Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Secret life of a Playwright

So you’ve written a script that you’re really happy with. You know it’s a real crowd pleaser. You just have to find some way to get it onstage.

Do you send it out to competitions or submit it to theatres? Then wait and wait only to find it wasn’t their cup of tea, or that there were 2,000 entries and losing was a strong possibility no matter how good your play was.

Well I’ve tried that route and had a few small successes, but there is a third option, and that’s self-producing. Those small successes were enough to convince the Arts Council to give me a production budget.

I just need to pause here to say – Yay!!!

But then comes the scary bit.

My current production is The Secret Life of Dads, and I’ve got a really great team pulling the project together with me. Three great actors playing the dads in my play who deal with their mid-life crises by reforming their old band and playing a battle of the bands gig live onstage. I’ve got a great director adding all the visual touches that I just couldn’t put into a script, and a really smart musical director who helped make my lyrics into songs.

So it’s all good.

Now here comes the ‘but’.

In order to get a grant I needed to show there was an audience for the play so a large chunk of our income needs to come from ticket sales. If I’d given a low estimate that wouldn’t show confidence in the production, but too high and we’re left out of pocket. Added to that I’ve chosen a venue that isn’t known for theatre productions, and we’ve got nine performances to sell.

So here’s where I have to set aside my writer’s hat and become a marketing whiz – not a comfortable place for me to be.

But that’s what I have to do now if I want my play to be seen, and more importantly if I want to get paid for the work I’ve put into this production, because there’s an odd twist to this tale. As the producer I have to make sure everyone is paid their agreed fees, but if there’s any shortfall in income it’s me who has to take a cut.

Would I do this again? Well this is the second time I’ve done this, so yes. It’s not for the faint hearted but it is a thrill when you see your words coming to life on stage, which is the goal of every playwright.

So please come and see The Secret Life of Dads at the Guildhall in Gloucester this August, and feel free to say hello to the writer sitting at the back of the auditorium grinning from ear to ear, but also counting heads and trying to work out if I’ll be able to pay the mortgage this month.


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