10 Simple Tips to Plan Successful Community Theatre Plays


An excellent theatre production brings excitement and entertainment for those who are fortunate enough to be gathered in the audience. If you’re a theatre lover and your locale doesn’t currently have a place to present community theatre plays, you may decide to open a community theatre. From gathering the right team, cast and crew to ensuring your building is protected, there are critical preparations you’ll need to undertake to provide a successful production.

1. Build a Skilled Production Team

You’ll need to recruit team members who have theatre experience in their particular fields; to supervise the main aspects of your community theatre plays. If you’re the one who is financing this theatre project, you are probably the producer (the person who oversees all the aspects of the performance). To direct the actors as they speak and move on stage, you need an experienced theatre director. You’ll need people to oversee costumes, make-up, props, and scenery.

Your team should include a musical director and choreographer. The musical director will be in charge of any singing in the show, while the choreographer will design and direct the dancing. When looking for a suitable building for musical theatre productions, try to find a building with hardwood floors. A hardwood floor provides a perfect surface for dancers and can blend into theatrical scenery.

2. Set Up Your Business

A community theatre is a business, and your team will need to agree on a name for your business. You’ll need to use the business name and to be officially registered as a business. Check with your town hall, and they will direct you to the correct office to register your business.

In addition to registration, you’ll need to open a business account at a local bank. A business account will keep the theatre company’s money secure. It will also designate who can write and accept checks in the company’s name. This can help you keep accurate financial records, which will be helpful in the future.

3. Know Your Audience

When choosing community theatre plays, the key word is ‘community.’ Before deciding on a play, think about your potential audience. No matter what your personal taste in theater may be, if you stage an avant-garde production in a retirement community, it’s not likely to be well-received. Considering the composition of your audience can help you narrow down your selections for a play.

You can try a more modern play if you live in an urban community. But, if your town is filled with older citizens, you’ll get better reception by choosing well-known, famous plays with traditional themes. You’ll also gain a bigger audience from your community if you cast some local citizens in the play. Having some neighbors in the cast will attract a local audience.

4. Choose a play

The first decision your team will make is the choice of which play or musical you’d like to produce. You or your team members may have a favorite production or have previous stage production experience. If this is your first time creating a show, you may opt to avoid the additional stress of producing a musical, but maybe your heart is set on doing a musical — so let the team majority decide.

To present a play, you’ll need to be sure you obtain the rights to perform it. Playwrights protect their original works by getting a copyright. You need to apply for permission to use a play with a copyright and may also be required to pay a fee (called a royalty.) Be sure these arrangements are made, and that any royalty is paid before beginning to work on a play.

5. Choose Your Talent

People go to the theatre to be entertained. Finding a talented cast for your production is the best way to be sure your audience will enjoy the show. Advertising a casting call for your upcoming auditions in the local newspaper or on a local radio station is an excellent way to attract talented cast members. Let the prospective cast members know if your show will be a musical so that they can prepare to sing an audition song.

Inviting the director and the musical director to the auditions is very important, as casting should be a group decision. The rest of your creative team can also be invited. Have each prospective actor read some lines from the script, and if the production is a musical, ask to see them sing and dance. If your show features a romance, have some of your choices for the lead roles read together to see if they have ‘chemistry’ on stage.

6. Use Proper Lighting

Part of the thrill of a great theatre production is the artistic use of theatre lighting. An experienced lighting designer can use lighting to enhance community theatre play themes. Changing the color of the lighting onstage can bring a completely different mood to the performance. Obtaining the correct components of stage lighting to bring proper lighting is important because even the most talented lighting designer needs the right equipment.

If you’re in charge of arranging for the lighting installation for the stage, it’s important to enlist the services of an expert in theatre lighting to choose and install the correct lighting equipment. Standard lighting will not give your production the special lighting it needs. Stage lighting requires a mix of spotlights, colored lights, and ‘wash’ lights that correctly highlight the stage.

7. Acquire Quality Props

In a play or musical, the cast’s talent will produce the majority of the quality of the production. The scenery, costumes, and lighting will help the cast tell the show’s story. In addition, your actors will need props: items they use or carry as part of the show’s story. For example, you might need a fake telephone, an umbrella, a broom, or other important objects to tell the story.

Many community theatre plays ask cast and stage crew members to provide the props needed for the show. For other props required, you can buy them at thrift stores to save money. If your performance requires large props like a piano or a harp, you may need to arrange for local movers to transport larger items to the theatre.

