Steps for Starting a Community Theater
Learning how to start a community theater involves a lot more than just learning how perform a play. In fact, there is a lot on the business and organization side of starting a community theater group, before you ever begin to have auditions, rehearsals and performances. This article is a guide which discusses the business side of how to start a community theater, assuming you probably have a love for acting and probably know a great deal more about the performance side of theater. This is the part of starting a local theater group that artistically talented sorts might not immediately consider when starting a community theater troupe.
- Set Up Your Organization – Create a mission statement for your community theater, so everyone who joins will know exactly your purpose and vision in creating the theater. To add creative and economic resources, create a board of directors pledged to this mission statement. The board of directors will decide on the artistic direction and financial decisions of your theater. Run the theater yourself if you can handle these responsibilities alone. If you have trouble envisioning a mission statement, look at the bylaws of other community theaters in your region.
- Defign Your Financial Structure – Consider whether your community theater group will be for profit or non-profit. A non-profit community theater group will need to perform more bookkeeping to justify their not-for-profit status, though it also qualifies the group for certain special grants. Take your “non-profit” status seriously if you choose to incorporate in that fashion, though, because there are strict laws governing this financial status.
- Name Your Theater – If you’re going to bring in people to your theater, you will need to fashion an identity for it. A solid theater name will give your theater group recognition credibility. Think about the sort of community theater group you want to have, specifically keeping in mind the type of plays you wish to produce. If you want to focus on classic plays or comedies, consider indicating this in the title of your theater.
- Select Your Audience – Choose the target audience for your community theater. If you want to attract a family crowd, target moms and kids in your advertising. If you want to draw in the avante-garde crowd, target this group in your marketing. If you want to appeal to seniors or traditionalists, consider how you might appeal to them. Once you have decided the audience you will target, advertise in local periodicals, publications and websites that would appear to that demographic. Consider fliers for your theater and where you might best place these fliers to target your chosen audience member.
- Build a Theater Staff – Hire an office staff or assistants for your theater, to help with organization and bookkeeping. If you don’t have the financial resources to hire a large (or even small staff), then try to recruit volunteers to your community theater. People you might need are an accountant or bookkeeper, a secretary for memos and paperwork, and a publicist to help market your theater.
- Select a Theater Building – Find the venue for your plays. Keep in mind that this venue needs to be well-situated in your community for your target audience. Bad placement will kill a community theater. Also, consider the size and acoustics of the theater venue, and try to determine if the crowd will hear and enjoy your performances. Finally, consider not just the cost of renting, but the cost of insurance for your community theater.
- Sell Tickets – Organize a scheme for selling tickets to your plays. This will be the lifeblood of your financial resources, so don’t neglect this part of your theater business. You might need a volunteer or staff member to spearhead this effort.
- Secure Rights for Performances – If you are performing older plays, this won’t be a problem. If you are putting on newer plays, you’ll need to secure performance rights. Read about how to obtain rights to a original play, including contracting with playwrights and authors.
- Put Together Your Players – Once you have your organization, venue and marketing in place, you can get down to the fun part of the community theater business: performing plays. Collect your group of players, rehearse like mad and break a leg on opening night.