Bottom line: Theatre Business is like any other business and requires business knowledge.

Here's what we have to take care of, know how to do, or hire others to do for us:
  • Advertise and Market (and we're the salespeople as well)
  • Website (essential, at least for us; most people find us on the internet before they call)
  • Bookkeeping & Tax returns
  • Contracts & Invoices
  • Hire Sub-contractors
  • Order supplies
  • Network
  • Social Media (could be chunked in with Marketing but it's such a big entity)
  • Planning & Implementing
  • Donations
  • Manufacture (for us, we have to create props, costumes and set pieces)
  • Shipping & Delivery (for us, that means we have to load up said props, costumes, and set pieces to "deliver" a performance)
  • Education (learn new skills to be able to provide what the customer wants or to stay abreast of new developments in our field)
Sure we get to be creative in our business but we also must spend time being extremely organized. Just a heads up: sometimes that's difficult--but it must be done. We should also mention special skill #1: BE ORGANIZED

So, if you're thinking of going into business for yourself--any kind of business--we would highly recommend you take a few classes from your local Small Business Development Center. You might also find workshops offered through your Chamber of Commerce, and help through SCORE.

Business...what an adventure!



 
 
It was a tech rehearsal yesterday. You know how that goes. But the theatre manager said something complimentary that I want to share: "Wow, I can really hear your kids; they project so well."

I hear this a lot after my productions. It's happened for years.
2004 (Yes, that really was the year): "I could hear your cast!" (and that was a real quote from a parent who sounded relieved that projection actually happened).
2009 (that is an approximation): "We watched you rehearse outside and wondered why you were making them brave the heat but when your show went on, we could hear them!" (from the costumers)

I'm amazed that they all sound so amazed. It finally dawned on me that perhaps they are so pleased because it doesn't happen as often as it should.

Projection is basic. If an audience cannot hear the performer, no matter how wonderful the acting, there's no reason to have an audience. None. If the person in the back row cannot hear the performers, why come? If it happens often with your group, audience members may stop coming. I did, until the group finally got a theatre with better acoustics. Even so, I still try to sit up front.

Directors, please be vigilant during the rehearsal process and get your cast to project. Performers, more often you aren't as loud as you think--be louder.

Do not rehearse in small spaces if your performance space is huge.
Rehearse outside if you'll be performing outdoors.
Why?
Because sound bounces off walls and in small spaces performers sound loud. They think they're loud enough. They practice being loud for that space and when you switch over, they will be as loud as they were in the small room, which won't cut it for the larger venue. If you must rehearse in a small room, then rattle the windows with your voice. Don't let the performers sound normal. Eventually, as the director, you need to sit in the back row and listen, allowing yourself to let go of the script you know and try to hear and understand the lines from an audience's viewpoint, an audience who hasn't heard the script 100 times yet.

If you are a speaker and you have a choice of using a microphone or projecting, use the microphone unless you KNOW that you can project to the back of the room. And when I saw "you KNOW" I mean you've rehearsed with someone in the back row listening and can verify you can be heard.

If you're directing/producing a play, do not depend on microphones. The moment your cast thinks there will be microphones hanging down from the ceiling, they get too quiet for the mics to pick them up. Or if individuals will be mic-ed, then the show sounds unbalanced because those not mic-ed don't seem loud enough by comparison. Besides, I've never met a mic that doesn't go through technical difficulties. Forget it. Get the cast to project, unless you're on Broadway or in DisneyLand/World.

Projection cannot be neglected. To reiterate, if the cast can't be heard, why bother coming? So get back to the basics and project. Your audiences, present and future, will appreciate it.

 
 
The biggest problem with shows such as American Idol and America's Got Talent is the increase of criticism for others' efforts. Somehow these shows have made us experts on talent and heartless in where we bestow our praise. Not every stage has cameras pointed at it. Nor should it.

Local talent shows at fairs, schools and community events are not for audiences to boo but applaud. It takes effort and courage to get in front of people and unless a performer gets up there only to be rude to the audience then the correct behavior after a performance is to applaud. If you weren't thrilled with the performance, applaud lightly. If the performer took your breath away, give that talented person a standing ovation. But no x's. No even thinking about it. Enjoy it for what it is; don't compare it to Hollywood or Broadway.

And for those of you who put yourself on stages in your local areas, Thank you! Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there like that so the rest of us--who don't live in LA or NYC--have live performances to enjoy!
 
 
ONE: Practice. Practice to the point you almost don't have to look at your notes. Practice looking up. Practice pushing the advance for your next slide. Practice walking to the front of the room. Practice smiling. Yes, you must practice all the details that you want to happen because once there's someone watching, everything tries to go wrong. Not everything will but nerves get in the way. Just so you know, those who do improvisation, practice. Oh, they can't rehearse every thing an audience might throw at them but they practice the games over and over. It takes a lot of practice to act natural.

TWO: Pretend you're not scared. Or nervous. If it makes you feel any better, we get nervous right before EVERY show. Every show! You'd think we'd get used to it. Yes and no. We get used to being nervous! But we don't let it stop us. Don't let fear stop you either. Make sure you practice a lot, then pretend you're not scared. After you're done and no one is around to see you, then you can sigh, wipe the smile off your face, and empty your stomach if you have to.

Break a leg!
 
 
One library system lists a number of movies based on books: http://www.mymcpl.org/cfapps/botb/movie.cfm

We tried to think up what movies weren't based on books and for the most part we couldn't come up with too many. It's interesting that some of the best movies were books first--The Help, Sherlock Holmes, Hugo, The Three Musketeers. And how many times has the BBC put out another Jane Austen movie?

