Putting on a play in St Andrews can be a daunting process. In the fickle world of theatre, being a first time producer can be extremely intimidating, especially because the role is so hard to define. However, the mysterious role of the producer is a wonderful and creative way to put your foot into the Mermaids community. You don’t need any experience; as long as you have a director, an organisational mind and a passion for drama, you are more than capable of putting up a show, and hopefully, this guide will simplify the process.
1. Find a director and propose your play
Perhaps this is the most important and daunting step, but finding a willing director may not be as hard as you think. I met my director last year on Market Street, and we chatted a bit about theatre! However, an easier way is to keep an eye out for the Mermail, where directors occasionally seek producers. Alternatively, you can just talk to people in the theatre community who may want to direct a play in the future.
After you’ve found a director, they will produce a project proposal and you’ll create a budget form. You can contact the Mermaids committee to help you, but all you really need is a few hours with your director to make a realistic plan of your play. Think about your venue, costumes, publicity and production rights. Be realistic about how much things cost but allow your creative vision to flourish. Sometimes your play will be deferred, but usually it will get passed when you have made the relevant tweaks. This is when your role really begins!
2. Audition, cast the play and print scripts
With your director, you need to host auditions and cast the play. Then you need to print scripts and create a rehearsal timetable. Make sure you’re flexible, it’s likely that your actors are extremely busy with other plays (or coursework!) as well, so try and find times when everyone is free.
3. Book rehearsal space
This is done weekly for the Barron, but you can also use the Mansfield building, the Buchanan, Younger hall, living rooms and hall common rooms, which all work equally well. Let the cast know when the rehearsals are as soon as you know. At the same time, make sure you attend the weekly Mermaids meeting where all your questions can be answered.
4. Costumes and props
Whilst the cast is busy rehearsing, you need to make sure that the play is ready for performance. You need to work with your director to sort out any costumes or props that need to be ordered. As you produce your play, keep on top of all receipts and keep everything organised so you don’t have to sort it all out at the end!
As the performance starts getting closer, you need to get in contact with someone who will do tech, think about make-up artists and stage hands and make sure all the props and costumes are ready. Often, it’s a good idea to make programmes for the audience as well.
Then, make a publicity plan. Usually you will be in charge of social media, posters and ticket designs. Unless you are wonderfully creative, often it’s a good idea to find someone who can help design publicity. You may also want to think of releasing a trailer — be as creative as you want to be and feel free to step outside the box.
Then you need to advertise the play. Make sure you put posters up everywhere and liaise with Mermaids–who’ll create an event for you and promote the play! Share the event, make the cast change their Facebook profile and cover pictures to advertisements for the show, and, most importantly, talk to everyone you know and encourage them to engage with your play! With any luck, it will be a success.
6. Close the production
Though the play is over for the actors and director when the final curtain falls, the producer’s role isn’t finished yet. Make sure you claim back the money you have spent from Mermaids and fill in the budgetary forms accordingly. When this is done, your play is completed!
Hopefully, all the time and effort you’ve put in has been worthwhile. Seeing a play develop from start to finish is an incredibly rewarding experience. Whether you want to work in theatre, publicity or something else, you’re bound to pick up some useful skills and meet some truly inspiring people when you produce a play!
Image credit: Richard Mazda