Saturday, January 03, 2015

So You're Producing a Play...

First, CALM DOWN! Let's walk through it together

If you've just signed up or volunteered to produce a play - you are in for a ride - and a treat!

STEP #1. GET A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF EXPECTATIONS
Many companies will view "producing" differently. I have worked with theatre companies who have assigned the producer to look after budgets and make sure no one is overspending. I have also worked with a company who wanted the producer to worry about all the paperwork for the production including posters, programs, tickets and advertising. Often being a producer entails working with budgets and monies for the show including theatre rentals, rights applications and honorariums/actor pay. All companies are different so make sure you know what is expected of you so you can meet and exceed these. 
 
STEP #2. ENSURE ALL DUTIES ARE LOOKED AFTER
As a producer, some or all of the following duties may be left up to you. Go through this list to make sure you or someone else is looking after it. Having a list on hand with a list of duties assigned to individuals is also a great way to encourage accountability in your cast & crew.
  • Theatre rentals: payment for the stage, rules and regulations of the theatre need to be communicated to cast & crew.
  • Rights/Royalties: for script (paid through publisher of the script usually [ie. Samuel French].
  • Auditions: Dates, times, location, press release, organization (group auditions vs. monologs).
  • Callbacks: Call/email actors after auditions to let them know whether they have been cast or not cast (it is a common courtesy to call either way so that they know for sure one way or the other and aren't left sitting on pins and needles waiting to know if they got a part or not)
  • Schedules: rehearsals, theatre move-in day(s), technical rehearsals, dress rehearsal, fight warm-ups & drills (if necessary), call times before shows, strike (stage clean-up after last show).
  • Paper Stuffs: Use/Select/Create an image that you can use on all paper products regarding the show. This will ensure people associate the production with the image so by the third or fourth time they see the image, they remember what production it is and won't want to miss it! Paper stuffs may include: posters, hand bills, tickets and programs. Media releases and teaser/trailers are also a great way to get word out about your production.
  • Contact Information: It is important to always have on site of rehearsals a copy of everyone's contact information (often the stage manager will take care of this). In addition, email everyone a digital copy via email.
  • Crew Members - Get people on your team to take on these roles: Director, Producer, Stage Manager, Assistant Stage Manager (if needed), Stagehands, Makeup, Set Design, Tech [hanging, setting and running lights and sound], Costumes & Props.
  • Production Meetings: Scheduled once a month during the rehearsal process (or less/more depending on what is agreed upon by the crew and team) to discuss budget, media, promotion, etc. At the first meeting, delegate tasks to members of the team. You might be tempted to control everything and do everything yourself - DON'T! You'll burn yourself out and be of no use to anyone in no time at all.
  • Social Media: This is SO IMPORTANT in creating awareness for your production! Create Facebook events for auditions and showtimes, a Facebook group for the production team and another group for cast members. Twitter or Twitpic are both great for sending quick updates about what is happening at rehearsals. If people care about the actors, care about the production and feel like they are a part of it - they are more likely to buy a ticket. Use social media platforms to create games or contests where people can interract with members of the cast or crew for a chance to win tickets. This is great promotion!
  • Budget: Before anything is paid for or purchased, the production team need to agree upon a budget. This amount will include monies set aside for: theatre & equipment rentals, fight/dance choreographers, photographers, voice coaches, set design, honorariums/payments to cast/crew, promotional material, tickets to be printed, set and costume, makeup, etc. MAKE SURE EVERYONE WHO BUYS ANYTHING KEEPS THEIR RECEIPTS*COLLECT THEM AND KEEP THEM TOGETHER*
STEP #3. DO SOME RESEARCH
As this role is so versatile, do some digging and find out how others do it. Some resources can be found here: http://produceaplay.com/home, http://www.wikihow.com/Produce-a-Play, http://www.writewords.org.uk/articles/theatre1.asp, http://www.ehow.com/how_7732969_produce-stage-plays.html
 
STEP #4. COMMUNICATE!
You are not alone. You have (or should have) an entire team to help, guide and support you through this process. Encourage your team to have open communication with each other (this does not mean gossip). Ensure everyone is on the same page throughout production and don't hesitate to lean on each other or ask for their assistance. If you do find yourself hesistating to approach members of your team, try and uncover the reasons for this as a conversation may need to happen to discuss expectations and working as a team.
 
STEP #5. HAVE FUN!
So many people overlook this one but it is so important. It is easier to be a drill sargeant, yelling orders at people telling them what to do and when than to lead a team. Be firm but approachable, encourage teamwork and open communication and don't forget to let loose and have some fun!


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