The reason for the season: Inside Production Planning

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It’s that time of year where the 2016/7 season is on the cusp of being released. As both a bartender at The Little and theatre enthusiast, I often chat to our audiences about the plays they’ve seen here. Very often I get comments about how it’d be nice to have such a play and asked questions such as ‘are we going to have more light hearted plays after all these ‘serious’ ones?’

Truth be told, planning a season is hard work! Undoubtedly there is the end reward of seeing a year’s hard work come to life on stage, but blood, sweat and tears? Absolutely.

How does it all start?

In the early throes of summer, the Production Planning Team come together to spend the next year full of bi-monthly meetings, reading lots of plays and debate. All for you, our audiences and membership. Our season includes twelve main house plays, studio plays and occasional events such as one-act play festivals. That’s a lot of planning and a lot to consider;

AUDIENCES 

Our bread and butter. Without our audiences there would be no plays, so it’s important to get it right. What do you like? What do you not like? What has been successful in the past? Part of getting these answers lies with our suggestion box — out in full force towards the end and beginning of seasons.

We also like to plan a varied season. Who wants to see a season full of period drama? Thrillers? We accept our audiences have a plethora of tastes and theatre is so many things. We want to keep bringing new audiences in. With new audiences comes new ideas and trying new things. Theatre is very much a reflection on life and a way to express the different perspectives on it. It’s our duty to find room for that.

MEMBERSHIP

Also our bread and butter. Without our talented membership we wouldn’t have the plays our audiences are seeing. It’s a chicken, egg scenario. Firstly we have to consider our pool of directors. Are they happy to direct this season? Can we attract a commitment from 12+ people who, most often than not, have incredibly full lives outside of the theatre? When they commit will they want to direct a play of their own choosing? How do we attract new directors to keep the season clock ticking? All these questions are laid out on the metaphorical table. This may be why two dramas are put together and you may not see a comedy for a while.

It’s also about balance too. Our backstage team like a challenge and to learn new things, but not on every single play. We cannot put large cast plays together — it would eat up our actors. We also cannot do things like putting on plays with a high costume requirement near to panto — our costume department would cope but possibly be on the verge of burn out! Last but not least , we want plays that may attract new members to join in the chaos!

BUDGETS

We are a charity and it is essential to have the financial fuel to keep going. We need to have your ‘bottoms on seats’ and sometimes that does involve the tried and tested type of production as well as plays that will bring in the masses. That being said, theatre should involve an element of risk and shouldn’t be shied away from. Once again it’s a balancing act. Can we have a play that involves hiring ridiculously expensive props? What are the performing rights? Once more, lots of questions to ask.

So we work hard!

Personally, getting involved in planning a theatre season is hugely rewarding. You get out what you put in. You begin to have a better appreciation of what goes into making a theatre such as The Little, work. You get to know some of it’s people and you get to know yourself a bit better too (I found that I had very strong opinions and learnt not to be afraid to voice them!).

Keep your eyes open for our new 2016/7 season. Could you be part of our new production planning committee? Contact us at admin@lds-mail.net  

Ella Morris