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Homeschool Talent Night: Here’s How to Have Your Own

By Lois Corcoran
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #99, 2011.

A chance for homeschoolers to learn to perform in a friendly venue
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Lois Corcoran

The families in my homeschool group needn’t look far for a Star Search. Twice a year we host Talent Night, an event every bit as exciting as the TV program. After six efforts, we’ve fine-tuned the details to present a highly anticipated “off-off-off Broadway show,” as one mother puts it. It barely ends before kids race over to sign up for the next Talent Night.

Between 25 and 30 acts share the spotlight for each event. The autumn show beckons newbies in the group to join in the fun, while the spring edition allows extra rehearsals for a more polished program. All ages participate, from preschoolers to high school aged students. Sometimes even parents get in on the act! One band consists of all six family members, including 3-year-old Abe.

Wearing a robot costume, Silas Breault performs for Star Search host Abby Hansen and judges Samuel O’Neal, Andrew DeBone, and Anna Hansen
The variety show begins with a sign-up sheet, with reminder calls and e-mails ensuring a wide spectrum of entertainment. Music takes the form of vocals, piano, guitar, fiddle, drums, and more. Non-musical acts have included such diverse talents as hula hoop and karate demonstrations, mime, sign language, and poetry reciting. And funny skits and monologues like “You Might be a Homeschooler. . .” provide plenty of comic relief. There are even “commercials” thrown in, like the skit advertising a remote that mutes little brothers.

Kyle Hansen performs mime
It took time for Talent Night to evolve to its current success. Plenty of trial and error preceded it. In the beginning, for instance, we tried different locations in search of the perfect setting. One year we held it at a pizza joint so families could eat while watching the show. But we didn’t anticipate the huge crowd that showed up, resulting in some pretty cramped quarters.

Brian Hopp on guitar
Finally, a kindhearted pastor gave us permission to use the sanctuary of his church, where the event has been held ever since. We couldn’t ask for a better venue, given the piano and sound equipment already in place. Costumes and props for skits are stored in the choir room across the hall.

Brandon Hopp drumming
We also learned the hard way that a full-fledged rehearsal is needed the day before to run through the show, test speakers and microphones, determine stage entrances, etc. It’s best to seat our entertainers in the order that they will perform, so we make name signs in advance and place them on the pews to guide students.

The more popular the show becomes, the longer its list of acts. We encourage performers to limit their onstage time to three minutes so that we can fit everyone in. Two-hour shows have proven a bit too long for little ones to sit still. To alleviate restlessness, we’ve added a 20-minute intermission.

Joey DeBone, Robin Krehbiel, and Jennifer Carlson perform in “The Chronicles of Blarnia”
A program is drawn up listing the emcee and performers, as well as the names of their songs, skits, or other attractions. To keep things lively, we alternate, with a few songs followed by a skit or other non-musical act. The proposed line-up is then e-mailed to the group to verify performers, so no one is inadvertently left out.

Our last program included color photos of the bands and cast members, which made for a treasured souvenir. The schedule these agendas suggest is not necessarily etched in stone, however, since we homeschoolers are notorious for changing our minds at the last minute.

Ellie O'Neal performs the wedding ceremony for Juleo and Romiet (Jake Hansen and Taylor Schone)
Those who do follow through learn to perform with grace in front of a crowd, and not fear public speaking like Yours Truly. And thanks to rehearsals, band members and those in skits learn the not-so-subtle art of working as a team.

The Master of Ceremonies welcomes the audience and reminds those attending that it’s a bit scary on stage and to please be generous with their laughter and applause. He selects from a grab bag of family-friendly jokes to tell in between acts while waiting for them to set up.

After the show, performers receive jumbo chocolate chip cookies as a reward, and are honored at a reception downstairs. Those wanting more compensation than that are advised to speak with their managers.

Talent Night combines the work of many families. One keeps track of each act and publishes the program. Others sew costumes or supervise rehearsals. Still another coordinates the menu for the reception. And many hands pitch in to clean up afterward.

Of no less importance are the group’s photographer and videographer, who capture the event in all of its glory—and leave us with tangible memories of our own Star Search.

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