By Amy Drake
You’ve worked really hard to hone your craft and set your sites on reaching the next level. Now what? You need a game plan. Even when we playwrights have gotten a play accepted at a theater we often find ourselves cast in the role of producer. My play, SOMEWHERE I CAN SCREAM, is going up at The Players Theatre in April 2020. It is now late December and I have many things to do before opening night, but I will share with you my steps to getting there, current tasks, and work to be done.
Ask yourself if your script is really ready. Even if your play has already been produced you may want to look for ways to improve the script before submitting it to the theater you really, really want to have stage it. SOMEWHERE had a successful run in Ohio, where it is set, but I had my sights set on a New York run. So, I sent the script to trusted colleagues, script doctors if you will, Clifford Lee Johnson III before the Ohio run, and Eric Webb before submitting the play to The Players Theatre in New York. The critique and suggestions of both improved the play significantly, and as I work with the director it is still undergoing changes.
Look to your contacts to make a connection with the theater of your choice. Who do you know who could arrange an introduction for you with the artistic director? Set a meeting for coffee to find out what types of plays the theater is looking for and consider how your play might be a good fit before making a pitch. Another approach is to contact an ally at the theater who could read your play and make a recommendation to the artistic director. A third approach is to get involved with the theater and let them know that you have plays available for production. What all of these methods have in common is a personal connection. Theater, like any other business, is about people working with people.
Go within your professional networks to build your creative team. I am in the early stages of this process, but have already found a wonderful director, Kevin Davis, through mutual membership in Ken Davenport’s Producer’s PRO Inner Circle, now called The Theater Makers Studio. Think of the recommendations of your colleagues as testimonials of professionalism for those who could work together harmoniously. I believe it is a good idea to work collaboratively: when professionals come together on a project, the project improves, often in unexpected ways.
Marketing is essential to building your audience and now there are so many ways of promoting a show. Begin with creating a Facebook page and building a website. Not a graphic designer? Hire someone to build the web site for you. It is your online business card and essential for professionals in today’s business world. Build an email list, post on Facebook and Instagram, which has a substantial user base.
Create content to take your followers on the journey of producing your show through videos, blogs, articles, and posts. Get the buy-in of everyone on the project to taps into their own social media platforms to promote the show: the reach to potential ticket buyers grows rapidly. Consider buying Facebook ads. Don’t forget traditional methods, such as print ads, distribution of hot cards, and cross promotion with related businesses, such as dinner packages with restaurants including tickets for your show.
Coordinate efforts with the theater: Michael Sgouros and Brenda Bell at The Players Theatre have been enormously helpful and supportive. Look for promotion opportunities such as writing guest articles and blogs for theater groups with a large following, give interviews and do podcasts. Consider radio and television advertising. When you’ve gotten your show to this level and need some help with bookings you may consider it worthwhile to hire a press agent or marketing agency to arrange bookings for you.
As we look toward holding auditions in a few weeks, there is much work to be done and we only just getting started. It’s very exciting. Position yourself for success by putting together the right team to bring your play to life.
Amy Drake is a playwright and author. Please join her arts marketing Facebook group, Toot Your Own Horn, to share your ideas and suggestions for promoting plays and musicals.