Perhaps you are a “chosen one” that has been selected to perform a task unlike any other. A task that seems to dwarf all others in size. A task that sounds fun and rewarding, and one that people will take notice of and say “great job!”
Yet as you begin, you realize there is some fun, yet no one seems to care how much work you are putting into it or the problems you are dealing with.
You may find yourself saying: “You know, I just don’t care about that recognition any more….I just want my sanity and my life back!”
Then again, you may be a person who thrives upon challenge, stress, headaches, last minute changes, “demonically possessed” technical gear, and working into the wee hours of the morning with the possibility of never actually seeing the fruit of your efforts in this lifetime!
In either case, production coordination – whether you’re “chosen” or you just love the challenge, is servant-hood.
Producing a live theatrical production is not a 1-2 week job. Full-scale productions take many hours, many people, many months; and sometimes years of planning and rehearsing for success to be achieved.
Don’t let this scare you away from ever trying. Be encouraged to know that it can be done if you are aware of the time, cost, and organization involved!
We just want to make sure you understand what is involved before you jump to the conclusion of: “Hey – it’s only March, Easter isn’t until April, so let’s produce a full-scale passion play!”
First things first. Every production should be fun! It is a chance to meet new people. The cast and crew will find themselves becoming one big happy family. For that reason, we have developed an easy word association to help you through the basics of theatrical productions from start to finish, and beyond!
When we think of fun, we think of a P.A.R.T.Y.! So what can we say? Let’s party!
P – Planning and preparation
A – Advertising
R – Recruit and rehearse
T – Time out and thank yous
Y – You’re on!
Because of the many elements to consider in every one of these steps, we are going to break up the explainations into two different articles. In this first one, we’ll be focusing on ‘P’: Planning and Preperation, and ‘A’: Advertising for the production.
P is for planning and preparation.
These are 2 of the most crucial elements of live production. If you do not sit down and take “inventory” of who and what you have to work with (performing talent – technical talent – technical gear – stage managers – makeup artists – costumes, etc.), how much you have to spend vs. how much you want to spend, what size venue you have to work in, etc., you will find yourself in the midst of an exhausting, whirling, spin that just doesn’t seem to end soon enough!
It is a good idea to gather the information you need before choosing a play. If you have dreams of a huge cast and venue, be realistic and look at how many people you actually have. Bigger casts and venues entail larger costs. The cost of more costumes, lighting, audio, etc. will all need to be figured into the budget. “The Ten Commandments” may be the production you want, but with only 7 people, those slave scenes are gonna be kind of sparse!
Once you have chosen the production, appoint a production committee. This team should consist of 2-3 people who are good on the phone, who can take directions, and who have a knack for getting things done, sometimes all without hearing a verbal thank-you or an “atta-boy/girl!”
This team will be responsible for getting the leaders for the teams and crews you are going to need. (marketing, costuming, technical director, make-up artist, etc.) If you’re the producer or the director and have certain people you want to work as your leaders, get their information to your production committee BEFORE the committee takes it upon themselves to hire whomever they see fit.
A is for advertising.
Advertising budget is also crucial! Getting information out about the production is the main way that people are going to get wind of the performance. Many times we become caught up in producing the show. Just because you are around it every day, and you are eating, sleeping, & drinking the production, it doesn’t mean that the outside world knows what is about to be in their midst.
Many avenues are available for advertisement. You need to know your target market. Is your production for young, old, or all ages? Easter productions are for all ages, as the message of salvation is being presented.
Some Easter productions can depict a very realistic crucifixion through the use of make-up and special effects. This is something you will want to include in your advertising avenues.
Selling tickets puts a value on the production. The general public is used to paying for quality. The gospel itself is free, however the packaging can carry a cost! Tickets should include the name of the show, date, time, place, phone number of the venue, and the seating arrangement.
Programs are a great way to raise money for your production. Many businesses are more than willing to advertise in programs of worthy productions. You can sell different ad sizes to give the contributing companies a choice. Start this process early on. There are printing companies involved with deadlines to meet. Being efficient can save you dollars in the long run.
You will want to start your advertising at least 3 months out. Repetition is a key to catching the public’s interest.
