I totally second TMFA’s Wendy Alane Wrights’ suggestion to WRITE YOUR OWN STUFF! I have been MIA for the last week on social media because of a project I wrote, produced, and starred in and I want to share the story with you as a form of encouragement. If you are stalled on a project or don’t know what to get out there HOPEFULLY THIS HELPS!
Not only am I an actor trainer I’m also a filmmaker, writer, director AND have a theatre company, Scaffold Theatre. We want to do classical theatre but have found that’s not the biggest draw so to grow our audience I decided to do some holiday shows. Make it a tradition. Get people to come to our Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day shows. Once they do and see how great we are then they might start frequenting our Shakespeare, O’Neill, and Chekov productions too.
The only problem was we had to get the tradition going. Which takes a lot of work. And with the next approaching holiday being Valentine’s Day, it meant I had to write a Valentine’s play. Gulp! I didn’t even know where to begin. But I PERSEVERED. Because I knew my goal, to build an audience and have a successful theatre company.
I came up with a fun and clever script throwing in some great romantic scenes from literature, a bit of poetry and stories of lovers through the ages, plus a few Cole Porter songs and bam! I had a fun little show. Then we had to cast it. I’d written it with some particular actors in mind but when the offers went out to them not everyone was available to do the show. So we had auditions. This is when I started feeling really daunted. No one knew the show of course, because it was newly written, and it was a Valentine’s show. Who’d ever heard of such a thing? So our turn out for auditions was not great.
My director and I were wondering if we should still carry on. It was more than a month away and we could easily cancel the show without anyone knowing but us. Luckily, we had some great actors show up in that little bunch and we cast the show.
Fast forward to rehearsals. We only had eight of them. Not a lot of time to block and polish an entire production. The pressure was on. Could we do it? Could we put together something fantastic that could be the start of a tradition that would bring back an audience year after year? Fortunately, our actors were pros and everyone showed up to the first day of rehearsal totally off book, as we had asked them to. We slogged through the blocking and shaping of the show – always the tedious part – for the first several rehearsals. And in usual theatre fashion we weren’t even sure if we had a “show” until a few days before opening when we had a small invited audience that actually laughed at the jokes!
The most terrifying thing about the whole experience, so terrifying in fact I got stressed out over it and came down with the flu before rehearsals started was: Would we actually have an audience? Was there even a market for a Valentine’s Show? I was quite certain that in our 60-seat theatre we’d probably only get five people a night. With just three shows that would be 15 people and as a producer I’d be way in the hole.
BUT. Let me tell you and let me encourage you. Our show Forever More! turned out to be a hit. We sold almost 150 tickets, had pretty much a full house each night, got rave reviews and the start of a loyal audience who can’t wait to bring their friends back next year.
So, I am telling you all this because self-promotion and writing your own content can be daunting. But it can really pay off. Go for it! If you have a project that is stalled right now, jump start it. If you need help with what you are working on, reach out to others around you. If you don’t dare or you think what you have to say isn’t interesting or important, stop judging yourself. Get it out there! The world needs your voice!