Ask Andy!

We’ve decided to start a new feature here on Culturebot – an advice column called ASK ANDY which is a chance to get your questions answered. Do you have questions about art, life, love, anything whatsoever? Ask Andy!

Andy has done a lot of living and can offer you quality advice on countless subjects. And if he doesn’t know the answer, he’ll find someone who does! So if you’ve got a question or problem and you just need a little help from a friend, Ask Andy! Send emails to andy [at] culturebot [dot] org. For example, I recently got the following question:

Dear Andy,

I’m looking to self-produce my own show and I’ve never done it before. I’m looking at renting different theaters and I’m not sure how to know what’s the best deal or even where to start? What’s your advice?

-Aspiring Self-Producer

Dear Aspiring,

First off, you need to ask yourself if you’re really ready to move forward on a big project like this. Everyone thinks they’re ready but frequently they need a little more time to hone their craft. Self-producing is expensive and challenging, there are tons of risks – most of them financial – and you are bound to screw it up the first time out. So make sure that you’re positive that this is the play/dance/performance project that you HAVE TO PRODUCE. Have you shown it in parts? Have you taken advantage of the incubator and residency opportunities at venues like Dixon Place? Have you done more than a few readings? Are you absolutely, positively certain that this is the show that you MUST do? Do you trust your collaborators? Okay. So you’re committed. Buckle up, ’cause its a heckuva ride.

Now, do you have a budget? If not, you better make one and be as detailed as possible. Use Excel. I like to mentally walk through the entire process and visualize the expenses for every single possible thing from making copies of scripts to renting rehearsal space to costumes, lights, actor fees, expendables, advertising/PR. Your budget is going to determine what you can actually do. You’ll have to adjust your expectations accordingly. If you want to self-produce at any decent theater you’re looking at a rental rate in the ballpark of $5K/week. So you need $15K in rent alone for a three-week run. Yipes!

Before you start checking out theaters, take a look around and see which theaters suit the sort of work you do. Certain venues have reputations for different kinds of work and you want to be in a place that matches your aesthetic, if at all possible. If you don’t have the financial means to rent a reputable house, then at least do your best to not get screwed.

Once you start making the rounds of theaters to rent, you want to find out what kind of package they offer. Do they include tech support for load-in/load-out? Lighting equipment? A board op? Do they do ticketing? Can you store your props/set/costumes?  How much time will you get in the space to rehearse/build/hang lights? Walk through the space, see a show in the space, try and figure out what your show would look like there. Mentally walk through the entire run of the show and assess what you’ll need to do to make the show work in the space. Once again, you’re probably going to have to adjust your expectations.

Once you’ve found the space, GET IT IN WRITING. Read your contract!! Ask questions. You are the consumer and you need to be aware of what you’re getting and what you’re committing to.

So now you’ve got your space, you’ve signed your contract, you’ve got your dates and you’re ready to start on a big adventure. Got more questions? Ask Andy!

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