As the resident producer and marketeer of the Shoebox, I get to meet and work with some wonderful Theatre Companies, some are based locally and others have travelled miles in a van full to the brim with costumes, set and Actors. All are excited to be performing their show and have worked incredibly hard to get their work on its feet. The sacrifice, passion and, some might argue, insanity it takes to ‘do’ theatre for a living is utterly admirable. There are highs and lows throughout the entire process and to survive, a theatre company has to be as hard as nails (and fuelled by strong coffee).
Without a doubt the biggest problem facing Theatre Companies right now is money. Funding opportunities are becoming more and more scarce and even when a company gets funding (yeay!) the margins are incredibly tight and risk is therefore high. It can be nail bitingly nerve-racking for a Theatre Company, and a run with lower than expected ticket sales can be disastrous (don’t even mention the risk involved with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!). The struggle is very very real.
Most of you reading this blog will probably be into theatre, you might see the odd show now and again, or perhaps are a regular theatre goer and a familiar face to your local (and not so local) theatres. We all like to support the arts in one way or another, after all a community without art is a depressing place indeed. But we can’t all be donating to crowdfunding pleas and taking a trip to the theatre every week. Because guess what, one of the biggest problems facing audiences is also money (doh!).
BUT there are ways in which you can help. Let’s call them ‘5 Ways to Support Theatre on a Shoestring’ (see what I did there)…
1. Spread the word
See a show coming up that you like the sound of? Even if you can’t make it, use social media to like posts, share posters, post comments, react to the event, tweet, hoot and meow… the more you do this the more people will become aware of the show and because of their tiny marketing budgets, this makes a massive difference to theatre companies. P.S. If social isn’t your thing, good old word of mouth works just as well.
2. Show up
O.K. this might come across as being a little ranty, but this is something I have seen happening across a lot of theatres and it’s a nightmare. Theatre Companies are increasingly offering ‘pay what you can’ performances and activities, which means people can pre-book a ticket for free and then pay what they can afford on the door (all good!). The problem is, out of all of those who have pre-booked a ticket or have said they are coming, sometimes only 50% will show up on the day. So, a company might think they have sold out, but are then faced with a rather sad looking half-empty auditorium. Also, less donations means the cost of putting on the show will probably not be covered. If you can’t show up, let the company or theatre know in good time, so they can pass the ticket on to somebody else.
3. Don’t leave it to the last minute
If you know you want to go to a show, book it. Leaving ticket booking until the last-minute kicks off a series of terrifying events behind the scenes. These are:
Two weeks to go before show: Company panics, nobody is coming. Why do they hate us? Are we nothing? Should we cancel? Cue meltdown.
One week before show: Company thinks nobody knows it’s happening, an Actor volunteers to sell a kidney to increase advertising budget.
Two days to go before show: Theatre doesn’t get in much beer as only accommodating for 7 people.
Show day: 50 audience members arrive! Hurrah! But there is not enough beer and an Actor sold a kidney.*
4. Tell the world that you loved it
If you have seen a show and liked it, post your appreciation on the internet and share it on social media. Even if it’s the company’s last show in that theatre, they will probably be taking it elsewhere and great audience reviews do wonders in bringing in more punters. Also, it makes the Theatre Company feel warm inside and that it’s all been worthwhile, so win win.
5. And finally, go to the theatre
This one is pretty obvious. If you want to keep theatre thriving go see it when you can. And take risks, go see something you haven’t seen before or a company you haven’t heard of. Sure, you MIGHT not like it, but you might absolutely LOVE it, either way you have supported the arts, so give yourself a pat on the back.
P.S. Even if you are broke, there are an increasing number of subsidised, 'work in progress' and ‘pay what you can’ performances happening all over the country that you can go see - please show up though as per point 2! ;-)
* An Actor didn't really sell a kidney, but you get the point.