8. Plan Ahead

If creating your theatre company will require the construction of a new building, that new building will give the team their best opportunities to select a favorable layout for the rooms. You should consult an acoustics expert to advise you about the ideal way to construct the room where the play will be presented. In addition to the auditorium, you’ll need dressing rooms for the cast to change and to apply their make-up.

Plan for the building to include enough public restrooms to accommodate the audience. During the process of construction, you’ll inevitably create construction waste. Plan, in advance, to acquire the services of a construction waste management company. Your local municipality regulates the disposal of construction waste.

9. Offer Refreshments

Offering refreshments doesn’t affect the acting quality of your performance. However, having refreshments available during intermission or after the production – if the cast plans to interact with the audience – can help encourage attendance at future community theatre plays. If your show is intended to benefit a charity, the proceeds from the refreshments can bring additional funds for the cause.

Your refreshments can be simple. If you’re selling refreshments during intermission, you won’t want to sell snacks in crinkly wrappers that can make noise during the second act. Simple items like cookies, pretzels, or miniature brownies can be good ideas. If you’re selling sodas or other drinks, you can keep them cold by filling a cooler with bagged ice cubes.

10. Maintain a Comfortable Space

When your audience is in the theatre watching your show, you won’t want the temperature in the auditorium to make them uncomfortable. As you would for any other building you’re managing, you’ll want to ensure the heating and cooling systems are in good working order. As the producer, you’ll be responsible for keeping the building comfortable.

Changing the air filters every month is essential to keep your heating and cooling systems in peak condition. Other components of those systems should also be checked regularly. Although some commercial building managers know HVAC maintenance, you may need to be acquainted with these components. It’s essential to be associated with a local company with HVAC professionals who can assist you with any problems related to heating or cooling systems.

11. Prepare for Emergencies

Although it’s not likely that a medical emergency will occur during your production, it’s a wise idea to be prepared for such a situation. Going to community theatre plays is not usually a cause of medical emergencies. Of course, you should always call ‘911’ to request an ambulance if anyone in the building needs emergency medical care. Having a first aid kit available, along with posters about the Heimlich maneuver, are good ideas for any buildings expecting public gatherings.

Making such preparations for medical emergencies is a wise business precaution. Remember, most municipalities require buildings to install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Instructions for using a fire extinguisher should be posted in a public place. If you have a fire alarm, you must arrange for it to be regularly inspected.

12. Secure Your Space

Once your building is finished and your rehearsals start, you’ll want to be sure the building and all your theatre supplies remain safe. You’ll want to secure your building since you’ve invested so many of your resources in community theatre plays. Make arrangements with one of your community’s locksmith services to install a modern lock system. Consider installing an alarm system to give you additional peace of mind.

13. Publicize Your Production

It would be best to begin advertising your upcoming show about a month before your performance. You’ll want potential audience members to know about the show. You can use the local newspaper and radio station as you did with casting calls. You can also hang posters in local businesses. Visiting local businesses will also allow you to ask local businesses if they want to buy ads in the program for your play.

You should find and join the local chapter of your local and state theatre alliance to further integrate your community theatre with your area theatre community. You can also consider joining your town’s Rotary Club and other local service organizations; to network your theatre company with other community members.

14. Hold a Dress Rehearsal

After several weeks of rehearsals, you may believe the play is ready to be presented. But, it’s essential to hold a dress rehearsal. Be sure any lighting or sound effects are included along with the cast’s performance. If there are any performance problems, it’s better to have them occur during a dress rehearsal.

Some theatre companies will hold their dress rehearsal in front of a select audience to get an impartial reaction. Inviting family members or some of the residents of a local nursing home is a good idea to get an audience for your dress rehearsal.

15. Celebrate a Successful Production

When you’re at the beginning of your theatre experience, it may seem like it will be a long time until you get through your first performance. But with the help of your team, and by working together, you will get through your first production. Once you’ve accomplished that, you should treat your team to a celebratory dinner.

The size of your cast and the current state of your budget can determine where you take everyone to celebrate. You may decide to order sandwiches and chips to eat at the theatre. But, if your budget allows, you could reward everyone by taking them to a fancy steakhouse or to an upscale seafood restaurant.

There are many hurdles to clear before you’ll be able to stage your community theatre plays. However, once you’ve survived your first production, you’ll know it was worth all the work everyone on the team has invested. Once your theatre group begins making a name for itself, you’ll know you’re making a cultural impact on your community.

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