 9). Since resources vary among participating schools, answering “no” protects schools who do not have sound/light systems, while answering “yes” gives schools who do an opportunity to be evaluated on how those choices enhance the production (see Adjudication section, p. 17-21).
  4. For the State Festival, Oustanding Acting awards were re-consolidated from the previous season’s bifurcated “lead” and “supporting” designations.
  • AWTE Conference
    September 25, 2020
    Wisconsin Lutheran College 8800 W Bluemound Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226, United States

  • Dist 10 Festival
    October 19, 2020
    Platteville High School, 710 E Madison St, Platteville, WI 53818, USA

  • Dist 04 Festival
    October 19, 2020
    Regis High School, 2100 Fenwick Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701, USA

  • State Theatre
    November 19, 2020 - November 21, 2020 @ 
    UW-Stevens Point

Theatre Handbook

Theatre FAQs

Where and when are contests?
Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, Debate Contests, or Middle Level contests pages for a list by date, including locations. Please note: each local area sets its own schedules, so the State Office posts these on our website only when we have been notified.
How do I register for contests?
Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, or Debate Contests pages for a button/link that will take you to the online registration platform for registering. Each of those pages also will contain tutorial information on how to register. Most Middle Level contests handle registration directly through email, although some have moved to using SpeechWire; contact the host for more information (host contact information is available when clicking a particular contest in the Middle Level upcoming dates calendar.
How do I register for One-Act Theatre?

Visit the Theatre contests page for more information on our festival series, which runs from mid-October through mid-November.

Who are my local contest coordinators (high school)?
See the Districts/Sections page for a list of contacts, along with a map showing the geographic regions of the state.
What are the basics of producing a One-Act for Theatre contests?
The Theatre Handbook (linked on our Theatre Contests page) will provide all details, but in short:

  1. You have 40 minutes, bare stage to bare stage – this means bringing your set on stage and striking it from the stage are all part of timing.
  2. You construct and bring your own set/set pieces. Some schools do this quite elaborately, and have made an art form of choreographing placement of that set on stage at the festivals, and some schools are quite minimalist, and really focus on the deep psychology of performances. The beauty of our festival is no schools is compared with another; each performance is evaluated on its own merits. We universally suggest starting simple and mastering the basics before taking on more ambitious staging.
  3. Schools do their own costuming and make up, and this can be a way to visually enhance the production, while helping students identify their sense of characterizations. Same with props. How this all plays into the production is subject to critique.
  4. Since each production is subject to the amenities and limitations of lighting and sound at each host venue, less value is placed on these elements in the evaluation process, but anything that is significantly distracting or prevents an adjudicator from seeing/hearing the production effectively is subject to critique.
Can homeschool or online school students participate?

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.
How do I suggest a change to rules?
Each summer, advisory committees for each activity meet to review the previous contest season and propose changes to the Board of Control. Contact us with concerns and/or suggestions, and we will forward these to the respective committee(s).

Rules & Registration

Handbook has online registration instructions.
Theatre Handbook 2019-20
Rights and Rules One-Sheet
Adjudicator Guidelines/Eval sheet
Post-Surveys: District | Sectional
Adjudicator Concern Form

Online Ticketing

Sell tickets online.
No cost to schools.


September 25 2020
Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee