About the author

Mark Beachy

Mark Beachy is the founder and publisher emeritus of the MD Theatre Guide. Before starting the MD Theatre Guide, Beachy was a theatre professional. On stage, film, and TV, he enjoyed a career in acting, singing, dancing, violin, figure skating, and even magic. Behind the scenes, Beachy has been a producer, director, choreographer, and an award-winning playwright/composer of seven musicals, including most notably, "'Bout Baltimore," winner of the 1997 Pumpkin Theatre and ABC News Channel 2 Baltimore Bicentennial Playwriting Contest.  His true passion lies with the performing arts, no matter what role he may play on and off the stage. Through the MD Theatre Guide, he brings awareness to the areas up-and-coming performing arts productions.


  1. 1

    Lisa Rigsby

    The Harford County School Board is absolutely ridiculous! How dare they charge $100 per student to participate in theater and per show no less. It’s your fault you’re in debt not the students! Most students aren’t even old enough to have jobs to afford this. So it’s the parents that have to shell out this money. Some kids are not as fortunate as others and theater is a wonderful free option to meet other students with same interests and talents . Many will not be able to afford this and the theater arts programs will suffer for this awful decision. I think the school board should take the 50k they hope to raise for the deficit out of their own salaries because lord knows they aren’t fit to hold their positions. You are robbing children of their futures.

  2. 2

    Stacey Bonds

    My break is broken. Arts is an opportunity that enriches lives. Forcing families to pay $100 for their children to participate in theatre when none of that money actually goes towards the art program is just criminal. I know growing up theatre was life changing for me and I know it wouldn’t have been a part of my life if my parents had to pay for it in this way. We couldn’t afford it. It’s just sad.

  3. 3

    Shar Bowman

    So only students with money can be in the show. How insensitive that the Harford County School Board chose this route. Just raise the price of tickets.

  4. 4


    Look, I’m a HCPS drama student. Frankly, this protesting is ridiculous. The money has to come from somewhere and although extracirricular activities are important, education needs to come first. Can I get into college on just academics? In today’s environment, perhaps. But on only extracirriculars? Absolutely not. Stop protesting and hear the music- there is absolutely no more money. People want and want and want and want and yet they expect everything they want to come free or at a very minimal charge. It’s not going to work. It’s just not. The school system has no more money to start handing out. It’s this or have the entire county pay a flat tax, which will cause bigger issues. So, I’m sorry, but deal with it.

    We cannot “just raise the price of tickets.” Tickets rarely pay for the cost of production and very few people come to my school’s productions as it is. This is quite honestly the only feasible way. You are receiving a service, so you need to pay for it. Is it unfortunate that this has to help balance out the budget? Yes. But this entire country is a disaster in regards to education. THERE IS NO MONEY. And I’m sorry, but don’t you dare go after the HCPS board and start screaming at them about this, because it’s not their fault. They aren’t withholding money. They are putting in everything that they safely can to make this work. The members of that board spend more time practically volunteering than working their regular jobs, in my experience. The school board is paid pretty much nothing to keep this system running. There is not $50,000 to take out of their salaries.

    Yes, it’s terrible that it has come to this. However, if anyone actually bothered to look into it, there are exceptions. Families on free or reduced lunch or children of teachers are exempt from this fee. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do right now. Harford is a Republican county, the MD legislature is Democratic. I can promise you no more money is going to appear out of nowhere. People want everything- the budget does not have room for everything. Pick your battles. Go after the government proper, not a board of everyday people doing their damndest to educate and support your children.

