Reply To: Approaching theatres with storytelling ideas / performances

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From: “Tim Sheppard”
Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2017 13:04:35 +0100

Hi Ziyadliwa,

This depends a lot on the financial arrangement you can get with the theatre.

A good situation is where the theatre books your show, promotes it in their calendar, and pays you a guaranteed fee no matter what the attendance is like, plus a ‘box-office split’ (a percentage, negotiated by you, of the ticket sales). You’re unlikely to get this unless you have a track record and good reputation.

Less good but far more usual is a straight box-office split, with no guaranteed fee at all. But you may be able to negotiate that you get all of the first X amount of takings, up to the level of a basic fee. Splits can be 50-50, or 40-60, or whatever, so that both you and the venue profit in proportion. This is where your pitch will make the difference – they have to want to risk being your business partner in the event. The safer it is for them, the more they’ll like it, so be prepared to prove how you’ll be able to get bums on seats (try surveying your current local fans and count how many will commit to attending). If the theatre loves your show idea they’ll be more likely to support it, so find out what their usual audiences like most, and show how you’ll appeal to those. If they’ve had storytelling shows before, so much the better (or worse, if they bombed).

The most basic arrangement is where you simply hire the venue (and any services like lighting equipment or engineers, box-office staff – check for hidden extras). They may or may not put you in their calendar if you book far enough ahead (calendars are published several months ahead). You’ll need to also hire the time for you to set up and do any dress rehearsals (and you’ll need friends to help you with this and do ushering, checking tickets etc). This has no risks for the theatre, so it’s easy to arrange if they have any spare dates to hire out – they will just want to check that your show is not unsuitable for the venue’s image. You get all the risk and reward, and keep all the takings if there are any.

Once you have proven your show by a success at one venue, it will be easier to get favourable terms at others. You could try doing a house concert, or a straight hire of a venue, to get that proof, and then negotiate with several venues to set up a tour of other venues. Ask the theatres what they’re looking for and what they like to do – they love the arts and will want to support you in bringing a quality show to the public. You could ask them what local directors they respect, and see if you can get such a director to work with you on crafting your show for theatre. That way the director can reassure the theatre that your show should be good. Even for a one-woman show a director is a real help – most storytellers don’t know how to use a theatre stage well, or create the best visual impression throughout the show.

Good luck!

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