Rules & Preparation

We want to make sure that every school receives a fair, educational and worthwhile High School Play Festival experience. To ensure this, please review the rules and preparation guidelines below. 

Schools may select any type of play or musical; it may be a one-act play, a cutting from a full-length play (provided you have permission to make cuts), or an original piece. We encourage you to present a piece with a complete story, rather than one act of a full-length play or a series of scenes. NCTC does not have rules regarding adult content, but we encourage you to select age-appropriate works so that your fellow educators would not need to get parental consent for their students to watch your play. If you have not made your play choice before registering, you may register a TBD title. To update your choice or make a title change, simply include your new play title on your program page, which you will submit to your host prior to the October 16 deadline.

It is the participant’s responsibility to make arrangements with the author and/or publisher for the right to use the play they are performing and to pay any required royalties. Written proof of such permission must be provided if requested by NCTC. This rule also applies to music used within the production, cuttings made to the script, and use of source material for a new play based on an existing story. Neither NCTC nor the host site shall be held responsible for any unpaid royalties.

Participants may not rehearse a production on the host site stage, prior to the Festival. This statement does not apply to a host school performing at their own site, on their own stage.

Parent Permission Form (replaces Image Release Form): Parent permission is required by NCTC, for each student participating in the Play Festival. This includes student actors, crew members, student directors, any student involved with your production. Teachers are asked to facilitate this process, to track the completion of forms, and to ensure all students/parents are in compliance with this rule.

This year, parents will complete a permission form via the website Permission Click. This system will allow each teacher to track forms for their students/parents, with your own account. NCTC will no longer email each teacher with lists of parents who have completed the forms. Printed forms are not available.

  1. You will receive an email from Permission Click with instructions on how to activate your account. 
  2. Once you have created your account, you will see a Permission Click link for you to distribute to parents. Each school will have a unique link to their permission form, and they will also be on the NCTC website. You can distribute your link via email or tell your parents to find your school’s form on the NCTC website.
  3. To see a list of parents who have completed the form: login to your account, click on the event, and select “Event Details” from the “Available Reports” drop-down menu. Click “Run Report” which will download your results into an Excel Workbook. You may also choose to receive an email each time a parent completes the form, when you set up your account. Please check your account frequently and send regular reminders to parents.

Thank you for your assistance and for ensuring the completion of all forms prior to the Festival. If you have questions about the process, please contact

Program Pages: Teachers must email a one-page program to the Festival host by the October 16 deadline. Should the production contain any themes, language, activities, or subject matters that are not appropriate for all ages, a notice to that effect must appear in the program. Be overly cautious here – include a warning for anything that might be construed as offensive. Please clearly indicate characters and performers on your program page, so adjudicators can make awards decisions. Click here to download the Program Page Template.

Payment (to NCTC): Wednesday, October 11

Program Pages and Cue Sheets (to your host): Monday, October 16

Please bring a poster for your show(s). Posters may not exceed 22×28 inches in size. These do not need to be professionally printed, they can be hand drawn; creativity is encouraged. If you are presenting two plays, you may bring one poster for each play. At the Festival, the hosts will hang your posters in the lobby and Celebration Stars will be sold. Celebration Stars are $1.00 each and students, parents and other audience members may write well-wishes and congratulatory comments on them and stick them on your show poster. You’ll be able to take your poster and stars home at the end of the Festival. This is a fun way to celebrate each other and has no impact on judging.

Each teacher is eligible to receive CEU hours if you attend the entire Festival. The number of available hours will correspond with the number of plays at your site. For example, if your site has 16 shows, you may receive 16 CEU hours. NCTC awards hours, rather than credits, as policies for partial credit vary from district to district. You must be present at the entire Festival to receive hours, whether you are watching the shows or working with your students onsite. No partial credit will be given. Your NCTC onsite representative will have a sign-in sheet for CEU hours. They must witness your signature and attest your attendance. They will mail these signatures to the NCTC office and your certificates will be issued with your award certificates. In order to ensure credibility of the process, no certificates will be issued without your onsite signature.

Load-In and Load-Out: Your set must arrive during your scheduled load-in time, with enough students/parents to load it in. If you do not have your set onsite during your load-in time, you will not be permitted to use it. Each school will have a maximum of 10 minutes to load-in their set and clear the loading area for the next school. Load-in is typically at the beginning of the day and at the mid-day break, please see your site schedule. Load-out will take place immediately after your performance.

Technical Meeting: At least one representative (but preferably your entire cast and crew) from your production is required to attend a technical meeting, as noted in the Festival schedule. This meeting is led by the host and NCTC representative, and it contains important safety information, an opportunity to obtain rules clarifications, and the only opportunity your students will have to walk the stage, hear sound samples, and see the lighting areas prior to your performance. If a show is not represented at their required meeting, it may be disqualified.

