First and foremost, I wanted to thanke everyone who sent messages of support and congratulations on yesterday's news! It's great to have such a supportive community of blog readers! Second, this week's guest blog comes from The Seeing Place Theatre. I asked them to provide some insight on the producing process of their latest show and you'll find some great info below. Enjoy.
We're a month away from opening Look Back In Anger... and we (Brandon & Anna Marie) are both producers and actors for this show. It's hard to be an actor running a company, because as an actor, it's your job to open up and be honest and available. But as a producer, it's your job to make sure that everyone thinks the boat is sailing smoothly. It’s pretty paradoxical, when you think about it. It certainly keeps you busy!
Just in the last week, we've sent dozens of emails seeking program advertisers, published online listings about the show, set up press interviews, sold a few tickets, delivered postcards to over 50 venues, and even baked a batch of cookies for some free publicity at another company's reading -- while also rehearsing our on-stage roles each evening. While there is great satisfaction to be found from producing and performing simultaneously, obviously it is a delicate balancing act. No one else is there to set up the rehearsal room for you - so you have to find a way to make arranging furniture into part of your preparation. There is no magical prop crew who will appear with the tea set - or do the dishes after rehearsal is over. And once rehearsal is over, there are emails to send, reviewers to woo, flyers to design...
Obviously, running a company - and performing in its productions - has a whole set of difficulties and rewards that we never saw coming. The Seeing Place Theater began last fall, riding mostly on the excitement of producing a play we'd fallen in love with, The Credeaux Canvas by Keith Bunin. It began as a just-for-fun reading in Anna Marie's living room and somehow, with a lot of convincing from Brandon, led to a fully mounted, sold out run in September 2009. Since then, The Seeing Place has put up a full season of shows, coming to a close this October with Look Back In Anger.
Over the last year, we've learned a ton of things we never thought we'd need to know.
We'd like to share some of them with you here:
1. Each of us must take creative responsibility, which includes not only the "producer work" of having a clear vision for the company, great marketing materials, and a pleasant working environment, but the "actor work" of coming into rehearsals in a civic mind, ready to work. Which means being present in the room, actively seeking ways to collaborate with the other artists. The director cannot force this to happen. It's up to each artist to choose to be part of the ensemble, part of the group, working together. Which can take a lot of effort. Like a marriage... between seven people.
2. Bigger casts don't automatically lead to bigger audiences. Most actors feel that once they've told their parents, sent one group email, and sent one blast to their industry contacts, their "production responsibilities" are over. But in the current social climate - and especially at the off-off/showcase level, every artist needs to actively recruit audience members. It's also a great way to increase each individual's exposure and raise the level of importance of the production as a whole. So all you actors out there, help yourselves by promoting your shows!
3. Striking a balance between actor-brain and producer-brain is tough in rehearsal. It’s hard not to chime in when an actor asks the director a production question – you want to answer it! But you have to trust the director to do their job, too.
4. If you purchase "refurbished" toner cartridges to print your programs, order at least two. One of them will be weird and streaky.
5. The best way to publicize your show is to keep all of the actors excited. Because if they aren't, they'll tell everyone they know not to come.
6. Using a fancy email program to send pretty emails can be very exciting - once you learn how to make it stop double-spacing everything.
7. Once you've used a fancy email program, checking the "who opened your campaign" reports can be addicting.
8. No one knows how to predict ticket sales. Or why Wednesday night sells better than Saturday. No one.
9. Giving a good curtain speech is hard. (i.e., managing to thank patrons for coming, advertise the season, request votes for awards and comments on theatermania, and beg for money, in under two minutes. with a sense of humor. without sounding like a motor mouth.)
10. Sometimes there really is no way to appease an upset patron. Especially when they got their ticket for free.
11. There's not quite anything like looking at a set, a program, a will call list, and a group of actors preparing, knowing that without you, none of it would be happening, in just this way, at just this moment.
12. We’ve also embraced a quote from a magnet in our rehearsal space: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay…it’s not the end.”
Thank you for reading. Thank you, Michael, for the opportunity.
We hope we'll see you in October for Look Back in Anger.
Brandon & Anna Marie
The Seeing Place Theater