Most small town newspapers are looking for events going on in the community. Some of the time, these smaller local newspapers will run articles or blurbs about events for no charge. (referred to as a Public Service Announcement, or a PSA)
Take the time to sit down and write a small article regarding the production. Pictures are a plus! Be sure to take pictures before, during, and after. You may want to even consider doing a small article after the production. Give them pictures with your PSA and let them choose the best ones.
There are occasions when you can get the local press to cover your event. This is best, as it gives them the chance to see first hand what is being produced.
Should any newspapers run your public service announcements, you should return the favor by running a paid ad for the month before the performance.
Another gesture that will show character is presenting complimentary tickets to some. The owners of the businesses (such as bookstores) that offered to sell your tickets, or put up your posters, will be delighted when you present them with 2-4 complimentary tickets to the night of their choice.
R is for recruit and rehearse.
This is a lengthy process. There are many ways to get the people you need. Drafting, auditions, and the ever popular plea from the pulpit! We are going to focus on using auditions. There are times when those who have never been around a production before want to be involved. They should be allowed to follow their desire. This is how we have all gotten started. People just starting out should not be taken lightly.
God may be calling someone to the production field, and you just may be the teacher He is wanting to use! This does not mean that they need to be a main character right off the bat, but should be allowed the opportunity to follow alongside crew leaders, directors, etc., to see what position they want to pursue. Auditions will help you select the top talent you have to choose from. Auditions can be “ugly!” We can guarantee there will be hurt feelings and attitudes to deal with. You need to be grounded in your gift and faith, should you be on the audition/selection panel.
You must be encouraging, uplifting, and ready to minister to those who can’t handle not getting “the part.” Remember the final goal of any church production is to spread a very important message, in the most presentable and professional manner that you possibly can. Professional does not always mean Broadway budgets or talent. We have been involved in some productions where the budget was small, but we gave a professional performance with what God had given us.
An attitude of excellence is worth its weight in gold. At the auditions, you need to have one copy of the rehearsal schedule laminated and in plain sight. This allows those who are seeking a certain part to see the demanding rehearsal schedule before they commit. For instance, they may want to try out for the part of Jesus, but once they see the time involved, they may change their mind. You should also have commitment sheets signed by every person who is auditioning. The commitment form we use contains things such as having to wear a designated costume, possibly work with live animals, perform in high places, etc.
When the auditions are over and the selection process has been done, call everyone personally who auditioned. Do not e-mail or fax them. These are wonderful communication tools, however; a personal call is best. It allows you the chance to minister to tears of disappointment right on the spot, and also rejoice with those who are rejoicing! DO NOT leave a message! If you cannot get a hold of the person by phone, try to catch them at church and talk to them privately. DO NOT post the final cast selection sheet in public view! Put it up in an office. Yes, that office will be crammed full for the first few minutes of posting, but remember, there are still some who may feel embarrassed about not getting a certain part. There is no need to post this information in public sight.
You now have a cast, it’s time to rehearse. The first rehearsal holds lots of excitement and energy. This energy can be put to good use! Before reading through the entire script aloud, send around sign up sheets for pre-show (set-up) and post-show (tear-down) help! These sheets should then be in the hands of the production committee who in turn can make reminder calls at the appropriate times. Rehearsing individual characters can be a plus. In the beginning, it is best to work with crowds on separate nights from the main characters. Main character rehearsing can become boring to those in the crowd scenes. There is no need to waste the people’s or director’s time.
Directors will find themselves spending lots of the rehearsal time trying to keep the crowd members quiet during main character development. Tech rehearsals are very important. These are very annoying to the performers as there are so many adjustments to be made. Long before a tech rehearsal, the director should sit down with the cast and explain that they will be in their costumes and make-up for a long while that evening. They should be informed to be patient and courteous to the tech crew. These rehearsals cannot be avoided if you want to achieve the best look and sound. Dress rehearsals should run straight through with the director taking notes. Make all corrections and give compliments immediately following the dress rehearsal. Be sure to have designated hecklers (coughing, baby crying, etc.) secretly placed in the venue for this rehearsal.
T is for time out and thank-yous.