Dressing Rooms: Your host site will assign a liaison to escort your group to your dressing room and backstage. Schools will have access to their dressing room 45 minutes prior to their performance, though we recommend that you watch the show prior to yours, leave before that show’s adjudication begins, and use the 30 minute break to dress and prepare.

Only students may perform in the production and serve as crew (including calling cues in the sound/light booth).

Backstage: 10 minutes prior to your show, your group will be escorted backstage and may move items out of your storage space to prepare for your performance (space permitting). Students may not cross the start line until the production time starts. Most teachers watch from the house, but teachers are permitted to assist backstage if desired. Teachers may never cross the start/finish line, except in the case of a safety emergency. Set-up and strike are the sole responsibility of each participant.

Time: Shows may not run longer than 45 minutes. All students and set pieces must be in the area behind the start line until time begins, and must cross the finish line before timing will stop. Only the stage manager’s stopwatch provides the official running time. The 45 minute period includes the time for setting up the stage, performing the play, and clearing the stage.

Light and Sound: Please see your site’s host page for lighting and sound details. Only the host site’s crew may run the sound and light boards, but each production must designate at least one student to call cues. Participants may run their own sound cues if utilizing an mp3, computer or tablet device. If spotlights are provided, the participating school must provide the students to run them. Student crew members may enter the booth no earlier than 10 minutes before their show’s start time. Lighting and sound checks may be conducted during this time. Teachers may also be in the booth during the 10 minute pre-show time, to answer student questions and make adjustments, but teachers must exit the booth prior to the show start time. If a participating school is providing spotlights or an additional sound system, these items may be set-up and tested in the 10 minutes prior  to “Go” and can remain on-stage (or in place) after testing. Smaller light and sound items can be tested in the 10 minutes before performance, but must be moved behind the start line prior to time beginning. If any equipment is positioned in the house, adequate tape must be used with cords (and provided by participant) to prevent trip hazards. All equipment must be moved behind the finish line in the 45 minute performance period, before time is stopped. 

We recommend that you keep lighting and sound as simple as possible, with minimal cues. It is perfectly acceptable for your show to have light cues at the beginning and end only, with actor executed sound cues. For safety reasons, all major scenery moves must be made in low lighting (not in a blackout). All sites will have a pre-show cue that is set 30 seconds before the start of your play. This cue will have full stage lighting at approximately 25% for safely moving major set pieces. If you want a blackout when time starts, you will need to indicate this on your cue sheet. The deadline for you to send your light and sound cue sheets to your host is Monday, October 16

Musical Productions: Non-student musical accompanists may be used, but they cannot be onstage (the pit, a wing, or backstage is acceptable). Host sites may provide (but are not required to) a piano or keyboard. 

Orchestra and Projector Set-Up: Projectors and major musical instruments may be set-up onstage and tested in the 10 minutes prior to your performance. Projector screens and smaller instruments may be onstage for testing during the 10 minute pre-show time, but must be moved behind the start line prior to time beginning. Only projectors and major musical instruments may remain on stage after testing and prior to GO. If any equipment is positioned in the house, adequate tape must be used with cords (and provided by participant) to prevent trip hazards. All equipment must be moved behind the finish line in the 45 minute performance period, before time is stopped. 

Backstage Storage: Your scenery, props and costumes (with the exception of those worn at the top of the show) must be loaded in to your designated backstage storage space, during your load-in time. Regardless of the size of storage at the regional level, the State Festival site will provide a 10’×10′ space. No additional props, costumes or scenery pieces may be loaded in prior to your show. Schools may stack scenery and props but this must be done in an incredibly safe manner. The NCTC representative onsite will be the judge of this and may ask that you remove pieces from your storage space (and therefore from your show) if stacking does not appear to be safe.

Safety: No participants may move major scenery pieces while barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes. Students may not run with scenery pieces. Absolutely no fire, smoke, fog, dry ice, pyrotechnics, combustibles or other unreasonably dangerous matter may be brought into the host facility or used in the production. No real firearms may be used, and no blanks of any kind are permitted.

Entrances from the House: If performers are making entrances from the house at the beginning of the play, they should allow plenty of time to start backstage and make their way to the back of the house. If there is no direct or safe path to the back of the house, performers may be permitted to stand at the back of the house prior to time starting. This decision will be made by the NCTC representative onsite.

No live animals may be used in your production.

Shooting video of your productions is strictly prohibited. Each school will be permitted to designate one person (can be a parent, student, anyone) to take photographs of their production. The photographer will be limited to shooting in an area assigned by the NCTC representative, so as to not distract audience members and adjudicators. No flash may be used. No other audience members may take photographs or use a mobile device during performances. Please inform parents and students of these policies.

The North Carolina Theatre Conference works to ensure that our programs are available to all of the state’s citizens, including people with disabilities. If you wish to request assistance or have questions about accessibility for any of the Play Festival spaces, please contact NCTC Executive Director Angie Hays at

Statewide Sponsors

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.