Self-Production Panel: War Stories
Larry Dean Harris, Kathleen Warnock, Roland Tec
You are the one who is the most passionate about your work. Protect your own work. If it’s not right, you have the right to pull out. No production is better than a bad production. Don’t work with people who’ve already screwed you over. When someone shows you who they are, trust that. Work with people who like what you do. Don’t rush casting.
PR lessons: Do not count on reviews to fill your house. Sometimes reviewers don’t even show up. And even if they do, the review just doesn’t have the same impact it used to. (Reviews are good for an actor and writer for career building.) Build an audience your own way. New media is the way to go. Having a PR person is the first wing of your attack. How about a YouTube trailer? Postcards are being used less often (except in festivals) because of new media. But business card sized handouts are becoming popular.
Don’t count on your publicist to fill your house. But look for the thing that’s unique about your show – it gives your publicist something to sell. Good pictures are helpful online. Constant Contact is helpful. Create an event on Facebook, cultivate an individual blogger. You first contact your personal people, then media folks you know, then start emailing reporters you don’t know, and go to the festival bar and hand out postcards or fliers.
Go out and find your audience: whatever it is about your play that will drive people to the theatre. For a Bible play, Larry went to churches, talked to pastors and got church groups to come. For his play about alzheimers, he went after those groups.
Venue: putting your show in the appropriate venue can be key. Send your director to the walk thru so they know what they’re facing. And learn to live with it. Choose the venue with the smallest number of seats…then you’ll have a sellout. Get your feet wet the first time. Learn on someone else’s time: volunteer to be on someone else’s show. Learn from their mistakes. Find a buddy: do their show, then yours…and learn. Go see other folks’ shows; talk to people who’ve produced in that space. They’ll tell you what to put in your contract. And tell you about the things you don’t know: the rockband rehearsing next door, the parking lot that fills up from restaurant patrons down the street, the helicopters that fly overhead, the pipes that bang… Be aware that if you’re sharing space with other productions, you may have laughter next door during your serious drama. And their intermission becomes part of your show.
Think about non-traditional spaces – the front porch of a house, a tent. The venue can be an ad for your play.