Take time out to minister to others. After being together for this long, you will find yourself becoming a family. Take time out before the production to relax and pray. Stay focused on the task at hand, but do not become consumed in it. Always take the day off before opening night. If you, the cast, and crew don’t have it by now, you probably aren’t going to get it. You, your cast, and crew need this day to relax, stay in prayer, and be with family. It is amazing how this day can even help “tame” the stomach butterflies. Take time to say thank you. Just sitting the cast and crew down at a dress rehearsal and saying “Thanks everybody!” doesn’t seem to hold the personal touch that is needed.
In most church settings, the cast, and crew is all volunteer. When initially establishing your budget, be sure to include an amount for thank you cards, envelopes, postage, and gift certificates. Gift certificates to local restaurants are always a hit! It is a great way to show appreciation. The gift certificate amount should be enough to pay for the entire family of the cast/crew member. Be sure and address envelopes to the entire family. You may have never seen any of them, but they have had to make sacrifices during rehearsal and performance times. They should not go unappreciated.
Y is for You’re On!
Opening night brings lots of excitement! Directors, crew leads, and production committee members should all arrive early. You will need a sign up sheet. Director, crew leads, and production committee members should all sign in just like the cast. This will let the cast know that their leaders are on the premises. Be sensitive to your arrival time.
As a cast member who is not in the first scene, you may not need to be there until half an hour before show time. You may be getting your make-up on during the first act, however; it is important that you are there for the prayer and pep talk before the show starts. Once you are in make-up and/or costume, do not go out and mingle with the arriving audience. This shows a lack of professionalism and can ruin the “realness” you are to portray through your character.
Prayer and pep talk should take place 15-20 minutes before the show starts. Cast and crew should be in their places 5 minutes before start time. Punctuality is much appreciated by the viewing audience. Director, this means you too! You have done your job. Take your seat, and enjoy the show. You have been working with your crew leads for months. You hired them because you had confidence in them, and knew they could handle the job. You selected your cast at auditions with confidence in them as well. Do not hover over your tech crews in the sound and lighting booth. They are already under enough pressure. It can be very distracting and nerve wracking to your technicians.
Cast members should try not to view the show from the stage wings, or the back of the audience. And of course, the oldest rule in the book: Stay quiet backstage! When the show is over, there are different ways to meet and greet the viewing audience. Some directors may wish to have the entire cast come out on stage and remain during the closing prayer. Others may choose to have a receiving line on the way out. And some may choose to position characters in places where they are free to minister in a more “private” type setting. Whatever the case, be sure to make yourselves available after the show. Your character just may have been the one that changed a person’s life, and they will want you to pray with them. Last night of performance, and the party’s over!
Emotions have been running high for several nights, and now you will deal with post-production feelings and work that has to be done. Remember those sign up sheets at the first rehearsal? This is when you will need to make some reminder phone calls. Striking the sets can be great fun, if all are involved. The more people you have, the less time it will take, and it gives you a chance to be together with the production “family” one last time.
During set strikes, you will have a chance to reminisce not only about the show itself, but also the time spent together in rehearsals. When all is cleaned up, take a break. We must be sensitive to the rest that is needed after a production. If it was a huge success, chances are the pastor, or someone will approach you with excitement, ready to produce another one starting “tomorrow!”
Make an appointment with them for the following week. This will allow for the visions of grandeur to change from impossible to probable. Remember, it is OK to say no. This is a terribly difficult thing to learn when you have a heart for God, and want to do what He has called you to do. However, speaking from experience, learn to say no, before you end up in a physical situation that stifles your very dreams and ambitions.
Take time off and go on a picnic, go to dinner and a movie, spend time with the family on a camping trip. Whatever you choose to do, leave the cell phone, pager, and lap top behind! These are only a few suggestions when it comes to producing a live theatrical production. We have written a book, “Production Coordination” which includes many more details and ideas that have come from our personal experiences.
The book also includes several different pre-designed forms, such as sign up sheets and venue specs just to name a few, that you are free to photo copy and use time and time again. These books are available only through us, and are $20. Once again, we hope for the best for each and every one of you who dwell in the land of production! As always, keep it fun! May all your productions be successful performances, and may every performance you do touch the hearts of the lost!