Getting a Production off the Ground
Theatre is about telling stories. Stories are about words and imagery; a mixture of words, music, mood and movement and, of course, acting. But a production is bigger than a story. There's much more involved.
The journey from page to stage has a lot of challenges. You need a team, a script, a theatre, to build sets, make costumes, organize rehearsals, recruit a capable stage manager, create props, develop a lighting scheme and of course direct the actors. You also have to sell the play. Stage plays need audiences.
But where do you begin?
- Budget. We may think that stage productions start with a story. Though largely true, the actual starting point is having your budget sorted out. Even it's £0, you'll still have expenses from photocopying scripts, marketing, hiring expert technicians or venue hire to consider. This can be a paper exercise in the early stages.
- The Story. Now you can start thinking about a story. If it's an original story, have you tested the story on people? Have you taken on board any feedback and revised the script? Has your script been read by a theatre company's Literary Associate, say? If not, it should be, and their ideas should be carefully considered and taken on board. If it's a classic play or a play you've decided you'd like to have produced, think about the royalties you may need to pay the author or copyright holder.
- Samuel French can help you with this for Amateur productions.
- For professional or semi-professional productions you may need to contact Josef Weinberger.
- What kind of production? Decide whether you're aiming for a full scale production (costumed, lit and fully staged) or a quicker route like a staged reading. Each approach has its merits. A staged reading for a small invited audience of industry figures, say, has as much validity and practical benefit as something more fully realised which may cost a lot more to produce.
- Actors. Once you've decided on the format think about the numbers of actors you need. Can actors double up?
- Directing and Producing. Who's directing and who's producing - there may be a slight overlap in the roles, but there are also clear distinctions. A director has the vision for the play and the way actors will realise that vision. A producer handles the budget and liaison with venues but may also have a view on the staging and production overall.
- Set. Do you need a set? You can achieve amazing results with lighting effects and minimal costume or stage design if you need to.
- Tech. ... and to achieve these effects you may need technicians, lighting designers, sound people and more.
- Stage Management. No stage production just 'happens' - you will also need to give careful thought to who will be your stage manager. Stage managers handle props and all aspects of the backstage area, as well as being a valuable liaison point between actors and director from backstage.
- Rehearsals. Think about a rehearsal schedule. People's time is precious, especially if you're not paying them. And even if you are, make sure that people aren't just left sitting around if you're not using them. Have a plan.
- Venue. Work out the best venue for you. Some venues are great at working with you to get an audience. Others may just leave you to it. Either way, you'll need to get some marketing in place either to support the venue to market your production, or to market it yourself.
- Showtime. Once you get to showtime you need to get your actors in at least two hours ahead of showtime, sort out front of house and box office. Have you or your stage manager thoughts about what you may need backstage; needle and thread, first aid kit e.t.c.?
- There is more of course, this is just a starting point ... Just a few things to think about then.