How to Produce a Play Audiences Will Love


When you watch plays as an audience member, you may enjoy the show without a second thought about the effort that the production crew and cast members put into learning how to produce a play. Still, every detail of the play contributes to the bigger picture of the show. As a result, everyone who worked on making the play deserves recognition. From the person who sewed costumes to the one who ensured microphones were working properly to the producer, all kinds of people are pulling some invisible strings to make the magic of theater appear before your eyes.

Audience members who haven’t worked in the theater business may not think about all of the effort and attention to detail that goes into producing a beloved play. Some producers sit in the audience after working on the other side of the stage and toiling behind the scenes to produce a play worth watching. For them, the magic and mystery may only be enhanced by their deeper understanding of the mechanics of production.

You’re never too experienced or inexperienced to benefit from some outside perspectives on the best ways to produce a play that will garner the standing ovation you’ve craved all your life. As an aspiring play producer or seasoned play producer with plenty of shows under your belt, you can always better yourself by learning more tips for how to produce a play. While some tips may be more geared towards play producers who have never officially produced a play, getting back to the basics can help you improve your production skills and feel more confident as a producer no matter what stage of your career you may occupy at this point.

Prepare Your Budget

As with anything in life, you’ll need to get your finances in order before you can start looking into how to produce a play. If you don’t have a skilled accountant on your team, you may mismanage funding and disappoint those who are investing in your play. You may also run out of money midway through producing the show and have to call the remaining shows off. This will not only cost you money, but it can also damage your professional reputation. What’s more, it can damage the reputation of your theater company if you’re producing the play through them. As a result, you may have a hard time finding work after that in the theater industry. You may also be liable for refunding tickets and paying the remaining wages of those who worked on the play.

When you prepare a budget to produce a play, there are plenty of items to add to the budget. You should think about the typical parts of a play such as purchasing the rights to use the script, buying costumes and props, paying actors and actresses, and paying for a venue if you don’t own the venue where your play will take place. You will also have to budget for professionals who may seem unrelated to the play-making process such as attorneys who can help you navigate writing contracts and protecting your company legally or accountants who can help you manage your finances. You’ll also have to pay for staff like ushers, ticket sellers, and marketing professionals to get the word out about your play to the community. Although these expenses can add up, they don’t have to be overwhelming. You may qualify for grants or loans that are specifically designed to aid in the production of plays and theatrical performances. In this case, paying a grant writer to acquire and apply for grants on your organization’s behalf may be a worthwhile investment. Even if you’re more interested in the creative details of producing a play, no one will be able to see your play come to life if you don’t get down to the financial aspects of making a play.

Build Your Set

Since the set is the world where your play takes place, you should invest in hiring skilled contractors for painting, welding, woodworking, and other tasks associated with building a set. Although the best sets look effortless in their design, the truth is that you need qualified builders to construct a set even if you’re producing a simple play with only one or two basic settings. A cheap or poorly designed set can bring down the entire level of professionalism of the play. On the flip side, a professionally designed and built set will make your play stand out from the crowd.

Some parts of set design have to be as functional as they are fashionable. For example, if your play involves fancy doors, you’ll need them to open and close effectively as real doors unless they are painted into the background for added effect. Before you go all out on designing a set, you should consult with a professional set designer. These professionals will be able to tell you if your goals for a set design are realistic given your budget and timeframe for producing the play. Sometimes, you may have ideas for a set design that sounds great in your mind. These ideas may not seem so wonderful when you start to execute them in real life. To avoid wasting money and effort on constructing a set that’s doomed to fail, get professionals to help you with the set design process early in your play’s production timeline.

Also, devote a decent portion of the budget to hiring contractors who are qualified for the job. If you want to save money on the project, you may be able to accomplish some set design tasks yourself. You may also be able to enlist young hopeful professionals from local performing arts universities and schools to assist with set design in exchange for college credit or interning hours.

When you’re deciding how to produce a play, the last place you may think about going is to flooring stores. As a play production professional, though, you’ll want to get familiar with hardware stores and other places that have practical supplies for building sets. When you work with local hardware stores to score the best deals, you may be able to offer discounts to employees at those stores in exchange for discounted flooring supplies or other hardware. You can also ask owners of a flooring store to sponsor your play if you become professionally acquainted with them and offer advertisements in your theater establishment for their store. This way, everyone wins and you may secure steady funding for your theater projects.

