Theatre Contests

Online One-Act Theatre Season

WHSFA is working in concert with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, as well as DPI, WIAA, WSMA, NFHS, and similar organizations. All 2020-21 contests will be online, with one statewide District festival and one statewide Sectional festival ahead of the State Festival. Directors are encouraged to select versatile material that allows for recording of videoconference performance or that may allow for physical distancing in-person with students wearing masks. Directors should consult publishers regarding copyright permissions for online streaming for purposes of adjudication. By mid-August, we will announce more detailed guidance.

Important Dates 2020

District Entries Due: Tuesday, Oct. 27

Sectional Entries Due: Tuesday, Nov. 17

State Entries Due: Thursday, Dec. 3

Key Information: Open each to read more

2020 Virtual Festival Series: Details


August 4, 2020

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.


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.
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.

Theatre Handbook

Theatre FAQs

How will virtual participation work in 2020?
WHSFA is developing guidance for directors, which will be released in mid- to late-August.
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).

Online Ticketing

No cost to schools. Options for online shows!


August 12, 2020