One for the Master, One for the Dame, One for the Little Boy… — Choosing plays that will sell tickets and build reputation.

Choosing the plays to include in a season is one of the most important steps a company can take toward profitability. A wrong step in this process will cost you – sometimes it costs a LOT! Whatever you choose, your reputation is dependent on turning out a production with the highest quality you can offer. So, what should you consider when you’re hip deep in scripts and trying to choose those 4 or 5 or 6 perfect shows?

Every company has its own process, and the process of choosing matters less than the strategic analysis that comes before the decision about titles and talent.  The first step should always be to reflect on the focus of the company. If you have a Mission Statement this is the time to dust it off and look it over. If your focus is on Children’s Theatre, then producing Long Day’s Journey into Night is a bad idea! Do you have a mission to provide first-time opportunities for new actors or community members? If so, avoid shows that require talent on a par with Dustin Hoffman and Patti Lupone – chances are that Dustin and Patti don’t live in your town. Be realistic about the talent level you have available to work with.

The next thing to consider is your facilities. If you’ve got an “intimate” space choosing a show that requires a two-story set is probably a bad idea. Choose a show with set requirements that suit your space. You’ve still got hundreds of titles to choose from.

As long as we’re being realistic about limitations, what are your existing resources – in terms of technical talent, existing set pieces, costumes and technology? When considering a script, be aware of the requirements and whether you’ll need to build or rent additional elements in order to achieve the effect needed. Do you have the skills, talents and finances necessary to supply the physical requirements?

Now that you’ve assessed your company’s mission and resources you can get down to deciding on whether to offer comedy, drama, historicals, classics or new works. Remember to offer a variety of stories and you’ll appeal to a wider audience.  Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something your company can do well. Good enough rarely is, and nobody wants to be told their show was, “Pretty good, for amateurs!”

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Katie Strickland

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