How to plan a theater production – a step by step guide

There comes a time in an event planner’s career when they have to face the question: how to plan a theater production? The event planner and the theater producer are two different professions. But as an event planner, there can be several reasons why you would want to add a play to your event portfolio. Maybe you want to include the performance into a larger event such as a festival, or you have just discovered this awesome troupe that has a breathtaking show and you want to bring it to life and create a series of events around it.

Staging a play is a complex affair but we identified a series of guidelines that will help you navigate the process of staging a play with ease.

How to plan a theater production: in the beginning

The date

Choose the date wisely. The more complex the production, the farther in advance you need to start planning. Six months is a reasonable amount of time for simple plays. Consider up to a year for large shows with several actors, elaborated costumes and complicated set design.

The team

Put together a well structured team. In event planning, a standard team would include the project manager (you, that is), a marketing manager, and someone dealing with all technical aspects. In theater production, there are many more roles. The producer (in this case, you) and the director are the key roles. If you only have the idea of the play, you will have to recruit a director. If you found an actual troupe, with a play of its own, the director will already be part of the troupe. The actors are the next main element, and then you need to have: sound manager, lights manager, set designer, costume designer (in case of large productions, these last three will have entire teams of their own), make-up/hair designer, administrative staff, and, of course, marketing and sales people.

The venue

Select and book a venue. Assuming your production is not part of the calendar of a theater, the option that first comes to mind is renting a theater hall for your specific dates. Ideally, you’ll be able to book the hall for rehearsals as well, at least for a few of the rehearsals (including the final one with costumes). Given that a play normally requires 80-90 hours of rehearsals, you can arrange for the bulk of these hours to take place in a different place if the rental cost of the actual venue is prohibitive.

If the nature of the play allows it, you can choose an unconventional venue. It can be a pub, a bar, a re-purposed old factory or warehouse, or any other kind of space that allows enough room for a stage and enough seating for the public. When choosing a venue that is not an actual theater hall, make sure that it can safely handle stage movements and overcrowding, and that it has enough exits that would safely work as emergency exits for it capacity.

Don’t forget to…

Obtain the rights for the play script and music royalties. This step should be dealt with 4-5 months in advance.

Work in progress

  1. Set in place lights, sound, set design and costume design and start producing the physical elements needed. If needed, have auditions for the cast. All these steps should take place about 4 months in advance.
  2. Start promoting the play and putting out tickets for sale. You can do this once you have the first dates of the shows, and the cast set in place. Since your play is new, you won’t yet have pictures of the cast on stage nor wearing the costumes. So for now, you can elaborate visual marketing materials even without these elements. You can design a more graphic poster by focusing on fonts, names, and drawn art, rather than pictures, at this stage. Set up an event web page, which is fundamental for promotion and ticket sales. Consider setting up a price strategy that includes early bird cheaper tickets, with prices increasing the closer you get to the opening date. You can also set different prices for seats located in different areas of the venue. If you set up your event web page on our platform, you have all the flexibility to change your event picture (which will be the poster image). You can also add and remove ticket types, and tell the story of the play as it unfolds, by adding photo galleries and posts. A good time to start doing all this is about 10 weeks before the opening.
  3. Finalize technical details. At this point, a lighting cue list and a sound cue list should be ready, set props and decorations are in construction phase, costumes are in construction phase, and design elements and sketches are finalized for hair and makeup. We are 6 weeks before opening.

How to plan a theater production: last steps

  1.  Prepare for tech week. At this point, you arrange that all equipment (lights, sound, stage props, costumes) is to be delivered at the venue/theater. We are 2 weeks before opening.
  2. Tech week. A week before the opening, all elements on stage must be set in place. During this week, you will have a series of key moments: actors’ first time on stage with set (which will be not quite a rehearsal but rather a kind of “tour” that will help them familiarize with all elements of the stage, lights, sound and set props), a rehearsal with costumes, a tech-only rehearsal (a rehearsal of just the technical elements, without the actors), and, finally, the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal will be conducted as an actual performance, from the half-hour call to the last exit after the curtain call. This is a great opportunity to arrange a professional photoshoot which will provide you with official photos to be used for marketing efforts.
  3. Premiere night! You’re ready for the first staging of your show. And if everything was well planned, you already have a reception team in place, with hosts who will welcome your guests. Sspeaking of which, did you know that if you choose Metooo as your online event platform for the show, all you need to do at this point, to check-in your guests, is scan the QR code on their tickets, using the Metooo Event Plan app? This will mean that queues will be kept at a minimum and our spectators will be able to take their seats in no-time.

Instead of a conclusion

Before we wrap up: don’t forget to add a special touch to your theatrical event. Include a cocktail bar to refresh your guests during break and/ore to offer welcome drinks included in the ticket price.

There would be so much more to say on how to plan a theater production, but we hope that our guide helps you tackle the task of organizing a theater production with less stress!

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