How to keep down the costs of your murder mystery event

7th April 2018

As the born entertainers and seasoned performers that you are, the show is of course the thing. When you present your murder mystery event, you want to put on the best production possible for your audience, leaving them hungry for more. That’s the priority.

Or is it?

Isn’t the whole idea of holding a murder mystery fundraiser to, well, raise funds?

I’m not saying that profit should be your sole priority but it’s certainly up there with wanting to entertain your audience.

So how exactly do you keep down the costs on your theatrical whodunnit?

Rehearsal Costs

Don’t go to the expense of hiring space to rehearse in, at least not at the beginning.

Meeting up at someone’s house to rehearse is perfectly acceptable. Initially, you’ll be reading through lines and running practice question times so sitting in the lounge of your director or one of the cast will suit fine.

Even when you get to the stage of walk-throughs and mapping out the set, this can be done in someone’s home if they have a large enough space. If the weather is nice, move the rehearsal out to the garden or a local park.

If you’re running rehearsals for another production at the same time as your murder mystery, you could always beg a corner of that space to run through your rehearsals in.

Costumes

The first stop for sourcing costumes for your murder mystery is with your cast. Do they have clothes of their own that would suit? Unless the play is set in the past (and sometimes even if it is), your cast can probably provide their own costume, or even lend clothes to each other.

What about the group’s existing wardrobe? Is there anything there you could use or adapt?

Finally, hit the charity shops for items that might suit as they are or that can be altered.

The Set

I wrote about this back in December in Setting the Scene for half the cost (or less).

Have a look.

Publicity

You probably already utilise a lot of free and low-cost publicity for your shows but here are a few ways we’ve used in the past to limit publicity costs.

  • Website and social media – wherever you have an online presence, publicise your show, including posting teasers in the run up to the murder mystery event.
  • Local press and radio – utilise your usual media contacts from the local paper and radio station.
  • Mailing list – if your group has an email mailing list, then send out emails to all your contacts. If your group sends out flyers and letters in the post to your mailing list, then do that, but remember to limit the cost of producing any flyer or letter. Use second class postage unless you can do deliver by hand.
  • Local shops, pubs and offices – ask them to pin a flyer on their notice board.
  • Show programmes – mention the upcoming murder mystery in the programmes of the previous show.

Printing

The first big tip is to keep everything you print – tickets, programmes, flyers – simple black print. There’s no need for colour images or lettering. Keep it simple.

Do you need the normal format programme (a folded piece of A5 or A4)? Could you simplify with a single sided piece of A5 or A6?

Does one of your group members have a printer that you could use? Provide the paper (which could just be plain white paper if your black design is striking enough) and give them some money towards the printer ink.

Don’t print out more than you need, of anything. For instance, one clue sheet or deduction sheet per audience team should suffice. If possible and the cost of ink isn’t too expensive, have a printer with you on the night to print anything extra you need, or better still would be to have access to a photocopier on site.

If you can get away without a printed out poster, and just rely on online posters and printed out flyers, then go with that plan. Printed flyers are cheaper by far.

Balance the cost of printing against photocopying.

Does anything really need to be on A4? Generally, A5 or smaller will be fine.

Prizes

Don’t go mad on winner prizes. Keep it simple – chocolates or wine, for instance – and keep the cost down by using your local cash and carry, taking advantage of offers in your local supermarkets or buying from pound stores where everything costs £1 or less.

Ask your involved group members to provide something for a raffle. Remember, several small items can be bundled up into a larger prize.

Finally, offer advertising in your programme and publicity (any related news articles, for instance) to local businesses in return for prizes.

Refreshments

You may choose to offer a bar, or a cold buffet, or even a three-course meal, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune.

Having a bar, or even a non-alcoholic coffee and tea offering, can bring in a tidy profit. People like an excuse to stretch their legs, and this is a night out after all so your audience will want to treat themselves to a drink of some kind.

Your local cash and carry is always a good place to buy the basics in bulk and thereby at a cheaper price.

Ask your members to provide at least part of your food and drink offerings.

Use any stock you have left over from past shows such as paper plates and bottles of water.

Again, offer advertising in your programme and publicity to local businesses in return for food and drink.

Finally, don’t go overboard on the amount of food you offer as part of your buffet. Cost it all against the price of a ticket. You don’t want to spend £20 on food per head and only charge £10 per head for a ticket.

