In this town where theater has such a prominent presence, we have become accustomed to being able to attend a performance in any given month, what with professional companies, school productions, children’s theater, and amateur community groups abounding. We have our favorites: musicals are big, Shakespeare doesn’t frighten us, and we attend every performance of a show if our child is in it.
So, how hard can it be to put on a play? If we see so much of it around us, it must be a fairly simple undertaking. Lots of people are doing it, after all. Think again. The headaches associated with producing a play might surprise you.
First of all, you’ve got to pick an enticing show to do. You want lots of people to attend or else what’s the point? Actors like to have an audience. So be sure to choose a play that is appropriate to our community. Consider content (not too controversial), language (not too salty, or heaven forbid, profane), production needs (no live elephants), and contract costs. Every show must be purchased from a holding company that charges a bunch of money to obtain permission to produce it. Disney? You can’t afford it. Rogers and Hammerstein? Ditto. If the show is a recent hit, you probably can’t afford that, either. Many companies charge by the size of the expected audience.
And then, can you find the actors needed? Does your play require athletic dancers? Beautiful singing voices? An adorable child under 10 who can do both? You have to know your potential actors’ pool and then hope that an elderly gentleman is interested in the role of the slightly barmy uncle.
Where will you produce? Theaters are expensive and often booked for months ahead. Is it better to secure a small space that will look full with 200 attendees or a larger, fancier hall that will look empty with two hundred in the audience? You must then think about where you will rehearse before you get into the theater itself.
Musicals have their own set of issues. The music director must work with the singers, which often entails transposing the music to fit individual voices. He/she must teach the songs, hire the necessary musicians (whether a small ensemble or full orchestra), and then conduct the show. When it comes right down to it, the conductor will be the most important person in the room come show time. He/she is the one who holds everyone together and gets the cast out of mishaps, should they occur.
Don’t forget costumes, a huge undertaking no matter what the show. You need to build sets, find sponsors, publicize, and print programs.
Are you tired just thinking about it? Go see Cedar Valley Community Theatre’s production of Oliver, instead. All of the above work has been done: the darling child found, the musicians rehearsed, the costumes made, the theater hired. It will open the last weekend in January at the Heritage. All you have to do is enjoy!