The curtains just closed on your latest production. That’s where the work ends, right? Not quite. Planning and executing a post-mortem process should follow. You might be wondering what, exactly, a post-mortem is, when it should take place and, most importantly, how to plan it. Don’t worry – On The Stage has you covered.

What is a Post-Mortem?

Much like a locker room breakdown after a game or a conference call after a big pitch, a post-mortem is a deep-dive analysis into a production to create a growth mindset for the future, mixing celebration with evaluation. This gives everyone involved – from the lead of the show to the tech team, producers, director and administration – a chance to reflect on anything and everything surrounding the show.

Things addressed in a post-mortem may include:

  • What elements of your show worked well? From acting choices to costumes, songs, lighting and sound
  • What elements of your show could have been more successful? Tighter choreography? Crisper sound? Fewer set pieces?
  • How do you plan to approach your next season or production?
  • Did you meet the goals you set out to meet at the beginning of the process? Why or why not?

Who Do They Benefit? 

Short answer:

  • Everyone involved.

Long answer:

  • Actors: Mixing praise with constructive criticism, a post-mortem will better their performances for the future
  • Tech and production team: The group can go over the highlights and mistakes of the production, from lighting and sound design to hitting marks and helping actors shine
  • Producers: Allow them to discuss fundraising best practices and decide if goals were met. If not, how can they improve for next year?
  • Director(s): Discuss creative decision making. What worked and what didn’t?
  • Administration: They can talk about budget, merch sales and other nuts and bolts

When Should You Do Them?

There’s no right answer here, except to say as soon after your production as possible. This way, the show is fresh in everyone’s minds – all the way from the major high notes to the smallest of mistakes.

How Should They Play Out?

On The Stage suggests a few different meetings for your post-mortem. This way, you get maximum value by addressing different topics in different ways with your key players.

The first meeting is what OTS calls an “all-company meeting,” which, as the name suggests, includes everyone involved. In general, the all-company meeting should be kept lighter to keep students feeling accomplished about their hard work.

In the all-company meeting, you can discuss:

  • Self evaluation: How do your students think they did? What were some highlights and some low points?
  • Feedback from the audience: Did students receive positive affirmations from audience members? Were any congratulatory remarks sent out? If so, read them aloud to celebrate.
  • Overall, creating a sense of completion and accomplishment is the goal.

After this, you should conduct a more serious production meeting with the key members on the team. Here, you can speak with total candor surrounding the following elements:

  • Organizational goals and whether or not they were met
  • Reviews of your production from other faculty, staff and audience members
  • Social media management throughout the production
  • Ticket and merchandise sales: Were goals met?
  • Future partnership offers: Whether those are community partnerships, advertising donations or other proposals
  • Finances and budget: Did you stay in line? What areas of the budget could be amended?
  • Time management and task delegation: What was ideal, what needed improvement? Who was overworked and who was underutilized?

Lastly, conduct an administrative recap to round-out your post-mortem process. Described as “part housekeeping and part self-promotion,” this is a time to meet with your administration to relay everything you’ve learned in your most recent production and position your department for greater opportunities (including a better budget) for the future. Here, you should discuss:

  • The positive goals that were met: These can include educational goals, highlights of positive reviews and overall reflections.
  • Relevant data: This can include budget goals, revenue, audience engagement and educational impact.

While the post-mortem process might seem complicated, it offers a variety of benefits – from general reflection to better positioning in future works. Luckily, On The Stage presents a complete breakdown of the post-mortem process: The School Theatre Post-Mortem Demystified. Download it now to get started!

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