Monday, 24 July 2017

A Self Producing Playwright's Journey

I’m a playwright, who became a producer when I realized the odds of my script being picked up by a theatre company who’ve had over a thousand plays sent to them seemed pretty slim.

So I chose to self-produce – BUT – always working in collaboration with other creatives whose work I know – AND – with funding support from the Arts Council and others. My rule is ‘never spend your own money making theatre!’

I’m on my fifth ACE funded project at the moment, and I thought documenting the development might be of interest and of use to other writers and producers thinking of taking the same route.

The first grant I got was to develop a play about an enigmatic Victorian magician, JN Maskelyne who started his career in Cheltenham. So I worked with a theatre company based there, agreed a run of three nights at a local theatre, and found seed funding from the city council. All that and a track record of writing TIE was enough to get me ACE funding to produce ‘The Mysterious Gentleman’.

Several projects later I’ve realized the need to get my work seen in London, and that play seemed the best one to showcase. So again I found a director to work with, Kasia Różycki from Off The Cliff Theatre, who I met when she directed a Rapid Write Response play of mine at Theatre 503. 

Finding a theatre was the next hurdle. Many talks went on, and our hopes were dashed several times when spaces we loved couldn’t fit us into their programmes this year. So, eventually we found our way to the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton. Not the most illustrious name in theatre land, but a space that was willing to take us for a three week run opening on Halloween – how perfect is that for a play about magic that explores life beyond death?!

We’ve become aware of a number of difficulties other companies have had there, but decided to move forwards anyway once ACE agreed to fund us. I’ll elaborate on that in further blogs.

But for now the director and I have two key goals for the project.

First is getting our work seen by industry professionals. So we’ll be inviting everyone we can think of, but more than that we’ve budgeted for a press agent to make sure the press is aware of what we’re doing so hopefully we can at least get a few reviews that we can use to build on.

Our second goal is to move towards a commercial run of the play, so we need to prove it’s a pull for audiences. Getting audiences to a theatre that’s less well-known and a bit out of the way will be a big challenge. So we’ve also budgeted for a marketing coordinator to hopefully pull in audiences.

I'll post a bit more as we get closer to the production dates, but if you have any questions along the way I’d be happy to hear from you.

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