Planning and executing a successful theatre production is no joke, and certainly no easy task. Right as you feel you’ve gotten a handle on things, there will likely be another obstacle – either creative or practical – that needs your attention.
Before you begin planning your next showcase, On The Stage offers a step-by-step guide to creating a cohesive and (relatively) stress-free show. Organized in five easy steps, it’s sure to make the entire process more manageable for you and your team.
Understand What (and Whom) You’re Working With
Before any major decisions are made, it’s time to take stock of what you and your team bring to the table. Examine the following:
- Potential cast/crew strengths and weaknesses – You’re only as strong as your weakest link, after all. Before show titles are chosen and auditions are underway, take time to understand the people you’ll be working with. From those on your front of house team to your marketing specialists, potential leads, and sound designers, work to their strengths from the get-go.
- Budget – Laying out a tentative budget is a crucial first step in any successful production. Knowing the numbers from day 1 means you’ll have a realistic vision for costumes, sets, marketing strategies, and other programming details.
- Timeline – How long do you have to create your masterpiece? Knowing your timing restraints will influence your title choice and overall scheduling.
- Total bandwidth – Consider how many days a week your team is able to meet for rehearsals. What other commitments may impede your schedule and the schedules of your team?
- Content restrictions – This one won’t be for everyone, but if you’re working with younger actors, remember that you may have to weed out specific shows/subject matter to adhere to guidelines set in place by administration/leadership.
Select the Title and Hold Professional Auditions
After you have a solid idea of your foundations and what your team can bring to the table, it’s time for one of the most crucial questions of all: which show are you choosing? Remember, selecting a title is a process that requires insightful, coordinated planning and thought.
Before you choose a title, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I drawn to a play or a musical?
- Am I hoping to bring levity to the stage or convey a message?
- What size cast am I working with, and how will that affect the type of show I want to do?
- Do I want a modern showcase or a classic one?
- Looking at the pool of potential actors and crew, what are their strengths and how can I capitalize on those?
After taking all the above into consideration and choosing that title, it’s time to hold auditions! Your goal should be to make the process streamlined, professional, and fun for all involved. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Give ample time to prepare – You’ll have a better shot of casting the people you want if you give a wide breadth of time for people to get ready. Ensure you’re cross-promoting audition times across several platforms to both get the word out and widen your pool of hopefuls.
- Be specific about what you want actors to prepare – Whether you’re looking for 16 bars of an uptempo song, a one minute monologue, or you want to see how your potential actors can improvise, make sure they know what’s expected of them before they set foot in auditions.
- Create a professional space – Ensure your audition space is free from clutter, as well as organized and accessible. Alongside a streamlined physical room, a professional space is also one that ensures all actors feel comfortable, supported, and heard.
Set Up Production and Rehearsal Calendars and Dig In
After you’ve casted your production and are ready to jump in, it’s time to harden up that timeline in the form of organized schedules. A few suggestions include the following:
- Formulate a production timeline – Once you’ve assembled your crew, take stock of achievable goals and make a production schedule. Go over the set pieces that need to be created, as well as potential lighting and sound ideas, costuming, and other technical must-dos.
- Formulate rehearsal timelines – Once you know the breadth of your actors’ talent, make a realistic rehearsal timeline. Make sure to keep things reasonable for all involved.
- Create clear expectations within your theatre – Sit down with everyone involved to go over expectations for the coming rehearsals. Actors and crew members thrive when they know what is expected of them; be clear, direct, and encouraging.
- Check in consistently – Once rehearsals are underway, make sure you’re keeping up with everyone involved. Ask your actors if they feel they’re making solid progress and are getting what they need from you. Check in with your backstage crew to see developments on costumes, props, set pieces, and lighting and sound design. See how your fundraising and marketing teams are feeling as it pertains to predetermined touchstones, too.
Focus on Cash Flow, Marketing, Ticketing, and Promotion
On that note … while the creative aspects of your show are paramount, it won’t matter how great the production is if no one sees it. So, while you’re in the trenches of rehearsals, that means you also need to focus on promoting your show and raising funds. A few easy-to-accomplish benchmarks during this time include:
- Securing additional funding – Whether you’re planning on a weekend car wash, a bake sale, or posting wish lists or fundraisers on social media, it’s important to get extra cash for any variables you may face during production.
- Pushing tickets – Make sure you have an easy-to-operate ticket portal attached to your show site. Push that link on all your social media platforms and around the community to ensure bodies will be in seats on opening night.
- Optimizing your social media and marketing strategies – As your rehearsals come together, document progress on social media. Ensure your marketing team is taking advantage of marketing materials, promoting merchandise, sending out informative email blasts, and hanging posters around the community.
- Focusing on professional programs – Every great show needs a great program. Make sure to plan ahead, formulating the cast bios, graphics, and paid advertisements for a more elevated experience.
- Going the extra mile for exposure – Publicity efforts can include fliers, community announcements, newspaper coverage, paid advertisements, and team-ups with community partners.
Enter Tech Week with a Focus on Wellbeing
While it may feel like a mad dash to the finish line, your tech week should be focused on ensuring your team is feeling great. If you’ve got a happy and healthy cast and crew, your show will be better for it, guaranteed. A few ways to keep a handle on your final rehearsals include:
- Ensuring your team feels prepared – Have open and honest conversations with your team surrounding your show. Do they feel they are equipped with the tools necessary to execute the show you expect? If not, it’s your job to provide the guidance to get them there.
- Encouraging self-care – Self-care is different for everyone, but a few things to encourage as you reach the end of the production process include: No skipping out on warm-ups and cool-downs; taking even slight illnesses seriously; listening to your body; eating healthy and drinking water consistently; and prioritizing sleep and mental health.
- Offering previews to small audiences – Nothing can fully prepare a cast for opening night, it’s true. But getting smaller audiences in for previews gives your team a taste of what it will feel like, and will likely help shake off stage fright/jitters.
- Remaining flexible – Combining the acting, singing, lighting and sound cues, props, costume changes, set pieces, and other technical elements into your showcase will likely reveal a few problems. Be open to the idea that certain parts of your show may need to change in the home stretch. Workshop problem scenes and and don’t be afraid to make adjustments.
- Being a strong leader – Lead or participate in meditation or breathing exercises with your team before or after rehearsals to keep everyone energized and motivated. Remember – creating art should be fun; make sure you’re keeping the magic alive!
As you kick off your planning for 2023 showcases, you should be utilizing tools and resources to ensure success. On the Stage offers a suite of these resources – from help with fundraising and marketing to ticketing, audience engagement, artwork, and merchandise. Schedule a personalized demo today to start your On The Stage partnership.
And if you’re at the very tip-top of your planning and are totally stumped on which title to pick, On The Stage offers a handy-dandy Guide to Selecting Titles. In short – we’ve got you covered, no matter what your goals may be.