• September 4, 2021

Five Innovative Ideas For a Thriving Community Theatre

The number one thing to remember in building a community theater is the very title of your business… Community Theatre. Your job as the leader of this organization is to include as much of your community as you can each year. You will build loyalty and succeed in assigning the pride of ownership to the people who buy your tickets, donate to your annual campaign and yes, even make decisions on your future grants and sponsorships.

Here are five proven ways to strengthen your community theater in ways you may not have considered in the past.

Cast Politicians – Every good nonprofit leader knows the importance of having good www.haytheatre.com relationships with local politicians. But did you know that as a community theatre, you have just as much to offer them as they do to you? Don’t be afraid to ask them to be a part of your next production. It will make them a part of your cause, make them look good in the community and of course cater to the ham living inside of every politician.

Pick a role that is a memorable cameo such as a judge in a courtroom scene or the town Mayor. Email them their lines and figure out a way to only require them to make one or two final dress rehearsals.

In a production of Hello Dolly, we cast all five of the major players in the 2007 Nashville Mayor’s race in a shared role. They each signed up for two or three performances playing the judge in Dolly Levy’s trial scene and we billed it as “Nashville’s Next Mayor” as the Judge.

It’s great press, first of all… press that they need for their campaign and press that you need to boost sales.

Secondly, the powerful politician gets to experience first hand the “high” that comes with community theatre. It makes people happy both back stage and in the audience. And making them feel that is golden to your future funding.

In our case, casting all five major candidates made certain that whoever was to win office would put faces and names with our organization and always remember the adrenaline that flowed through his veins the night he played the Judge at The Nashville Dinner Theatre.

Meet The Sheriff – Yes, your county sheriff can be one of the greatest assets to your community theatre, or any nonprofit organization for that matter. Many counties have programs for low-risk, non-violent offenders which allow them to work in the community for nonprofit and government agencies.

Before you snarl your nose, the reality check is that these are mostly DUI and child support offenders who have jobs and families just like you. The last thing they want to do is something that will jeopardize their early release. I used to remind our actors and crew that these people should be treated with respect because we are all just one cast party away from the orange jumpsuit.

These men (or women) have skills that you can use. They are carpenters, chefs, repair men, contractors, plumbers and landscapers, all the trades that you wish you had an unlimited budget for.

Meet your sheriff. Tell him about your organization and ensure him that you will assign the proper supervision for these offenders. In many cases, a Deputy does not even accompany the offender to work, you or your staff can pick them up and take them back when the job is complete.

One key point to note is that the offenders do this voluntarily. It is not a requirement of their incarceration. So treat them like you would a volunteer. And remember, facility food is the pits. FEED these guys well and they will work hard for you. Buy them a pizza or ask them which fast food restaurant they have a craving for.

An interesting fact is that many of these guys will become patrons and even donors when hey get out. I have received many letters of gratitude with a donation attached from men who worked with us while they were in the pokey. Offer your workers free tickets for their families to come and see something positive they have accomplished while they are in this unfortunate situation. You will be glad you did.

And most importantly, thank the Sheriff in public and in your programs. He is an elected official and this arrangement is just as good for his popularity as it is for your organization.

Set The Stage – Did you know that the term “blocking” was coined by set designers who referred to the movement of the actors as something that is blocking the view of his/her set? The importance of a good set can not be stressed enough in the world of theatre. The sets can literally make or break a production.

As fast as you can, make the relationships that will allow you to design, build, paint and decorate sets that appear to be beyond your budgetary means. This way, they are not. Great sets will attract actors to want to volunteer their services, make the audience feel like they are getting their money’s worth and yes, even help to boost donations.

Once you have located a good technical director, KEEP him or her. Half of building a good set is in knowing the space.