Putting on a Show in St Andrews: The Basics

Alex Mullarky offers an insight into the basics of putting on a play in St AndrewsThere are (what must be) a record number of shows going up in St Andrews this semester, despite the closing of the Byre. We are in the fairly unique situation wherein theatre is actually incredibly accessible at our university; if you have an idea you can take it right through to a finished show with the financial support, time and the dedication of Mermaids, the union’s theatre sub-committee. That prospect can however seem daunting at first, so provided for you here are some ideas and advice to get you started if you’re thinking about putting on a show but not sure where to start.1. Find your team.If you’re a director, find a producer. If you’re a producer, find a director. If you’re a writer, find both, or be prepared to do one yourself. Talk to other people who are involved in theatre or send out a notice in the Mermaids email.2. Choose your venue.The Barron Theatre is the university’s own theatre but it’s not the only option. Venue 1 and Venue 2 in the Union have both been used successfully for shows, while St Andrews Castle and the Episcopal Church have also hosted packed performances. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and enquire about buildings that aren’t university-owned. Try to find out if the venue is available for the dates you want to perform.curtain call3. Propose to the committee.There’s a handy guide to this on the Mermaids website (mermaidstheatre.com). Essentially you need to fill in a couple of forms, email them to the committee, go to a meeting and officially ‘propose’ your idea, and wait to find out whether you’ve been given the go-ahead. If you haven’t, they’ll tell you why, and you can fix that and propose again the next week.4. Book your rehearsal space.The Barron is often used for rehearsals which is particularly helpful if you’re performing there, but the Union has some great spaces too. The Salad Bowl, the TV Room; they’re all free to be booked. Just pop into the general office and ask to book a room – make sure you explain you’re from Mermaids and give them your show name and number, and it’s totally free of charge. If the space is all booked up, don’t panic. The Mansefield Building opposite the Union takes bookings first thing on a Monday morning for the coming week and the Lochnagar Room is big enough to rehearse in. Aside from that, hall common rooms and living rooms are always an option, and if the weather is fine, rehearse outside.5. Hold auditions.Of course, this can precede step 4. Book your space – you’ll probably want two sets of auditions, a couple of hours each, and maybe a couple of hours for callbacks too. Get posters printed in the general office and make sure they have the university’s charity number and the Mermaids logo. Stick them up in university buildings and friendly shops (with their permission of course). Make a Facebook event and post it in the Mermaids group. Get a notice in the weekly email. During the auditions, make sure you have plenty of copies of the pieces outside the room, and forms for people to fill in with their emails and phone numbers. Try to remember every face (take pictures if you have to!) so you can give people individual feedback on their audition. Make sure everyone gets an email, as soon as possible. Don’t leave anyone hanging.6. Rehearse.The creative part of the process is pretty much down to you.7. Perform.At your get-in time, you literally need to get your set and props (and actors) into the venue. Perfect your performance, make sure you have programmes and tickets printed as and when you need them, get behind the curtain and open the doors.This is, of course, a very basic guide. The Mermaids committee’s job is to advise on all the details and they won’t mind answering any questions you may have. Putting on a show in St Andrews is a daunting but exciting experience – break a leg! Alex Mullarky Image by Helen Miller