Many of our children's plays are based on stories. Tomorrow, we perform one of the first interactive children's show we came up with--Princess on a Pea. We used Chris's class of third graders to test it on. The next day one of his students found the story in the basal reader and the wide-eyed girl asked if she could read it. Chris was happy to let her. When we perform for children, we like to show them books that go along with the show.

We love this Einstein quote: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Would it work for us adults as well; could we get more intelligent, too? Nice!

The Salem Public Library starts their No Screen Week challenge starting tomorrow. It may be to encourage kids to read more but adults could have a great week by joining in. (http://www.cityofsalem.net/Departments/Library/EventsAndPrograms/children/Pages/childrensactivities.aspx)

So, as we like to tell our young audiences at the beginning of our shows: we encourage you to read and "play."
 
 
For the past month and a half, our calendar has been full of performing Paul Bunyan in the area schools (thanks to the sponsorship of the Assistance League of Salem). You can't have as many shows as we've had and not come away with at least one incredible story.

At the beginning of a show, Chris picked a young man to play Babe the Blue Ox. Throughout the play, Babe came to the front and helped Paul (Chris) move the buildings, straighten a road, carry trees, and make the six Mississippi Rivers one "big, powerful river." After each feat, Val Do-It (Marian) led the audience in a cheer for Babe the Blue Ox.

After the show, two teachers let us know that the young man is in foster care, that he is bullied sometimes at school. But that day he was in front of everyone being cheered; and those around him would pat his back in congratulations every time he went back to his spot to sit down. "Life-changing" is how one of the teachers put it. A forty-five minute show. Life changing. It's the simple things that make a difference. It makes our struggles as a  small for-profit theatre company worth it.

Has there been that moment in time in which a simple thing made a difference for you?
 

BLUNDER!

12/05/2011

0 Comments

 
Because we just realized an error we made concerning our upcoming Double Play Saturday, we can't help but think about making mistakes.

It's not quite as deadly as one might think--Embarrassing, Costly, Time consuming but not deadly.

In live theatre, something ALWAYS goes...well, maybe it's just not right. You could say that something went wrong but sometimes it isn't as bad as "wrong" more than it's not quite "right," or at least not what was expected.

When I direct kids, I always warn them, "Something will go wrong. Deal with it and KEEP GOING." One year, part of the scenery fell over. The kids picked it up, and picked up their lines and kept going. Another year, we had a cast member not show up, so the other kids divided her lines among them and kept going. At an outdoor performance, the scenery started blowing away and my 9 year old actress leaned over and caught it while she was saying her lines. It was brilliant.

So rather than not doing something because you might get it wrong, just take the blunder (apologize where needed) and keep going.

By the way, our Double Play Saturday for December is on the 17th not what was previously posted on Cwerks stuff.
 
 
If you teach theatre at a middle school and you tell people you teach "Middle School Drama," would they think you're being redundant?

(quote from a theatre friend)
 
 
Since speculation on Shakespeare is all the rage (case in point, the movie Anonymous), we'd like to join in the fun of speculation. We'd like to put out there that Shakespeare cut Shakespeare, and we don't mean he cut his body. We mean he cut his own plays.

His plays are loooong. Directing a full production takes forever; children could be born during such a process. Sitting through the uncut versions also takes forever (we're exaggerating ever so slightly). Did people during Shakespeare's time actually have better attention spans? Maybe they just had better seats and could nap during the soliloquies that just go on and on and on...and on. Well, people with box seats had better seats, but many others were just standing on the main floor. Surely, William would not want to be upstaged by someone dropping to the floor during his shows.

Our dear Will was a performer-director, too. If it's one thing directors and performers don't want, it's to put their audience to sleep. Audiences who don't like what you're doing don't return to the next production. That could mean a serious loss of money. So, perhaps Willie, to keep the masses happy, cut his own shows. In fact, (here's a tiny bit of research coming; not sure about the reliability of the source) according to Wikipedia "The "two hours' traffic" mentioned in the prologue to Romeo and Juliet was not fanciful; the city government's hostility meant that performances were officially limited to that length of time. Though it is not known how seriously companies took such injunctions, it seems likely either that plays were performed at near-breakneck speed or that the play-texts now extant were cut for performance, or both."

We must digress: watching Shakespeare at breakneck speed is hilarious. Probably shouldn't be done with the tragedies.

To summarize the reasons we conclude Shakespeare cut his own plays:
1. He would not want his audiences sleeping, and therefore not returning.
2. Nor would he want to be upstaged by anyone in the audience snoring.
3. Wikipedia says the plays had to be kept at two hours.
4. Performers could seriously mess up the lines for such long and rhythmical productions.

Disclaimer: This article had almost no official research. It, like many of the other articles found on the web, might have a bit of truth to it. Maybe not. And just for the record, we enjoy Shakespeare.

P.S.
If you're looking for shortened Shakespeare, Learning Links has them in various cuts for children grades 1-12 to perform. If you or your children just want to know what the heck the story lines are in Shakespeare plays, head over to Amazon and look up "Tales from Shakespeare." There are numerous books that create stories out of the plays. Once you look up the titles of the books, you can head over to your local bookstore and get those or similar books--you know, keep the local economy growing.
 
 
Face painting dangerous? Could it be the ink? Maybe it's because the marker is pointed? Not at all. It's dangerous when you let a group of Clown students loose to color designs on each others' arms!

Read more about it in On the Child Side: Theatre Anecdotes involving Children.