As the curtains close and your team takes its final bows, you may be ready to head to the beach, the bar, or the couch to celebrate another job well done. While you absolutely deserve that break, there’s just one small thing to do before you relax: host your postmortem. If you’re unsure what that is or how and when it happens, On The Stage can help. 

What is it?

A theatre postmortem is an in-depth analysis of your production, culminating in a communal cast/crew meeting and productive discussion. You’ll want to examine things like high and low points in the show, whether you had ample rehearsal time and other tools to succeed, and areas of improvement for future productions. Additionally, your theatre postmortem is a great time to address any comments, questions, criticism, or concerns from your team. 

When does it happen?

Like any evaluation, the earlier you host a postmortem, the better. You want your notes, thoughts, and ideas on the show to be as fresh as possible when you enter discussions.

That being said, it’s important to give yourself time to ensure you have the data you need to drive the discussion. You also want to consider your team’s bandwidth. Giving your cast and crew a short pause between the final performance and the postmortem can help them collect and analyze their thoughts before returning.

Who is involved? 

There is no one right answer to this question. However, many include anyone who was involved in the production – cast, crew, front-of-house staffers, creative leadership, producers, and if applicable, administrators, shareholders, and donors. The postmortem should be a safe space where anyone can impart wisdom, share opinions, or ask questions. 

Benefits of Postmortem Discussions & Best Practices

Benefits of a Postmortem

  1. These meetings create the opportunity to celebrate individuals and the team, thus boosting morale
  2. Postmortems highlight areas of great success and areas to improve, laying a solid foundation for your next production. Additionally, this gives you benchmarks for success in the coming months. 
  3. A postmortem allows your team to communicate constructive criticism, ideas, and suggestions healthily – making everyone involved feel seen, heard, and respected.
  4. These meetings provide insight and reassurance to your team about what you plan to do the same and differently for your next production. 
  5. Finally, a postmortem brings the production to a close with positivity and a growth mindset.  

Best Practices for a Postmortem

As stated, fostering that growth mindset is the secret to success for your postmortem. It should be an uplifting, educational experience, with everyone leaving the meeting feeling energized for the next production. Here are a few tips to follow best practices during your postmortem gathering: 

Avoid the blame game. 

Coming into a postmortem with accusatory statements and blame will not set you up for success. Understand, then convey to your team, that mistakes are rarely, if ever, one person’s fault. This means you should avoid singling out people for issues – that will only create shame and negatively affect mental health. That being said, if a member of your cast and crew has not met the specific expectations laid out for them, feel free to address that with them privately. 

Keep the atmosphere positive. 

Along the same lines, you don’t want to create a hostile or antagonistic atmosphere during your postmortem. No one will openly accept criticism or suggestions if the mood is antagonistic.

Now, that’s not to say that you should avoid discussing the low points of your show, but you should balance those discussions out with celebrating the wins. If you know what works well, continue those efforts and even consider doubling down on those to aim for exponential growth.

Stay open-minded. 

As the leader of your production, you may think you have all the answers. But that mindset will cause more tension than productivity during your postmortem. Instead, stay open-minded during the discussions – even if suggestions and constructive criticism are pointed toward you. After all, you can’t expect your team to take ‘em on the chin if you won’t. 

Alongside staying open-minded, make sure everyone who wishes to speak is able to do so and that you create the space for even your quietest team members to express themselves. 

Create structure. 

With so many thoughts and ideas floating around, your postmortem can go sideways quickly if you don’t establish structure and rules first. This means you must communicate expectations and guidelines before the postmortem starts. 

This will not only create a more organized postmortem but also likely help your team stay on task and respectful of those speaking.  

Plan achievable goals. 

Your postmortem isn’t the time to daydream or speak open-endedly about dream goals, even if it’s fun. No, postmortems should be a time to create actionable objectives and targets to hit, both short- and long-term. This sets a great precedent moving forward and helps your team leave the meeting feeling motivated and ready to tackle new challenges. 

Discussion Questions to Ask During Your Postmortem

Now that we’ve covered why postmortems are important and the best practices for running them, it’s time to create your agenda with probing questions that foster discussion and creative thinking. We offer a few potential questions to ask:

What were the highlights of our performance? How can we harness that energy consistently? 

This is an excellent question to begin your postmortem – starting on a high note. Explore your strongest numbers, acts, scenes, and technical elements. What made them the highlights of your show? Did you spend more time on them, or did they play to the strengths of your cast and crew? How can you ensure you have more of those highlights next time? 

What were the lowest points of our performance? How can we improve upon those elements?

Tough but necessary, this question can open up helpful discussion about the areas where your team lacks training or the skills required to pull off a number or technical component. Discuss what was specifically lacking in those components and how you can improve for next time. This may also come back to your leadership and how much time you allotted to these weaker areas of your production. 

Do you think the team was set up for success? 

This can broaden your discussion to various topics, ranging from the timeline of your production and the number of rehearsals to how much time was spent on each scene, act, number, or technical aspect. But this also affects your other team members. Did your marketing team have the right tools and budget to advertise the show? Did your front-of-house team fully understand the software for seamless ticket scanning

You are essentially asking your cast and crew if you gave them everything they needed to succeed. If not, this is your time to listen, take notes, and improve for next time. 

Did we stay on task and budget?

This can include both your cast and your leadership team. Regarding staying on task, discuss with your team if you truly remained on schedule during rehearsals. If not, why? Did you try to cram too much into one day, or did you tend to lose focus, focus too much on one component, or take one too many breaks?

Your budget is a critical element of your postmortem. Pore over the data to see where you over- or under-spent. How can you save money for the next production or raise more funds to increase your budget? 

Do you think the audience resonated with our production? 

As well as you think your production did, you must reflect on whether it resonated well with your audience. 

Discuss whether or not specific acting and technical choices translated to your patrons. After the fact, did you see a discussion about your work on social media? Did audience members physically react to your show during key moments? How was the chatter after the show in the lobby? If the answer to any of these is no, there is room for improvement. How can you immerse your patrons in your production? 

How On The Stage Can Help

Organizing a well-rounded, positive, and successful postmortem can be intimidating, but having a partner in the fight will make it all the easier. You can make your show great from beginning to end by linking up with On The Stage (OTS). 

When the postmortem concludes and you’ve set new goals, OTS can assist you in reaching any and all, whether they involve performance metrics, marketing efforts, ticket sales, digital performance, or anything in between.

The OTS all-in-one technology platform is built specifically for the performing arts – empowering thousands of organizations with ticketing, box office, marketing, fundraising, and reporting tools in one robust platform – for free.

Ready to elevate your theatre experience and make great art? Book a personalized demo today. 

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