This is how you stage a theatre show in South Africa
As some wise person once said, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor”, meaning that rather than sitting around complaining about the lack of opportunities coming your way, instead you’ve got to keep pushing the boundaries by finding new ways to keep yourself in the game.
One way of doing this is by producing your own theatre show. Embarking on this kind of adventure may seem like a daunting task and perhaps you’ve felt that this is something too big for you to figure out on your own. But, fear not! We’re going to take you through some important steps that will help you get your show on the road.
Find a play:
This is a crucial first step in the process and will influence many of the areas to follow. Take some time to find a play that you are passionate about. Will it be a comedy? A one-man show? A musical perhaps? Are there 5 cast members or are there 25? How will the type of play affect your budget? Is it simply a play you read in high school or is it something that is really going to grab the attention of your audiences? Remember, just because a play is good, does not necessarily mean it will sell. Take your time to understand why the play will be relevant and what kind of impact it might have on the public. Is it merely for entertainment, or do you see it serving a more educational purpose? An important point to note is that if you decide to choose a published play that is not on the public domain (free usage), you would be required to obtain a performance license, especially since you will be making a profit from the production. Most popular scripts are handled by DALRO, and they will assist you with either a professional or amateur license. The cost of this license will depend on a number of factors such as dates, size of venue, ticket prices etc. So, it is important to have as much information ready as possible before making contact with any of the literary offices. If DALRO is unable to handle your request, they will most likely refer you to Samuel French– who are the international team responsible for a large number of theatrical titles.
As with most business projects, it costs money to make money. In order to stage a production, you are going to need some cash to cover important costs associated with staging a show. The size of the budget could be anywhere from R5000 to R50 000 or more. Whether your show is financially supported by a friend, family member or organization, you would need estimates to fully understand what this budget should look like. Do the necessary homework, make calls and find out from people who have experience in theatre production on what some of the main costs are. This will help give you an idea on the amount you should set aside to see your production come to life.
In this article, we’ve provided information on how you can apply for government funding and grants if you have difficulties raising capital.
Look around your area to see which are the popular live shows and theatre venues frequented by the public. If you can visit these venues, this will give you a better sense of the size and other specs of the space that will help you to decide which venue is the best fit for your show. Remember, it is better to have a sold-out show in a 50-seater venue than to have 50 people in a 2000-seater opera theatre. If you looking at a one-man drama for example, it would probably make more sense to consider a more intimate venue. This will lower your costs and improve your profit potential.
Venue prices vary and each production house has their own unique pricing structures. For example, some venues might have a fixed fee per day or per hour. In other words, you pay for what you use and how long you use it for. Other venues might customize a deal for you where they would charge less for the venue hire but require a percentage cut from ticket sales. It is recommended that you propose a meeting with the venue to establish what these costs will look like.
A production schedule is a calendar that maps out the time frames of the main goals of the production. Often, this is controlled by a stage manager to ensure that the production team is meeting its deadlines and moving along effectively towards the finish line. This schedule should include information like scene breakdowns, rehearsal dates and times as well as performance dates. Each member of the team should have access to this schedule to ensure that targets are met and everyone is well informed on the where’s and when’s.
Unless you have already decided on the cast for your new show, it would be a good idea to hold auditions so that you can find the best matches for the roles in your play. Auditions are necessary in most production projects as it allows the director and producer to understand whether or not an actor is able to interpret the script and portray the character effectively. Auditions can be as simple or as complex as you see fit. Remember, that auditions can also be treated as an interview for people you have not worked with in the past. It is important to learn about a candidate’s educational background and production experience. Just because a person might be a reasonably good performer does not mean that they have the professionalism and work ethic to join your team. Fir this reason, holding audition can assist in making the best decision on who to hire.
This is the heart of the production process. Setting a time and place to rehearse will help translate the text into actions. This is where you will be able to break the script into segments and work on directing scene-by-scene. Rehearsals will help actors refine their acting, follow direction, build relationships and have fun while working. All you need is a space to work in, and you’re ready to start rehearsing!
This can make or break your show. Without an effective marketing strategy, don’t count on pulling in an audience. One the biggest goals for any producer is getting bums on seats. In order to do this, you need to create visibility around your upcoming show. There are a number of different ways to publicize your show and this may be influenced by your budget. However, with the availability of social media and online technologies, there is no excuse to not get your information out there.
Put together a press kit that you can send to local newspapers and arts/entertainment editors. You want to include important details like cast members, performances dates and ticket prices. Throw in a few high-resolution images and contact information. This will make the process easier for news organizations to feature your show in their publications. Remember, getting this together as soon as possible will be advantageous. There’s probably no point in sending out the press kit a day before a 3-day run.
Traditional marketing is still a great option when advertising a show, so consider printing out flyers and posters which will help increase the visibility of your show. Contact radio stations and see if they would be interested in interviewing you about your new show.
Create a Facebook page/event and share it with friends and family. There are also a number of online publications and blogs such as Artslink and Bizcommunity that have large emailing lists that you could send your press release to. You can also send it to us to feature on our Creative Careers news page!
You will need to set aside a day to handle the technical elements of your show. This is often a lengthy process, but is important if your show consists of sound, lighting and audio-visuals. The technical rehearsals allow technicians to customize the lighting rig, position the lights, adjust volumes and set the necessary cues for the show. This will help avoid any mistakes on the actual performances of the show.
You can finally say you did it! This is the moment you get to sit back and watch all your hard work transformed and packaged into a completed theatrical.
Making theatre is an exhilarating and life-changing experience. However, it does not come without it’s challenges. It is important that you use the experience to learn, grow and have fun. You have finally produced your first show and the possibilities from here onward are endless.
Keep the passion, keep momentum, and remember “opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor”.