How to Successfully Put on a Theatre Play

Terry Rosoman | Posted on Wed 5 June 2019 at 10.44AM
Categories: Tips

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With over 32,000 theatre performances on our platform last year, TicketSource knows how to successfully put on a play. We’ve gathered our top tips to help you plan a production in style and on budget.

Successfully putting on a play takes a lot of time, effort and organising. Whether you’re planning a pantomime, a musical, a children’s show or a traditional theatre play, there are many individual elements behind the scenes which need to be considered in order to plan and organise a play efficiently.

‘How to put on a play?’ is a question we regularly get asked by our theatre enthusiast clients who are looking to plan an exceptional event. As we helped our clients to sell over 100,000 tickets to over 32,000 theatre performances on our ticket selling platform last year, we thought we’d pull together some of our top tips to organise a play on a limited budget.

From the planning stage to the practical stage, and execution to the promotion, this comprehensive list of hints and tips will help you to easily put on a play without a hefty budget.

1. Choose your script

It doesn’t matter what genre you want your production to be - the first step should always be to choose your script. The script will be the complete foundation for your play, and should be the first place to start every time.

Your script will help you to pick your cast based on the characters within the text. A good script will inspire your team of volunteers and/or helpers to be passionate about your production. Your script will inspire your staging and your costume, and once you’ve decided on which script your team will be performing, all consequent stages of planning can begin.

It’s important to note that if you’re planning a musical play, you may need to buy the score, or alternatively, compose it yourself. It’s always worth starting with your local library to see which plays are available for free to help keep budgets to a minimum. Some of the best plays in the world were written over 100 years ago - why not reinvent them with a fresh perspective?

Alternatively, you may need to buy the rights to your play. In order to do this, look up its publishing house and contact them to ask for a quote for their royalty fee.

2. Assemble your production team

As with planning any good event, it’s important that you have a good team on your side in order for things to run smoothly. When organising a play, this is particularly important, because there will be so many different elements which need to come together in order to make your performance work.

Whether you have a budget to pay your team or you’re simply relying on the good nature of volunteers, you’ll need to consider having a team that can help to create a set, plan costumes and sort props. You’ll also need members of your team who can help to support rehearsals, to help with any lighting and sound production required, to sell tickets and to help you promote your event.

A good start is to try partnering with local schools or colleges to acquire parent or student volunteers to help you bring your passion to life.

3. Find a venue

While this might seem a little obvious, you can’t put on a play without a suitable venue, and it’s at this stage of your production and planning that you should secure a place to put on your performance.

Your chosen venue will determine your staging and production based on the layout of the venue, and it’s vital to ensure that all staff and cast members can access the venue easily. It’s also important to consider what type of space you’ll have for your cast as a ‘backstage’ area.

When picking the location for your play, be sure to consider things like parking availability, ease of access, amenities (are there enough bathrooms and space to sell refreshments?) and whether or not there is good public transport access.

4. Secure funding where possible

When on a limited budget, it can be tricky to pull off a successful play production. Not impossible by any means of course, but if you can secure some funding it will allow you a little more flexibility with your planning.

Consider contacting local businesses to see if they’d like to sponsor your production. You could print a copy of their logo in your production programme as a promotion in exchange for their financial backing.

Any financial backing that you may acquire should be distributed where you see fit - but consider a proportion of your budget for costume or set design, as well as for effective promotion. When using an online ticket-selling platform, like TicketSource, there are a number of built-in promotion tools that can help you attract prospective customers for your event.

5. Host auditions

Now it’s time to assemble your talent. To do this, you’ll need to put out a casting call which details the variety of different characters you’re hosting for. Alternatively, if you want to host an open audition and to then determine the casting yourself, be sure to specify this.

Create a poster or an advertisement which clearly specifies what the play will be, where it will be held and what you’re looking for. It’s also imperative to include how one would attend an audition - will they need to prepare a song? A monologue? A dance routine? This information should be presented front and centre in the casting call.

It’s important to promote your auditions to ensure that sufficient talent turns up to fulfil your play, while leaving your contact details on the casting call can be beneficial for anyone who may have questions about the production which you can answer.

