WHICH PLAY IS THE THING?
WHETHER YOU’RE AN ACTOR, director or playwright with a couple of scripts to choose from—select the play that is most likely to achieve your desired ends. Is it to get an agent? Is it to get good reviews, move your show to a larger venue or develop a Google presence? It’s worth considering before you leap forth with your 120 page, 20 character drama about torture in the Roman Empire.
Actress/Producer/Director Deidra Edwards was smart when she decided to self-produce, casting herself in Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig. She was right for the role and she selected a play/playwright with a following. People came and the show, as well as Deidre, succeeded. It may not be as easy with an unknown playwright.
Once you decide to self-produce—unless you’re writing, performing, directing, doing your own costumes, lighting design, publicity, ticketing and set-construction, etc.—you’ll need other people. It’s actually one of the best things about putting on a show—the collaboration. So in choosing what to produce, consider the play that will attract a director, actors, co-producers, and designers. This is especially true if you are not part of a theatre company that comes with a built in support network. So pick the play people want to be a part of that others will want to see.
My own goal in self-producing was to restart my career after I abandoned my early successes to raise a son. I also wanted to give myself something to think about instead of the empty nest. In retrospect, these goals weren’t enough and were driven more by emotion than any sort of business sense. Of the two plays I thought were ready, one was a four-character dramedy about an Apollo astronaut with Alzheimer’s Disease (but really, it’s funny!) and the other, a ten-character murder-mystery/farce called Villa Thrilla. Two very different shows that would speak to very different audiences. To help me decide, I consulted friends, fellow playwrights and others in the industry and it was generally agreed that without a known actor starring as the astronaut, the astronaut play would be the harder sell. It would be difficult to put an uplifting positive spin on the story so that people would come see an unknown, in a play by an unknown. So I went with the farce, which was beset with its own set of hurdles: a cast of ten and more expensive set, which in turn required a larger theatre, which would cost more.
Looking back, with the issues we faced, I wish I’d chosen the show with the smaller cast. And speaking of coin, the next two posts will be about getting the money together to pay for your show.