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Here’s to an enjoyable, popular and profitable fundraiser. Good luck.

7 ways amateur dramatics groups can use social media

24th March 2018

Your group probably already has a Facebook page, maybe a Facebook group, a Twitter account and possibly posts on Instagram too, but unless you have a plan for your social media offerings, they can simply go unnoticed.

Knowing what job you want each post to do will affect the wording and images you include, and possibly the social media platform you use too.

1. Promote your shows

This is the most obvious way that your group will use social media. So how exactly do you advertise your next show?

You want to build up anticipation for your show so start promoting your show with social media posts a couple of months beforehand.

Visuals always work well on social media so posting a copy of your poster is an ideal way to catch your audience’s eye, plus if you have your show details (dates, venue, box office) on your poster, you’ll be advertising those too without the reader having to put in the effort of searching out all the details.

On your group Facebook page, create an event page for your show and make sure you include your box office details so your audience knows where to buy tickets.

Post teasers, like rehearsal shots and videos, photos of costumes (not necessarily a full costume, maybe just a wig or a pair of distinctive shoes with the words “who wears shoes like this?” for instance), images of your set build and anything else that hints at what your audience will see in your show.

Change the banners on all your social media sites to promote your show, ideally with dates, venue and box office details.

Create a hashtag for your show, #cinderella or #aninspectorcalls, and use it whenever you promote your show on social media.

2. Stay in touch with your members

One of the best ways to stay in touch with your members and maintain a level of privacy is to create a group on Facebook.

If privacy isn’t an issue, then encourage your members to follow your social media accounts for news and announcements. Find out which social media sites they prefer – Facebook, Twitter, etc – to make sure that you’re reaching them all.

3. Stay in touch with your audience

If you have an audience mailing list, then you can send out regular newsletters to announce your news and shows but for audience members who haven’t subscribed to your mailing list, the best way to grab their attention is on social media.

Tell them about your shows and any fundraising events you’re holding. Share group news, such as awards. Run competitions for them to win free show tickets. Ask them questions to encourage engagement (always a good thing in the eyes of social media algorithms). Most important of all, encourage them to share your posts.

4. Find new members

Need a new pantomime dame or backstage crew member? Put it out on social media. Better still, link it to your show with your hashtag.

5. Get more bums on seats

If you want to grow your audience, you can either move your social media offerings to a different social network where you think those prospective audience members might be, or target the specific audience you want to reach through social media tools and hashtags. You could also ask your current audience to spread the word.

6. Connect with sponsors and suppliers

Have you been offered sponsorship, prizes or some other form of supplies for your upcoming show? Let your social media audience know by thanking the kind individual or company on your social media accounts. If it’s a company, don’t forget to link to their website or social media account as part of your post. You could even ask them to share the post, publicity for you both, win-win.

7. Bring traffic to your website

Finally, don’t forget to mention your website on your social media accounts and in your posts. Social media is wonderful but you always have to play by their rules. You control what appears on your website, your own little slice of the internet, so your social media presence should always point back to your website.

When we speak about social media, the networks that come to mind first are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but there are other useful networks too.

YouTube is incredibly popular (hence why Facebook is so keen to promote their Facebook Live) and can easily be linked to or embedded in your website and social media.

There’s also Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr.

Tailor your posts for each social network, for instance, image sizes and the amount of words you have to play with.

Create eyecatching images that are easy to share and marked with your group’s name and website or social media.

Research where the audience for your posts are and use that social network.

Keep up to date with the rules of each social network you use, the changes to the Facebook algorithm, for instance, that have limited organic growth for pages, and the subsequent changes that will take effect on Instagram.

The wonderful thing about using social media to promote your shows and stay in touch with your audience is that it doesn’t cost anything (unless you decide to use paid for adverts) and who doesn’t like free publicity?

Too early to plan for a Halloween murder mystery?

16th March 2018

I know, I know, the weather hasn’t even turn spring-like yet but planning your autumn production now leaves you with plenty of time to get things organised.

So, getting back to my original question, is it too early to plan for a Halloween murder mystery? I say, “No!” and here’s how we can help.

We have two plays that would be ideal for a spooky whodunnit, Waxworks of Horror and Bride and Doom. Both are set in a waxworks museum that is reluctantly staffed by a handful of unlikely characters (there’s a vampire, a zombie…).

Get in touch to order a reading copy today.