Consider all the free locations you can promote the auditions - can local businesses hand out flyers? Can you get permission to put up posters in your local area? Can you reach out to the drama departments of any schools? The more people who catch wind of your auditions, the more likely it is that you’ll find a stellar cast.

6. Select your cast

Unsurprisingly, the next stage of planning and organising a play needs to be picking your cast. Hopefully, having held auditions, this should be a relatively straightforward process.

Start by filling your main roles and work your way down to the chorus, and be sure to let all your cast know in a timely manner so that you can begin rehearsals in good time to put on a fantastic play that you can all be proud of.

Be sure to take any contact details so that you can call the successful auditionees, and consider that you might have to read lines during the audition.

7. Create a production timeline

It’s important at this stage to outline a production timeline to ensure that all elements of the play can come together on time. Once rehearsals begin, it can be extremely exciting and time can run away with you, so start with a list of everything that needs to be achieved before the play can be performed.

Consider things like costumes, set, lighting and sound, event promotion and ticket sales.

Draft a timeline which includes deadlines for every element that you need to come together, alongside your rehearsals as they move forward. It’s also important to note that your rehearsals will need to gradually increase as you get closer to the date of production, as well as including a dress rehearsal and a technical run-through too.

8. Sort your rehearsal space

While you had previously secured your production space so that you know exactly where your performance will be held, it’s also necessary to have a rehearsal space sorted so that your cast can come together and practice as often as you’ve set out in your production timeline.

As opposed to your performance venue, your rehearsal space doesn’t need to be as particular. You need a space which is has a comfortable capacity for your actors, have reasonable amenities and be easily accessible.

Typical rehearsal spaces can be school halls, in libraries or local vacant rooms. It’s worth compromising on space for something a little more budget-friendly or in best case scenario free, so scout around and find an option which ticks all the boxes and allows you to practice regularly.

9. Secure liability insurance

Liability insurance might not be something you had thought about until now, but in order to put on a production it’s something that you need to put in place. Some venues can handle public liability insurance on your behalf, while others cannot. Theatrical public liability insurance can cover the cost and protect you or the venue from paying out of pocket should any cast or audience members become accidentally injured.

10. Plan your props, costumes and set design

Whether your play is an all-singing and all-dancing production with multiple costume changes and changing set designs, or alternatively something a little more simple on a smaller scale, it’s still important at this stage of your planning process to ensure that you dedicate sufficient time and resource to plan your props, costumes and set design.

By this stage, you will be in the swing of rehearsing your play, which means those in charge of set, props and costume design will have a good idea of what is required.
Visit your performance venue to assess the space and begin designing and sourcing your costumes, props and sets.

Run through your props list with your actors to ensure they are familiar with how the play will pan out and what is required of them.

11. Promote your play

Thanks to TicketSource, promoting your play is the easy part. When you add your event to TicketSource, not only can you directly sell tickets to your prospective audience through our innovative platform, but you will have access to an exclusive selection of complementary tools that will help to spread the word.

Enjoy exciting features such as adding discount codes on an ‘early bird’ ticket releases, and sending promotional emails to your mailing list with TicketSource’s MailChimp integration.

TicketSource will also automatically send your play on a host of third-party event listing websites for their consideration, increasing your reach and carrying the heavy load of promotion so that you can focus on bringing your play to life.

You can enjoy seamless integration with social media channels so that you can promote your event and engage with your prospective audience through a number of different social channels.

While TicketSource has you covered for online promotion, it’s also necessary to create an offline promotion plan to attract attention in your local area. Contact local businesses, schools and establishments and ask them to share news of your play with their customers and clients. Create posters or hand-outs to distribute around your local area.

Ask local libraries, schools and clubs to share news of your event, and be sure to ask your cast and crew to promote the event amongst their friends and families too.

Read more: Why TicketSource is a fantastic FREE EventBrite alternative

12. Practice

Now you’ve put the groundwork in and the preparation is in place, there’s nothing left to do but practice.

Providing ample opportunity for feedback, growth and development will ensure that your cast are performing their best on the big day.

Practice as often as you can and be sure to enjoy the fruits of your labour on performance night.

Start promoting your play with ease thanks to our innovative event promotion platform, TicketSource. Simply sign up and create your event to begin attractive prospective ticket sales in a matter of minutes! 

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