Have the Venue Inspected

Nothing ruins a play that audiences would love like a pest infestation or other problem. Before you agree to book a venue for your play, ask the owner of the venue key questions about how they handle problems related to pests, maintenance, and other issues. You should also get a professional who is qualified to inspect the venue to take a look at it with a fresh pair of eyes before you agree to book the venue. If the venue has never called pest control, this can be a good sign and a potentially concerning sign. After all, when the venue doesn’t take advantage of pest control services, it could be due to strong pest control measures that allow them to avoid the exterminator.

On the other hand, if a venue doesn’t rely on pest management professionals to manage pests, it does leave one to wonder whether they may be cheap or even unsafe to use as a venue. Although it can be awkward to ask a venue if they maintain their building and performing space, these kinds of questions are necessary for you to ask as a producer of a play. The last thing you want is for your audience or crew to become injured or ill on set due to poor working conditions. This could leave you liable and could result in the show ending early. It could also give you a reputation for not caring about your crew or audience members. None of this would reflect well on you or your sensibilities as a theater professional.

Purchase the Props You Need

As we mentioned before, a key aspect of how to produce a play is learning how to budget for the production ahead of time. Part of your budget should include space for you to buy necessary props such as safe e-cigarettes, fake sports equipment, and whatever else you need to make your characters’ actions believable in a play. When you’re buying props, you should balance a frugal mindset and an appreciation for the finer things in life. For example, if one of the characters in the play you’re producing loves fine jewelry, it may not be cost-effective to buy a bunch of real diamond jewelry and pearls for the production. Although the audience may marvel at the fine jewelry if they’re close to the stage, most of the audience members will probably sit too far away to notice the difference between authentic diamonds and fake ones. As a result, you will be better off purchasing costume jewelry for your play.

Buying props may also involve purchasing items for your set like a mantel or candle holders as you figure out how to produce a play. While it’s easy to get carried away with buying every little thing to make your set feel authentic to the original intention of the play, it’s best for your budget if you only buy the things you need for props. You can end up like a kid in a candy store if you don’t have a list and stick to it while you’re purchasing props and accessories for your play.

Outside of props for the set and characters, you should also think about furniture for your props. Sometimes, you may want to build furniture pieces yourself for the play to save money or find it at a thrift store. Part of learning how to produce a play is discovering where the best outlets are for buying furniture and practical items you can use in your performing arts acts. If your play takes place in a specific setting like an office, you can buy appropriate furniture for the occasion such as actual office furniture from a retailer who specializes in that type of furniture. You can also refurbish furniture that you find on the curb for free or discover on online sharing platforms.

Assemble Your Costumes

When you’re learning how to produce a play, you should rely on other professionals to take care of details outside of production. While you may like the idea of assembling costumes yourself, you should leave that task to skilled professionals at custom embroidery companies and tailoring services. If you’re buying costumes online, you should look at reviews before committing to pouring money into those companies. Sometimes, what you see online is different from what you receive in person. The last thing you’ll want to deal with as a producer is returning costumes the week before the play starts because they don’t match your expectations. Ordering costumes early gives you time to make adjustments and ask for replacements if they don’t fit your standards.

Design Your Lighting

One of the important aspects of how to produce a play is figuring out what type of lighting your play needs. Some plays might require moody lighting while others may need bright lighting to shine. No matter what lighting you choose, you should work with skilled electricians to modify wiring or resolve lighting problems. If you’re not an electrical professional, you could start an electrical fire by trying to fix it yourself.

Anyone who has worked on a play knows that the production process is much more complex than gathering actors to perform a script and purchasing costumes through a costume retailer. It can take months and even years to tweak a show to its best state before you’re ready to show your hard work to the public as a production crew. Although working on a play can be a long and exhausting process, it can be equally rewarding when an audience responds positively to the play that you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into as an artist. If you don’t know how to produce a play audiences will love, our tips above should help.

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