This blog is inspired by Motivational Monday (#mm); so, on Mondays (or, apparently, sometimes Tuesdays), I will publish this column on how easy it can be to get your work out there largely in the context of theatrical productions but there are tips, here, for any performance artist. These will be short pieces with one tip or musing from a woman who pops up theatres all the time and produces and directs constantly. I hope this blog helps inspire you to just get out there and do it. The first hurdle is that decision.
Are you on the edge about whether to jump into producing a project? Are the numbers not quite adding up? You really want to do this thing but you can’t see how? Well, in those situations, I start questioning that very thing. I get creative about the how.
I ask myself a lot of questions about how much I really need to get the piece onstage. Now, sometimes all I see are huge production numbers, amazing costumes, and pyrotechnics. Those are not the projects I am talking about right now.
How many people do you need, really, to tell this story? Do you need all that chorus?
Well, maybe you can do it with fewer. Look, everybody wants a huge cast. It helps sell tickets, after all. But imagine taking something like, say, an Oliver or a Fiddler, and telling it with the minimum. Maybe 15 folks. In a smaller space, it would really work. Uh, I realize that I’m addressing Producer/Directors. So, if you are a producer, get a good director if you’re going to pare down the show.
Let’s talk about production. Ask yourself: Do you really need those walls? Those drapes, all that furniture? Well, you say, yes! Well, maybe not, no. Some of the most amazing pieces of theatre I have enjoyed are small and intimate. Stripped down (out of necessity perhaps) but absolutely soaring because they are lighter, more artistic, more creative. Some of my more fun projects were ones in which I had nothing, did it anyway, and came up with innovative or fun ways of communicating scene without set.
Now, look. If you’re doing a huge musical as a huge musical, remember that a lot of these shows are best served by high production values. If you’re doing a farce, the art form needs those doors to slam. But a lot of plays need so little to be done well. Any Shakespeare needs nothing. Absolutely nothing.
One area that I think you should *not* skimp is lighting. Lighting can add incredible elements to a show. A great lighting designer can define space, determine mood, and help make a moment make sense. I can’t recommend, more strongly, that you get yourself an amazing lighting designer (if you aren’t an amazing lighting designer yourself).
But, really? Can I?
Remember. The reason a simple set works for a lot of plays is the audience really doesn’t need all that help. They don’t need you to finish the line, fill in all the detail, have every piece of set dressing. Audiences are creative themselves and will invent in their heads all the details they need.
And remember the words. At the end of the day, it’s about a story being told. We need great performers. We need to hear the words spoken truly; the scenes played out honestly. An audience will be satisfied with very little if they walk away feeling satisfied about the story told.