If you’re currently at work planning a holiday show, it very well may be a period piece. And while these showcases are a blast to put on and super rewarding to watch, they often come with the baggage of a heftier set and costume bill. If you’re a theatermaker on a budget (which – let’s be honest – is most of us), On The Stage presents a few ideas on saving money as you create or find those crucial stage elements.

Team Up With Local Partners 

We’ve said it a million times and we’ll keep saying it – the importance of community partnerships can’t be understated! A great use of these relationships is to reach out for help if you’re on the hunt for set and costume pieces at low cost. Ideas include asking local thrift shops to borrow clothing or furniture, or having higher–profile community partners use their own networks to find items you may need. You may even benefit from reaching out to other local theatres or schools, which are usually more than happy to share what they’ve got.

Remember – if you’ve worked hard to forge strong relationships in your community, don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need it!

Tap Your Parents and Grandparents

If you’re looking for antique furniture, who better to turn to than older family members? Maybe you’ve been eyeing your great aunt’s credenza, or your grandpa’s unique armchair – borrowing those pieces for your show is an excellent way to both save money and help the performance feel more authentic. When renting out family’s items, however, make sure you’re transporting everything safely and keeping it in mint condition. (Grandma won’t let you borrow anything ever again if her chair comes back scratched or stained!)

Alongside using the handy-dandy internet for maintenance tips, remember to keep all foods and liquids away from the set pieces, never use harsh chemicals to clean them (and avoid liquid altogether if possible), and ensure you’ve got strong hands transporting pieces from the van to the stage and back again.

Plan Ahead

It’s no secret that rush delivery and buying new (because you didn’t have the time to search for used items) will surely ramp up your costume and design budget. If you know certain shows will always be on the schedule at your theatre, plan ahead – waaaaay ahead.

This way, you can take the time to find the cheapest items, make smart bids on sites for things you want, or buy the bare essentials and create items on your own. There’s no shame in the D-I-Y way!

Utilize Your Social Media Following

Your loyal patrons and followers want to see the best show possible, right? With that in mind, remember that they’ll likely be willing to lend a hand to help reach your goals.

Use your social media platforms to request donations of costumes or set pieces, or just to request donations period to get the items you need. Another quick way to get patron involvement is through the creation of an online registry or wishlist. These often take very little time to set up and are incredibly easy to navigate. (One-click donation, anyone?)

Lean on Music, Blocking, and Powerful Acting

If you aren’t able to raise the capital you need to get those all important set pieces or costumes, remember that it’s A-OK to keep things simple.

Create a minimal showcase that relies heavily on acting, interesting blocking, complex lighting and sound design, and powerful music. These elements are crucial to a great show, and can help your team focus on honing their respective crafts.

Rent or Reuse 

This isn’t your first rodeo – so don’t be afraid to take a second look at older set pieces and costumes to see if they can be born anew. In short, consider reconceptualizing items instead of scrapping them. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be an eco-conscious creator, too. Win-win!

If you’re coming up short on that front, do some research into costume and set rentals. There are a variety of nationwide and statewide companies that rent out the items you may need, saving you the money and stress of a nonrefundable purchase. (Make sure to ask about school or bulk discounts!)

Ask Your Cast and Crew

You’d be surprised at just how many items your people may have sitting around their homes. All you have to do is ask! Hold a meeting with the entire group before major rehearsals begin to go over the pieces you need. Pulling from your own closets and homes means less money spent on brand-new items and avoiding the hassle of alterations.

As your holiday showcases are heading into the ​​home stretch, remember there are always chances to pinch a penny or two. If you’re still stressed about fundraising, marketing, ticketing, engagement, or anything else to do with your theatre – On The Stage can help with it all. Book a personalized demo today to get started.