The curtains have closed on your latest showcase. It’s time to begin the set strike, reorganize your backstage, and prepare for the next creative endeavor.

During this time, it’s essential to review what went well and what didn’t so you can learn from your mistakes and make improvements for the next performance. It’s time for your theatre post-mortem! So let’s take a deep dive into this process.

What is a Theatre Post-Mortem?

Simply put, a theatre post-mortem includes an analysis of your recent production and a meeting with everyone involved in your production – from cast to crew, front-of-house staff, leadership, producers, and sometimes even administration, donors, or other shareholders. A post-mortem peels back the layers of your performance, analyzing what went well, what went poorly, and most importantly, what you can do to improve for next time. 

Typically led by one moderator or a small group, a post-mortem should also be a safe space for everyone to impart wisdom, share opinions and feedback (with absolutely no retaliation), or ask questions. Ideally, a post-mortem should:

  • Celebrate team and individual wins, thus boosting morale
  • Highlight improvement areas for the future 
  • Provide insights to inform your future game plans and working practices for upcoming shows
  • Aid in effective communication between your entire team
  • Bring the experience to an end with healthy closure 

Questions to Pose in a Post Mortem Meeting

A post-mortem meeting is more than just identifying good and bad elements of your show. After all, a theatre showcase has a variety of moving parts, all of which should be discussed. Some won’t be relevant to the entire team – say, budget numbers to your leads – so you may consider more than one post-mortem meeting depending on time and scope. Either way, a few baseline questions to start with in your post-mortem meeting include:

What is the purpose of a post-mortem? 

Perhaps an obvious one, but reiterating the purpose of your meeting before you begin will get everyone in the right mindset. Convey the reasons why you’re there – thus ensuring everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected. 

What were some moments of great success in this show? 

Starting out on a positive note is a great way to get creative juices flowing. Discuss the major highlights of your showcase – whether that was a killer closing number, engaging marketing efforts, seamless crew transitions, or other moments that shined. How were those elements achieved? Walk through the specific processes that allowed members of your team to experience success and ensure they’re noted and continued in the future. 

What were some elements of this show that require improvement for the future? 

Not quite as fun a conversation, but for improvements to be made, there must be open and honest discussion. Ask your team where they think the showcase suffered. Was it the budget, the use of props, the timeline, or the general preparedness of the cast? More importantly, discuss why you think these weak points arose and how to rectify them for your next showcase. 

Did different groups involved in this show receive the support and tools they needed? 

This is an excellent time for different sectors of your team to speak up about their personal experiences during the show’s run. Did your cast feel they had enough time and guidance to make the show successful? Did your marketing team have the right tools and budget to advertise the show to the best of their abilities? Did your front-of-house team fully understand the software for seamless ticket scanning? Why or why not? As the leader of your production, this is the moment where you sit back and listen, ensuring you know how best to lead your group into the next production. 

Did we see high engagement rates from audience members and patrons? 

Engagement can look like a lot of different things, and there are multiple ways to measure success, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Did your audience audibly react during the show? How was the post-show chatter from patrons? Did people tag your theatre on social media before or after the performance to discuss it? Did any media outlets cover it? How about ticket sales – did you reach your goals? Did you see an uptick in social media followers? Did your marketing efforts see good returns?

All these questions can seem a bit overwhelming, but keeping patrons engaged – from presales to post-show – is integral to the success of your theatre. Ensure you focus on that engagement and its success/failure during your post-mortem. 

Did we stay on budget?

Ahh, the dreaded budget conversation. Not always a fun one to have, but it’s incredibly necessary to keep your organization afloat. Discuss successes and failures when it comes to your spending as well as your revenue, and how you can improve upon weak areas for the next show. Whether that’s ordering bulk items earlier, re-using props and costumes, going paperless for ticketing, or amping up your merchandising offerings, there are a variety of ways to improve your budgeting tactics. 

Keep a Growth Mindset in the Theatre Post-Mortem

Fostering a growth mindset during your post-mortem is key to its success. In short, you don’t want anyone leaving that meeting feeling singled out, embarrassed, or worn down. The goal of these sessions is to walk away with insights to better inform your future strategy and plans. Here are a few ways to keep things focused on future growth rather than past mistakes: 

Be supportive, not accusatory. 

If an element fails during your show, it’s usually not a reflection of one specific person. Remember not to single out anyone in particular for unmet expectations. That being said, if a certain member of your cast and crew does not meet the specific expectations laid out for them, that’s a discussion to be had in private. Remember: the meeting should be a safe space where everyone can share their opinion without fear of repercussions. 

Focus on wins as much as losses. 

While you want this meeting to be productive as it pertains to future successes, you need to balance troubleshooting the failures with celebrating the wins. After all, a post-mortem won’t work if everyone’s hackles are up. So, make sure to keep the tone light and celebratory. Plus, you can learn just as much from your successes as the missed areas. If you know what is working well, continue those efforts and even consider doubling down on those to potentially see exponential growth, 

Welcome input.

Before, during, and after a post-mortem, you should not be the only person speaking or sharing opinions. Make sure everyone who wants to speak is able to and that you’re creating space for every member to share their feedback. Consider sending a survey or questionnaire out before the meeting to get a general idea of what the team thinks. This will also help all members of your cast and crew gather their thoughts, making them more inclined to speak up during the meeting. Make sure to open the floor to different groups during the post-mortem itself and encourage team members to share their thoughts after the meeting concludes. 

Establish ground rules and remain on-task. 

Any meeting – post-mortem or not – can devolve quickly without rules. Ensure you convey your expectations, including guidelines, long before the meeting begins so people know what is expected of them. By creating these rules and staying on task, you’ll be much more likely to have a productive meeting that ensures everyone involved succeeds in future showcases. 

Create achievable goals then and there.

Your team should leave a theatre post-mortem feeling motivated and ready to tackle new challenges. That being said, make sure you’re creating actionable items during the meeting – whether that’s a skill to improve upon, targets to hit, or anything in between. 

How On The Stage Can Help

Creating and running a successful post-mortem can be a challenge, but with the right tools, you’ll succeed with new trajectories on the board. Whether goals that emerge from your post-mortem involve performance metrics, marketing efforts, ticket sales, digital performance, or anything in between, On The Stage (OTS) can help you get there.

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? Book a personalized demo today. 

Related products and solutions