Starting Your Own Theatre Company

Me and my friend Sine Harris recently set up Figurehead Theatre together and our first production ‘Mr. Earhart’ goes up at the Flying Duck this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. We had worked together before on a small scale student theatre project but felt that it would be good practice to find out some more things for ourselves while also having the freedom to make the kind of theatre we wanted.

If like I was you are slightly daunted by the prospect of setting up and running your own theatre company, you might find this handy list of tips a good place to start. I definitely haven’t covered everything but this very brief four step plan should hopefully answer some basic questions, help you set up some timescales and give some very amateur business knowledge.

  1. Don’t Over-Plan

I think often theatre-makers or other artists     are expected to have everything planned out in advance as to what they want to make and how to go about it. While having a rough idea about what you want to explore in your practice is crucial I would say that a little D.I.Y. attitude helps get things off the ground and details can always be ironed out as you go. For us this was as simple as setting up a Facebook page, sharing it around different creative groups in Glasgow and writing a brief mission statement for our company. Its not hard to create a theatre company, its maintaining it that counts so:

  1. Do Over-Organize

Being organized with planning and finalizing your venue space, rehearsal space and how you are going to approach auditions and rehearsals is worth starting a good while before looking for actors. Its extremely important to also be organized with money so set a budget and make sure that you contact a number of venues before deciding which is right in terms of price, layout, location etc. Not all venues will have sound-systems and a lighting rig so its worth making sure they fit the requirements for your piece. Props, Costume and Tech need to be considered in your budget but this will differ depending on the production. Sine wrote our play ‘Mr. Earhart’ and so we did not have to pay royalty costs but these can be expensive too.

  1. Split The Work Load With Reliable People

Its been great working with Sine as I can rely on her to get things done to deadline and let me know how things on her end are coming along. We split the workload of the company so that I am in charge of tech, music and the Facebook page while she took props, costume and twitter. While everything can of course be done on your own its good to have one or two other reliable theatre makers in the core team so that each can work to their expertise.

  1. Work With People That Are Enthusiastic

This is probably the most important point. While many artists seek to collaborate with the most talented people they can find in the theatre where everything has to be rehearsed over many long hours and performed live it is crucial that the people you work with are not only talented but extremely enthusiastic about the company/or production. Genuine enthusiasm is harder to come by in the theatre than you might imagine as often people are looking to perform or work in the right things that will help them get noticed or ‘network’ with the right people. If everyone you work with is enthusiastically committed to the project and company then rehearsals will be tighter, the process will be more enjoyable and the company will continue to grow and develop collectively.

Article by Josh Dodds

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