Theater programs tend to be under-funded. Some have no budget at all. Middle school theater programs are rare where I live, and it's really too bad. Middle schoolers thrive on theater. It's a difficult time, and theater can provide a safe outlet for expressing themselves. Here are some tips for putting on a show on a minimal (or non-existent) budget.
You can find great scripts that are free or have discounts for schools with a small budget. All of my scripts have a low royalty price, and I offer discounts for schools that need it. There are also great sites that list free scripts, though you may have to shift through them to find the ones with the best quality.
2. Minimal Set
You don't need to build the entire interior of a house. You don't even need walls. That's the beauty of the willful suspension of disbelief. The audience is willing to go there with you. They're watching the actors and won't be thrown by the fact that there are no walls. They believe the walls are there the same way they believe that a 10 year-old is actually an old man.
Even furniture can be a suggestion. If you have the money in your budget, build a few wooden boxes, leaving one side open. Paint them black. They can be stacked or placed next to each other as a couch. Actors can hide behind them or in them, or they can stand on them. With different fabrics to cover them, the possibilities are endless!
3. Borrow, Borrow, Borrow
One great benefit to working with children is their wonderful parents. They are usually very willing to donate time, make/find costumes and props, help with makeup/hair, etc. So many of the shows I've done have looked incredible and gone off without a hitch because of the fabtastic parent volunteers. (Yes, there is a typo, but I'm leaving it. Fabulous + Fantastic = Fabtastic).
Em is a writer, theatre director, and hiker. She likes mixing horror with magical realism and adding sci-fi twist.