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Ah, sweet summertime. As the warm weather beckons, you may be interested in starting up some outdoor performances or having a go at producing summer stock theatre. If so, On The Stage can help prepare you for a beautiful few months full of creativity.
Traditionally, summer stock theater is put on by companies that create productions only in – you guessed it – the summer months. Think Oklahoma! Or The Music Man in a sweeping outdoor amphitheater. The ‘stock’ portion of the name comes from the tradition of staging shows by a resident company and re-using stock scenery, props, costumes, and actors all summer long. Often, summer stock shows take advantage of the weather and perform outside or under tents. These theatres are also often situated near resorts and hotels to ensure out-of-town guests have easy access to their performances.
While it may seem like a leisurely summer of fun, it’s typically the opposite for the producers, actors and staff involved.
“The speed with which shows must be assembled is the primary difficulty,” says Mark Dundas Wood of Backstage. “Some theaters still use the traditional summer-stock model, in which an ensemble performs one show by night while rehearsing an upcoming show by day. Some companies perform in true rotating-repertory format, with two or more shows alternating. But regardless of the model, time is of the essence.”
It’s also acknowledged that summer stock is the ideal place for young actors to get a ‘crash course’ in professional theatre before hitting the ‘big leagues.’
It is generally accepted that Elitch Theatre in Denver, Colorado, began the tradition of summer stock in the late 1800s. In the 1930s, Time magazine reported that “Elitch’s Gardens is the great-grandfather of all U.S. summer stock companies.” The tradition grew more popular in the 1900s, with many famous stage actors getting their start in summer stock as time went on.
Just like you pull stock images for marketing, a stock set in the performing arts is essentially a variety of scenic units that a theatre has available in storage and can be used and reused for productions. From costume elements to tables, chairs and larger set pieces, the key is saving money, getting creative with your prop utilization and making what you have work for several shows over a set period of time.
So, we haven’t scared you off, then? Good! After securing your cast and production staff for your summer stock theatre showcase, here are a few things to keep in mind as you produce:
There are some surefire ways to make sure your summer stock goes off without a hitch. These include:
Proper marketing for your show; creating solid merchandise and promotion materials to spread the word; deploying top-of-the-line fundraising efforts; and utilizing best practices for quick, easy and efficient ticket sales.
Not sure where to start? On The Stage’s comprehensive platform can help with just about everything as it pertains to your summer productions – from promotion to ticket sales, audience engagement and fundraising. Summer’s here, so book your demo today to get started.
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