Producing your own play

June 18, 2019
Bob Eckhard

A few weeks ago, while on an online chatroom, I was asked about the logistics of putting on my play. Now, as my answer on Facebook was rather longer than the small text box would allow, I inadvertently ended up writing a blog – see below for the insight into how I produced my first play.

To start with, what was in my favour was I had a script that was good to go. I also felt confident it would be well received…so asking friends about local theatres, I settled on one in West London which was a review theatre with many shows/acts going on from there to the West End.

Initially, the plan was to put on the show for two weeks in the Summer but I ended up rescheduling it for Jan – long story. With £1200 deposit paid  for putting on the show for one week,  we planned and scheduled two weeks as this enabled us to have 10 shows with greater opportunity for ticket sales.

Next, I auditioned for cast. The theatre kindly offered me their stage space for free over the 2 days we auditioned. Previous to this, acting on advice, I found a director to assist me as I was chiefly production and doing both was not viable.

Asking actor friends, they advised me about others who might be interested in the play and a week later we auditioned and secured 70% of our cast in 2 days. The majority in place, I adapted a template of a theatre contract from a friend and sent it out to actors then hired some rooms for rehearsal – though word for the wise, renting can be expensive and table reads at the start might be cheaper in someone’s living room than a large space you are paying for. Prior to this I joined BECTU and through them purchased insurance cover for myself, actors and public liability

Five days of rehearsals began in earnest before Christmas then 5 more days after that in the New Year leading up into first day at theatre. Prior to this I asked some friends to design and construct a living room set in such a way that it could be transported and built on stage at the theatre. The sound and lighting person was sorted before Christmas and I went around charity shops and back to a previous Church to borrow vestments, coats, jackets and shirts which a seamstress friend adapted into clerical shirts. I’d love to say it ended there but producing a play is a full-on roller-coaster ride with one or more problems arising every day that always needed to be sorted .

As I was new to all of this, I was a bit slow at getting the publicity for it sorted and so we missed the opportunity for a review night with our large (A0 and A1) posters and flyers not arriving until 3 to 4 shows in. That said, the play was enough of a success for the theatre to offer us an extended run ‘due to popular demand’ – but also because another play cancelled –  which gave me the chance to make amends by ensuring cast list, posters, flyers (with new dates)  arrived in time for the first night.

In summary, putting on a play was and is a great experience and although it took a lot of hard work, it is very rewarding for everyone involved. Actors got work, credits and honorarium payments: I got stage writing and production credits as well as a huge amounbt of experience; directors and artists got credited; other actors got a chance to be a part of it as they replaced others who were not available for the extended run; and the theatre got a successful four week show; and a whole lot of people were entertained and went away happy.

Bob

ps To show I haven’t been deterred by the experience, I’m currently getting ready to audition and rehearse my next play ‘The Lost World of Malcolm Ridge’ which will run at the Tabard Theatre (Chiswick) from Monday 15th to Sunday 20th July. Hope to see some of you there!

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