Category Archives: Am Dram Advice

How to choose your next production – Part 2

17th January 2018

Following on from last week’s post on how to choose your next production, here’s part 2 of this article.

5. Is the play currently touring/being performed in the UK professionally?

There are three reasons why it might not be a good idea to perform such a show:

  • During a professional run or tour of a production, amateur productions of this play or musical may not be allowed.
  • If they are allowed, then royalty fees will be higher than usual (and possibly higher than your group would be willing to spend).
  • With all the resources, finance and talent in the world, an amateur production may be looked at in a negative light compared to a current professional production of the same. This is incredibly unfair because there are so many amateur groups out there who are professional to the extreme but theatrical snobbery is unfortunately still alive and kicking its stuff.
  • 6. Are any local amateur groups planning to perform this play at the same time as yours?

    Your group is sure to have a loyal following but often audiences overlap across more than one amateur dramatics group.

    Then, there are the audience members who aren’t loyal to one group but rather choose the shows they attend depending on which play or musical is on offer.

    Don’t dilute your chances of obtaining a full audience by competing with another nearby group who are performing the same show.

    Keep the competition element for just that, competitions, and stay on good terms with your fellow amateur thespians. You never know when you may need to borrow an actor or an item of furniture, or be on the look-out for groups to hire your props and costumes.

    7. Will it appeal to your audience, or are you trying to attract a new audience?

    Most amateur dramatics groups earn themselves a reputation for the kind of shows they perform. One may become known for its original and expensively costumed pantomimes, another will produce hilarious comedies, while a third is known for its youth element.

    The audience you attract will depend on your group’s reputation. The pantomime group will likely attract a family audience, the comedy group’s audience will be mainly over 30s, and the audience of the third group will have a large contingent of parents who have come along to watch their offspring perform.

    When you consider a script, ask yourself whether it will appeal to your current audience? If the answer is yes, then as long as you publicise your show well, you’re in with a good chance of selling lots of tickets.

    If the answer is no, however,

  • Is this intentional? Are you purposely trying something new that may not appeal to your usual audience? If this is the case, then how are you going to grab the attention of that new audience?
  • If you want to hang onto your usual audience, and the play won’t appeal to them, then maybe you should consider another play instead, or at least be aware of the possibility that you may not get the audience numbers you usually attract.
  • 8. Will it appeal to your group members?

    There’s no sense in your committee or chairperson choosing a script if there’s no interest amongst your members to perform it.

    Ask your group, as a whole, what kind of show they’d like to perform. They may even have some specific shows they’re interested in.

    Are there roles they’d like to try their hands at that are new to them? Your usual heroic lead may prefer to take on a comic role, or that chorus member who has always been in the background might want to step up for a more major part this time around.

    Who was left out of the last production? Could you choose a play that would provide a role for them this time round? There’s nothing worse than enthusiastically joining an am dram group and never getting a part.

    9. Worst case scenario – if you don’t make much (or any) profit from this production, can you afford the next?

    With the best publicity, talent, support and resources in the world, sometimes a play just doesn’t appeal to its audience. Take-up of tickets is disappointing and there are more seats than bums.

    Sometimes, it isn’t down to any lack of support. It could be due to illness, withdrawal of venue or even something as unexpected as a snow storm.

    Whatever the reason is, if your production doesn’t make a profit, can your group survive? Do you have sufficient savings to stage your next show? Or could you fundraise in some way?

    It’s never nice to consider failure but ensuring you have sufficient funds to weather that storm can make the difference between a continuing group and one that comes to an end.

    How to choose your next production – Part 1

    10th January 2018

    Whether it’s a play you’re after, a musical or a revue, choosing what to perform next can leave the most experienced of amateur dramatics groups in a bit of a quandary. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

    With a handful of forward planning, a pinch of foresight, and a large dollop of enthusiasm, you can easily cook up the perfect recipe for a profitable production.

    1. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty – what can you afford?

    I know. You don’t want to think about something as mundane as money because this is a hobby, an interest, and a passion.

    Unfortunately, for any amateur dramatics group to have a future, it has to balance the books just as well as any business.

    So, let’s break this down:

  • Script fees and royalties – having staged productions before this, you’ll already have an idea what these may cost. What can you afford to spend? What will you be able to recoup by charging involved members for scripts?
  • Tickets – taking into account ticket prices, the audience size in your venue and how many performances you want to hold, what are you likely to make on ticket sales?
  • Other income – this could be drinks and refreshments on the night, raffle takings, or sponsorships. Don’t forget to bear in mind how much any of these may cost to set up.
  • Resources – how much could you afford to spend on costume hire and new materials?
  • Other outgoings – rehearsal space hire, printing costs, etc.
  • Fundraising – if you find that what you can afford is too limiting, then is it possible to raise extra funds?
  • A lot of these costings will of course be estimated and based on past productions, but having an idea of these figures before you go in search of a script can save you from purchasing one that leaves you out of pocket.

    2. Stage, Furniture, Props & Costumes

    Many productions, in fact most to be fair, can be adapted to different stages. This isn’t always the case though. For instance, fitting a musical cast of twenty-four onto a small six by six foot stage is never going to work.

    When considering a script, always work out whether your stage will accommodate it.

    Amateur dramatics groups vary greatly on the stocks they keep of furniture and props. Some may have on-site storage, while others rent space. Some groups beg space in the attics and garages of their members. Then again, there are groups who operate with very little furniture and props, hiring what they need or borrowing from members’ homes.

    What furniture and props does a script require? Do you have these already? Could you borrow them? Would you have to spend money on hiring or purchasing them? If you’re adding to your stock, do you have the storage space for it in the run up to the show and afterwards. Is it something you are likely to use again? Could old props be adapted?

    The same goes for costumes. Many groups will hold a stock of costumes that can be re-used or adapted. Other groups will hire their costumes. A present day script may simply require cast members to use their own clothes.

    What does your chosen script need? Is it a period piece? Does it require military uniforms or specialist items such as a gorilla suit? How much will it cost to dress your cast?

    3. Cast

    This might seem a little obvious but never assume that groups members will be available for your next production.

    Even the most enthusiastic actor or stage manager can have work obligations. Then, there are holidays and, on occasion, weddings.

    Always ask your members before arranging a production to make sure you have an actual cast and off-stage support. There’s no sense in purchasing a script if you can’t cast it.

    4. Author

    It may seem the obvious thing to trawl the catalogues of Sam French or one of the other major suppliers of scripts to find your next play, but there are other options too.

    A quick search of the internet will throw up an immense number of reputable playwrights who may prove less expensive and would be willing to discuss their scripts with you, the possibility of adaptations, for instance, or alternative castings.

    Do you have any local playwrights you could use? This could provide an excellent way to build a story for the local press. In addition to inviting them to your show, you could even have them advise throughout your rehearsal period.

    Finally, do you have a budding playwright in your group already? More and more amateur theatre groups are creating their own scripts. The benefit of recruiting one of your members to write a play for you is that they can create it around your group, your resources and your venue. You could even create sections of the play in a series of workshops, involving your actors in creating their characters.

    Watch out for Part 2 of this article next week.

    We’re back!

    3rd January 2018

    We’ve dusted off our keyboards after the festive break and opened up shop for 2018.

    There’ll be another new play this year, more customer productions, and plenty of advice here on our blog.

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    Happy new year to you all. Here’s to 2018.