Being Well-Seasoned


{All photos by Angie Fiedler Sutton.}

Note: this article was previously published in the January 2005 issue of KC Stage Magazine (link no longer active). In light of what was discussed in Episode 1 of the Stage Savvy podcast, this issue will be re-visited on Thursday’s post.

Creating a season of productions is a lot like cooking spaghetti. (Now, bear with me.) There is no one right way to make spaghetti, and while some make it the same way every time, others make small changes each time. Some want the instant Chef Boy-Ar-Dee type that just requires a stovetop (or microwave), while others strain their own tomatoes making it from scratch.

Every production company approaches their season decision differently. While some have a stock format (one drama, one comedy, etc.), some look to an overall theme to have the shows fit (all about modern women, for example). Some companies take a couple of months; others take the whole current season to pick the next one — and pick the season for two years in the future.

So, what elements make up a good season? As mentioned above, there is no ‘perfect’ season, and there’s no formula that can be followed by everyone. However, there are definite things that can be taken into consideration.

The Globe Theatre’s list of Shakespeare’s works in timeline format.

The audience: This actually can be used in two ways. The season committee wants to keep the organization’s current audience in mind, making sure to put in productions that the audience will want to see. However, some organizations want to expand their audience (or the current audience’s experiences), and so may want to do productions that do just that.

The ‘employees’: Most community theatres thrive on volunteers, for acting as well as the technical aspects. And even though most community theatres at least provide a stipend for directors, there are horror stories of announcing a season and finding no one to direct. So, the season keeps in mind the ‘typical’ options available to them to fill all the necessary roles. After all, a group that has to strive to get people to audition might not want to do a show that has 15 characters in it. Some organizations have a dedicated group of volunteers that are involved in many of the shows, and choose season productions based on expanding the knowledge and experiences of those volunteers (almost like an “Actor’s Studio”).

The time and location: Getting people to the theatre nowadays is hard: getting them to a location out of their area during specific times of the year can be even harder. Summer is almost universally recognized as the ‘outdoor musical’ time of theatre. Winter, however, is when the ‘standard’ dramas and more experimental productions tend to be produced. Audiences have a different perception of what they will be seeing with regards to downtown or suburb productions. The organization has to keep all that in mind when determining the season. They don’t have to follow it, necessarily: but they should be aware of it so the marketing of said season can reflect the differences if there are any.

The price: Productions cost a lot of money. Royalties, costumes, sets, and even the promotion of the show all take money out of the budget. A company working on a shoestring budget and in a small space may want to think twice before taking on Les Miserables, after all.

These, of course, are just some basic ideas: some organizations pick a production just because it ‘sounds good’, or the title hit them just right, or that it was the cheapest on royalties. But the fun part is in the doing.