Ahhh, the sweet smell of summertime. It’s just around the corner, which means your summer stock productions and other theatre programming are, too! 

You’re probably deliberating about which plays and musicals to add to your roster this summer, with pros and cons lists aplenty. While you might want to go with your gut or with the tried and true favorites of seasons past, there are several components to consider when slating your summer season. On The Stage offers a few tips for choosing the right shows to make your summer theatre program a success. 

Tips for Choosing the Right Summer Theatre Shows 

1. Consider your budget

Your budget is perhaps the most significant consideration when picking out your summer shows. It’s not the most fun to analyze, but looking at the hard numbers is paramount in choosing a show you can support and will be a manageable success.

Looking at your budget will help you determine:

  • Cast size: The more money you have in your budget, the larger the cast you can support. Remember that with a larger cast comes more costumes, more stage tech, the need for a larger crew, and more general wear and tear to your theatre. 
  • Complexity of set pieces and costuming: The more money you have, the more complicated your set and costumes can be. That said, don’t choose a show with major set pieces or intricate costuming if your budget can’t support it. 
  • The type of show you can do: To produce plays still under copyright, someone must first procure the rights. If you’re hoping to put on a more modern production, you’ll need to set aside a portion of your budget to purchase the rights. If your budget is smaller, there are plenty of plays in the public domain to peruse.

2. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your cast 

When choosing your summer programming, you should always set yourself and your team up for success. This means selecting a show that plays to the strengths of your cast and downplays their weaknesses.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you should choose a slow-pitch production with incredibly easy subject matter or simple lines—you should still challenge your cast and crew and ensure they learn from every show. 

For example, if your cast has few experienced dancers, you should produce something other than Chicago or A Chorus Line. If you have a panoply of talented vocalists, don’t be afraid to challenge them with a vocally complex production. In short, play to strengths and downplay weaknesses while still challenging your cast and crew. 

3. Appraise your performance space and resources

Another consideration is to, well, understand what you’re working with. What sort of stage or space will you be performing in? What kind of light and sound capabilities do you have? What props and costumes are on hand or rentable to you?

These considerations will help you determine what sort of show to put on. If your stage is huge, for example, consider a show with a bigger cast. Consider a stripped-down production with a smaller cast if you’re working outdoors on a small stage. 

If you have excellent lighting and sound technology, go wild with a whimsical production. If you’re working with bare-bones equipment, consider a show where the visuals are less important than the subject matter. 

4. Map out your timeline 

A surefire way to set your team up for failure is to choose a play without considering your timeline or time constraints. In fact, your timeline is of the utmost importance when choosing your show.

So – what kind of summer theatre timeline are you working with? Do you have a month? 6 weeks? 8 weeks or more? How much time are you allotting to rehearsals every week? What is the bandwidth of your team? Is this their full-time commitment, or do they have jobs and other obligations? These considerations should directly impact the show you pick.

For example, if you have a month or less, choose a straight play with little to no musical elements or dance numbers – your rehearsal time won’t allow you to nail something more complicated without wearing down your team’s mental and physical health. On the other hand, if you have nine or more weeks to perfect a show and plenty of rehearsal time during the week, don’t be afraid to choose a musical or a more complicated play like Shakespeare. 

5. Think about your audience

While creating art for art’s sake is always beautiful, you should consider your audience members and loyal patrons when choosing your show. 

Ask yourself the following questions before landing on a production:

  • Does this show appeal to my target demographic?
  • Would my patrons find this content engaging?
  • Would anything in this show offend or upset my audience?
  • Will this show further engage my patrons and motivate them to return for other performances?
  • Is this show relevant to general society to draw in new patrons? 

And remember, while you don’t need an entire season dedicated to Broadway’s greatest hits, some well-known titles are always a good idea in your summer season. 

Partner with On The Stage

If you need help deciding where to start when choosing shows for your summer season, you can always turn to a trusted expert for advice. That’s where On The Stage (OTS) comes in! 

In OTS’ How to Craft Your Theatrical Season eBook, you’ll get expert guidance from Lisa Clair, a New York-based performer, playwright, and educator. By downloading the eBook, you’ll find:

  • A step-by-step guide: Dive into each step of the season planning process and access expert insights, proven frameworks, examples, and practical tips along the way.
  • The importance of mission-driven programming: Understand the pivotal role your organization’s mission, vision, and values should play in shaping your theatrical season.
  • Audience and artist considerations: Learn how to strike a balance between pleasing your audience and challenging them while also considering current events as well as the needs of the artists involved in bringing your season to life.
  • Strategic planning and logistics: Explore various strategies and approaches for crafting your theatrical season, delve into logistics, and access practical advice and best practices to ensure financial success through informed decisions.  

Whether you’re planning an all-out summer stock extravaganza or one modest production in the summer months, OTS is here to help. If you want to elevate your theatre and enhance the patron experience, consider working with OTS – book a personalized demo today to get started.

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