  5. 5


    I teach high school theatre and I’m not sure that the general public is aware of the staggering costs associated with doing a theatrical production. Prior to buying any costuming, scenic materials or printing costs, royalties and rental fees are charged. For us, we perform many of our shows in our studio theatre which holds 50 people. Already, for our fall 2016 production we have had to pay close to $1400.00 which roughly breaks down as $400 material deposit, $600 for rentals of the scripts/scores and the rest broken down as a per night fee. And unlike band or choral departments which get to keep purchased materials for future use, we keep none of this. $1400.00 for a signed contract saying “yes”. On top of this, add set materials, costumes,and any fees for music direction /choreography. So far my department has been completely free to participate in. All other departments have participation fees, uniform rentals, or the student must purchase uniforms. From my experience, the sad fact is most people feel that since it is “free” it is not as crucial to commit. So let’s say my school was across the street from the school with this policy and for some reason we share a student, and there is a day where there is a rehearsal or performance conflict. Which one is the parent going to insure the student be at? The one they paid $100 to participate in. It’s sad and goes again the core of my being (as I feel that art should be available to everyone), but the “honor system” of commitment is dying in our society. As far as funding the department, we do well with ticket sales and always produce shows that I am very pleased with. I’m proud to say that my department has represented the state at the International Thespian Competition 3 different times within 7 years. Funding for our program is a challenge, but doable. Where I see the need in such fees is in changing the mindset of the participants. Here’s a solution we established last year which seemed to work for us. We collected $100 per person to participate in our competition one act. Should the student attend all rehearsals and do their best (meaning learn lines, etc) and IF the show is selected to go to states, the whole $100 is applied to their trip. If the show should not be selected and the students did their best, the $100 is refunded back. If the student drops out or is asked to leave for lack of participation, we keep the $100. Last year, I’m happy to say we applied the money to a state trip 🙂 Good luck with this debate…..I’ve been there and it’s a challenge!

  6. 6


    Honestly, this whole concept is kind of classist and awful. Theater and the arts are so, so important, and develop so many critical skills, especially ones that are transferrable to other life areas. Putting a cash barrier on that, and one as steep as $100, is a huge mistake and will just discourage even more people from ever being able to obtain those skills, also known as the reason why we send kids to school in the first place!

  7. 7


    I am happy that those on free/reduced lunch are excluded from paying $100 per show. Who ends up paying for them? Still need to raise ticket prices. Most places it’s the same or even less than a movie ticket. It is interesting that everyone pays the same $100 whether they are the star of the show, one-liners or perhaps even an understudy? I’m guessing that it will be more difficult to get walk on actors to take roles.

  8. 8


    Thanks for replying, Shar. Fortunately no one ends up paying for those that are exempt from the fee, but the issue is it does cause a budget issue when not all pay. However, I understand not all can afford it.

    In regards to the role based payments, it’s just not possible. Who would fairly determine what price should be paid per role? Besides, it’s not really about the value of the role- every person is equally valuable to the show. But teachers have to be paid overtime, sets need to be purchased, and the cost of scripts is rather astronomical. So if those students want to participate at all, funding must come from somewhere and the only viable place is from them. My parents, I know, would much rather pay the fee than not have me participate. I’d rather pay it personally than not participate.

    As I said, raising ticket prices could discourage even more people from coming. Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try a high school production is not the paragon of drama skill. Not many people want to come to a play as to a movie and when perfection is not guaranteed, even fewer. We have to keep those we have.

  9. 9


    Harford County spends almost half a BILLION each year on its schools’ operating budget. That’s for 31,000 students, a number that continues to decline. This is not an issue of under funding education. It is the mismanagement of those funds by the school board that creates the shortfall. This pay for play is a shakedown.

  10. 10


    The fee seems a little high, but as I’m sure many people reading this site are aware, theater is very expensive to produce, especially musicals, even when all of your talent and labor are free. If you are doing a straight play with 10 actors and 15 crew members, that still is only going to raise $2500, which may pay for the scenery. A musical with a cast of 40 and crew of 20 will raise $6000, which may cover royalties for 6 performances.

    Perhaps a better way the school board could have implemented this fee would have been to make it $100 in mandatory fundraising. There could be a 5k with sponsors, or selling candy, etc, or parents could just write a check for $100. Seems fair to me.

    As much as I like theater I can’t say it’s horrible or unreasonable or ridiculous to ask people to pay extra to participate in an extracurricular activity that is inherently expensive.

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